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Health Highlights: Aug. 12, 2013

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

All Sterile Products From Texas Company Recalled: FDA

A nationwide recall of all sterile products from a Texas company called Specialty Compounding was announced by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The recall was prompted by 15 reports from two Texas hospitals of bacterial bloodstream infections potentially linked to the company's calcium gluconate infusions.

All sterile products made and distributed by Specialty Compounding are being recalled and none of these products should be given to, or used by, patients. Health facilities, health care providers and patients who have received the products since May 9, 2013 should immediately stop using the products, quarantine them and return them to Specialty Compounding, according to the FDA.

"The FDA believes that use of these products would create an unacceptable risk for patients," Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in an agency news release. "Giving a patient a contaminated injectable drug could result in a life-threatening infection."


Autism May be Linked to Cancer-Causing Gene Mutations

Certain gene mutations that cause cancer or tumors appear to be linked with autism in some people, according to researchers.

They found that 10 percent of children with mutations in a gene called PTEN -- which causes breast, colon, thyroid and other organ cancers -- have autism. So do about half of children with gene mutations associated with some forms of brain and kidney cancer, and large tumors in the brain and some other organs, The New York Times reported.

That is much higher than the autism rate in the general population. But scientists note that the findings apply to only a small percentage of people with autism.

The discovery of a possible link between cancer-causing gene mutations and autism has enabled researchers to genetically engineer mice with many autism symptoms, and has also led to the first clinical trial of a treatment for children with autism. The trial is testing a drug used to treat tumors with the same genetic basis, The Times reported.

Many scientists who had no role in the research linking autism and cancer-causing gene mutations say the work is changing their understanding of autism and why it develops.

The parallels between cancer and autism are "quite uncanny," according to Jonathan Sebat, chief of the Center for Molecular Genomics of Neuropsychiatric Diseases at the University of California, San Diego.

"We haven't solved it all; we have only solved a tiny bit. But the small bit we solved has been very illuminating," he told The Times.

But others question the findings. Autistic children with the cancer gene mutations have "a brain that is failing in many ways" and autism in these children could be due to general brain malfunction, according to Harvard University geneticist Steven McCarroll.

"The fact that autism is one of the many neurological problems that arise in these patients doesn't necessarily tell us anything penetrating about the social and language deficits that are specific to autism," he told The Times.

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