Nancy Shute

Infections with the bacteria Clostridium difficile are a big problem, killing 29,000 people a year. Many of those people got infected while in the hospital. And antibiotics often don't work.

So how about this: Take spores from a harmless version of C. difficile and use them to fight off the bad bugs?

That's just what researchers at the VA hospital in Hines, Ill., did.

Parents worry about a child getting a concussion in the heat of competition, but they also need to be thinking about what happens during practices, a study finds.

High school and college football players are more likely to suffer a concussion during practices than in a game, according a study published May 4 in JAMA Pediatrics. Here are the numbers:

  • In youth games, 54 percent of concussions happened during games.

If you're being treated for cancer, an iguana might not be the pet for you.

Ditto if you're pregnant, elderly or have small children at home.

Pets can transmit dozens of diseases to humans, but doctors aren't always as good as they should be in asking about pets in the home and humans' health issues, a study finds.

Odds are your employer has a wellness program that prods you to exercise and eat healthy. But that program may not be doing all that much for your health, according to the American Heart Association, and attempts to measure the benefits of wellness programs often fail.

This is for everyone whose parents said, "Sitting too close to the TV is going to ruin your eyes." In other words, pretty much all of us.

Sitting too close to the TV doesn't predict nearsightedness, according to a study that tracked the vision of thousands of children over 20 years. Nor does doing a lot of close work.

Instead, as early as age 6 a child's refractive error — the measurements used for an eyeglass prescription — best predicts the risk.

Sinus infections are miserable, and it's hard not to want to run to the doctor for relief. Rethink that, the nation's ear, nose and throat doctors say.

Most people who get sinusitis feel better in a week, the doctors say, and many of those infections are caused by viruses. Getting an antibiotic isn't going to help.

If you are the parent of a preteen, you are all too aware that they suddenly seem to value the opinions of their peers far more than yours.

The good news, if there is any, is that you're not alone. Young teenagers ages 12 to 14 are more influenced by their peers' opinions than they are by adults', a study finds. That's true only for that age group, not for older teens, children or adults.

It would be nice to think that when you go in for surgery you'd be offered the safest, cheapest alternative, but that's not always the case, a study finds.

Some hospitals are much more likely than others to offer minimally invasive surgery for procedures like colon or lung surgery or appendectomy, according to an analysis published Wednesday in JAMA Surgery.

It's easy to get put on statins, and it can be surprisingly hard to get off them. That's true even for people who are terminally ill and might have bigger concerns than reducing their cardiovascular risk.

People approaching the end of life who did stop statins were not more likely to have a heart attack or stroke than those who kept taking the drugs, according to researchers who tested the idea.

Hospitals are one of the worst places to try to get a good night's sleep, just when you need it the most. And though many have tried to muffle the noise of beeping monitors and clattering carts, the noise remains a big problem for many patients.

But what if we looked at a night in the hospital as a long overseas flight? As you settle in, they hand out eye masks and earplugs. And you cleverly brought along melatonin, the sleep-regulating hormone sold at drugstores everywhere.

When a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, the person who does the diagnosing is a doctor she never sees — the pathologist.

But though pathologists do a great job of identifying invasive cancer, they aren't as good at spotting two less clear-cut diagnoses that bring women a lot of uncertainty and worry, a study finds.

To keep people from getting into trouble with alcohol, it would help to know why they're at risk.

Genes make some people more susceptible to dependence or addiction, while the surroundings exert a stronger pull on others. But it's been devilishly hard for researchers to sort those out. Context — who's drinking where and when with whom — matters a lot.

Add in money and it gets even trickier. And we're not talking about whether you can afford microbrews.

Millions of people take statins to lower their cholesterol and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. But taking statins does slightly up the risk of Type 2 diabetes. Figuring out whether that means "No statins for you" isn't always easy, despite a proliferation of guidelines intended to help.

Each year more than 32,000 people die in the United States as a result of suicides, homicides and accidents with firearms.

For years doctors have tried to reduce the toll by addressing gun injuries and deaths as a public health issue; there's ample evidence that ease of access to is linked to the number of suicides and homicides. But those efforts haven't gained much traction.

If you have siblings, you probably think that your parents liked one kid best — and you're probably right. Scientists say the family pecking order does affect children, but not always in the way you might think.

The vast majority of parents do have favorite child, according to research — about 80 percent. But that number sounds pretty darned high. So I decided to ask some kids in my neighborhood in Bethesda, Md., what they think happens in their families.

Sleeping in probably sounds like a no-brainer to most teenagers, but their parents aren't so sure that it's worth starting school later to get the extra shut-eye.

If you were seeking a seething mass of microbes, it'd be hard to think of a better place to look than the New York City subway system.

Scientists who descended into that subterranean maze in search of its microbial tenants wanted to find out how the 5.5 million people who use the system each weekday influence the microbes, and vice versa.

But the 18-month-long project, which sampled DNA from 466 stations, was no walk in Central Park.

If you've got a stuffy, drippy or itchy nose from allergies, figuring out which remedies help best can be tough.

New guidelines from the Academy of Otolaryngology should make it easier for people and their doctors to choose the treatments that will help the most, from over-the-counter remedies like antihistamines to more serious interventions like allergy shots and even surgery.

And because allergic rhinitis affects 1 in 6 Americans, that's a lot of stuffy drippy misery potentially avoided.

Women who smoke while they're pregnant are more likely to have health problems, and their babies are at risk, too. But attempts to get women to stop smoking while pregnant usually fail.

When pregnant women in Scotland got paid to quit, 23 percent of them managed to stop smoking, compared with 9 percent who quit after they got counseling, support calls and free nicotine replacement therapy, according to a study published Tuesday in The BMJ.

Extracting medical care from the health care system is all too often an expensive exercise in frustration. Dr. Eric Topol says your smartphone could make it cheaper, faster, better and safer.

That's the gist of his new book, The Patient Will See You Now. Lots of people are bullish on the future of mobile health to transform health care, but Topol gets extra cred because of his major medical chops: Former head of cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic and present director of the Scripps Translations Science Institute in La Jolla, Calif.

The Connecticut Supreme Court's ruling that 17-year-old Cassandra could be forced to undergo cancer treatment sparked thousands of impassioned comments on NPR.org and Facebook.

Skin disorders rarely make it on the list of big-time diseases, so when we saw a study saying that psoriasis costs the nation $52 to $63 billion a year, it was hard not to think, "Really?"

And that's just for the direct costs of health care for people with psoriasis, according to the study, published Wednesday in JAMA Dermatology.

Bariatric surgery is being widely promoted as the solution for people who are extremely obese, but so far most of the studies haven't followed enough people for enough time to really know if surgery helps improve health long term.

The last thing my 11-year-old does before she goes to sleep is put her iPod on the nightstand. And that could mean less sleep for her, researchers say.

There's plenty of evidence that children who have televisions in their rooms get less sleep. This is one of the first studies to look at whether having a small screen like an iPod or smartphone in the room also affects rest.

If you're resolved to quit smoking this year, it's arguably the one best thing you could do for your health. But it's not easy, so every bit of help is a good thing.

People who used both state-sponsored telephone quit lines and newer Web-based services to quit smoking were more successful, compared with people who just used one service, a study finds.

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