Your Health

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HOLD THE HERBS New studies raise fresh questions about the safety and efficacy of two dietary supplements. A six-week trial of ginkgo, touted to enhance memory, found no improvement in memory, learning or concentration among healthy people with no neurological symptoms, compared with a similar group taking placebo capsules. A separate study of colon-cancer patients revealed that St. John's wort, used to fight depression, interferes with the potentially beneficial effects of irinotecan, a widely prescribed chemotherapy drug.

ANTHRAX DOUBLE DUTY Researchers may have uncovered an inventive way of both battling anthrax and detecting its microscopic spores. By studying a virus that can invade and attack the anthrax bacillus, scientists isolated an enzyme, called lysin, that breaks apart the cell's walls, causing it to die. Early work in mice looks promising, though any potential drug based on this discovery would have to be administered immediately after exposure, before the anthrax germ had released its toxins. In addition, scientists have found that lysin could be a useful tool for picking up the presence of even trace amounts of anthrax in samples of air or from exposed surfaces. And it yields results faster than current methods.

Sources: Journal of the American Medical Association, Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Nature