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Health Highlights: Jan. 28, 2019

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

'Sneezed-In' Tissues Marketed to Prevent Colds, Flu

Tissues that are marketed as being sneezed in to protect you against colds and flu are a waste of money and potentially dangerous, experts warn.

"We believe using a tissue that carries a human sneeze is safer than needles or pills," the makers of Vaev tissues say on the company website, Yahoo Lifestyle reported.

While the company says its $80-a-box tissues carry a human sneeze, a later explanation suggests the tissues are pre-infected in other ways during the manufacturing process.

"That's bizarre," Dr. Richard Watkins, an infectious disease physician in Akron, Ohio, and an associate professor of internal medicine at Northeast Ohio Medical University, told Yahoo Lifestyle. "This seems like a total waste of money."

"This is potentially hazardous if it does work, and I don't think that it does," said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

"There are over 200 common cold viruses out there. Suppose you get infected with one -- you can still get infected again because there are other cold viruses out there," he told Yahoo Lifestyle.

"Save your $80," Schaffner said. "This whole thing is a cockamamie idea."

The best way to reduce the risk of a cold or flu is to stick with proven methods, Watkins said.


Gene Therapy Shows Promise Against Sickle Cell Disease

Recent advances in gene therapy may eventually lead to a cure for sickle cell disease.

The disease is caused by a single mutation in one gene and mainly occurs in people of African descent. About 100,000 people in the United States have the disease, which causes agonizing pain, strokes and early death, The New York Times reported.

Currently, the only treatment is a risky and costly bone marrow transplant.

In a half-dozen clinical trials planned or underway, researchers are testing genetic therapies for sickle cell disease and some patients in those studies no longer have signs of the disease

One of those patients is 21-year-old Brandon Williams of Chicago, who had four strokes by age 18. His older sister died of the disease. After experimental gene therapy, he no longer has symptoms of sickle cell disease, The Times reported.

Despite promising results, it's unclear if the effects of treatment will last and it's likely to be at least three years before a genetic therapy for sickle cell disease is approved.

"We are in uncharted territory," Dr. David A. Williams, chief scientific officer at Boston Children's Hospital, told The Times.

"This would be the first genetic cure of a common genetic disease," Dr. Edward Benz, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, told The Times.

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