The Week That Wasn't: Cell Phone Injuries, Hypertension Mouthwash, Reversing Dementia

Donavyn Coffey


December 13, 2019

Recent medical news included headlines about injuries by cell phone, hypertension-fighting mouthwash made from bees, and dementia reversed. But you didn't see any of those stories on Medscape Medical News. Here's why.

Injuries by Cell Phone

The number of cell phone–related injuries to the head and neck increased steadily between 1998 and 2017, according to a recent study published in JAMA Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery.

During the 20-year period, 2501 patients (equal to an estimated weighted national total of 76,043 patients) presented in an emergency department (ED) with cell phone–related injuries to the head and neck and were recorded in the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System. More than 60% of the injuries that were classified as being related to cell phone distraction affected patients aged 13 to 29 years. Patients younger than 13 were more likely to be injured as a result of direct contact with the cell phone.

Because a majority of the US population uses a cell phone, it's important to understand its risks. However, an estimated national total of 76,000 cell phone–related head and neck injuries over the course of 20 years in the United States would indicate that such injuries are not common. It's possible that because the data only include ED visits, not visits to urgent care or other facilities, this study is underestimating the prevalence. But as it is, the study isn't unearthing a major public health hazard every busy physician should know about, so we didn't cover it.

Honeybee Hypertension Mouthwash

In an ongoing clinical trial, researchers at the University of Plymouth, in the United Kingdom, are testing a mouthwash made from the material honeybees use to waterproof their hives. The researchers hypothesize that the waxy material, called propolis, may be able to reduce hypertension.

Propolis increases the activity and volume of certain bacteria in the mouth that convert nitrate to nitrite. Nitrite causes blood vessels to widen, which lowers overall blood pressure. Participants in the clinical trial will use propolis or a conventional mouthwash twice a day for a week. Researchers will measure their mouth bacteria and blood pressure before and after the intervention.

There's some scientific evidence that poor oral health and cardiovascular problems tend to coincide. However, this trial is just getting started, and there is no indication as to whether or not the mouthwash will be effective for treating hypertension. We would need to see the final results of the clinical trial published in a peer-reviewed journal before we would consider this research worth covering.

Dementia, Reversed?

A drug that reduces inflammation in the brain could reverse symptoms of dementia ― at least in mice, scientists reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine. Researchers gave senile mice an anti-inflammatory drug and found that it reduced inflammation in the mice's brains and that the mice improved at learning new tasks. The treated mice even showed gene expression and learning capabilities similar to what the scientists observed in young mice.

The treatment is based on the idea that the blood-brain barrier becomes leaky with age. Chemicals that cause inflammation and cell death can then infiltrate the brain, ultimately impeding neural function. The drug, called IPW, traverses the blood-brain barrier and blocks a receptor in astrocytes that's critical to inflammation pathways.

The authors of the article started a company in hopes of developing a treatment for Alzheimer disease. However, it's far too early in the research to know whether IPW could be a safe and effective treatment for humans. We're not going to herald a new potential treatment for Alzheimer's before results of a phase 2 or 3 clinical trial are available.

Donavyn Coffey interned for Medscape in 2019.

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