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Not always easy determining identical or fraternal twins

A British study suggests that many parents of twins are misinformed as to whether their babies are fraternal or identical because doctors themselves are confused.

A 2004 survey among members of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists found that 81 percent of doctors thought that twins who gestate with separate placentas are fraternal.

In fact, 25 to 30 percent of identical twins have separate placentas and amniotic sacs. In this new study, published in the journal BJOG, researchers interviewed 1,302 parents of same-sex twins who had been told by health care professionals whether their children were fraternal or identical. Based on parental questionnaires and DNA analysis where available, the researchers classified 651 of the pairs as identical and 621 as fraternal. For 30 pairs, there was not enough information to decide.

They found that 191 couples — 14.7 percent — were misinformed about their babies, with 179 parents of identical twins mistakenly told that their twins were fraternal and 12 parents of fraternal twins told they were identical.

Is knowing important?

“I think there are a lot of parents who just want to know,” said Abi Fisher, a research associate at University College London and an author of the study. “A lot of parents finding out later on felt they just didn’t know their own children.”

Use of statins may lower depression risk

The use of statin drugs to lower cholesterol in people with stable coronary artery disease is associated with a significantly reduced risk for depression, a new study reports.

It has been well established in many studies that coronary artery disease increases the risk for symptoms of major depression — feelings of hopelessness and despair so severe that they interfere with daily routines and activities.

Researchers recruited 965 people with stable coronary artery disease at outpatient clinics in the San Francisco Bay Area, tracking their statin use and depressive symptoms over six years. The study was published online Feb. 21 in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

Statin users had fewer symptoms of depression at the start of the study. And among the 776 people free of depression at the beginning, those who took statins were significantly less likely than those who did not to develop depression over the course of the study. Even after adjusting for age, sex, smoking, education, income, social support, baseline depression symptoms, medication use and other factors, statin use was associated with a decrease of 38 percent in the odds of developing depressive symptoms during the follow-up period.

Antibiotic dosage may vary for expecting moms

A new study suggests that the correct dose of antibiotics in pregnancy might be different for blacks from what it is for other women.

In a pilot study published in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, researchers measured how blood levels of azithromycin declined after a five-day course in 53 women who were pregnant and 25 who were not. Each woman received the same amount of medicine, and the scientists took blood samples periodically for 96 hours after the end of therapy to measure levels of the antibiotic.

Azithromycin is one of the most commonly used, and safest, antibiotics for treating respiratory, skin, and gynecological infections during pregnancy. Pregnant women usually receive the same dose as other adults.

Researchers found that black women eliminated the drug from their bodies at the same rate regardless of whether they were pregnant. But Caucasian, Asian, Hispanic, and Pacific Islander women who were pregnant eliminated the drug significantly more slowly.

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