May 21, 2010
By Declan McCullagh
Millions of Americans arrested for but not convicted of crimes will likely have their DNA forcibly extracted and added to a national database, according to a bill approved by the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday.
By a 357 to 32 vote, the House approved legislation that will pay state governments to require DNA samples, which could mean drawing blood with a needle, from adults “arrested for” certain serious crimes. Not one Democrat voted against the database measure, which would hand out about $75 million to states that agree to make such testing mandatory.
“We should allow law enforcement to use all the technology available to them…to reduce expensive and unjust false convictions, bring closure to victims by solving cold cases, better identify criminals, and keep those who commit violent crime from walking the streets,” said Rep. Harry Teague, the New Mexico Democrat who sponsored the bill.
But civil libertarians say DNA samples should be required only from people who have been convicted of crimes, and argue that if there is probable cause to believe that someone is involved in a crime, a judge can sign a warrant allowing a blood sample or cheek swab to be forcibly extracted.
“It’s wrong to treat someone as guilty before they’re convicted,” says Jim Harper, director of information policy studies at the Cato Institute. “It inverts the concept of innocent until proven guilty.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic leadership scheduled Tuesday’s debate on the bill–called the Katie Sepich Enhanced DNA Collection Act of 2010–using a procedure known as the “suspension calendar” intended to be reserved for non-controversial legislation.
“Suspension of the rules is supposed to be for praising the winner of the NCAA championship or renaming Post Offices,” Harper says. “Things like collecting Americans’ DNA are supposed to be fully debated in Congress.”
In a surprise move, as the U.S. Congress was expanding the FBI’s DNA database, the U.K.’s new coalition government was pledging sharp curbs on its own databases.
Created in the mid-1990s, the UK National DNA Database originally was supposed to store data on convicted criminals, but grew to include records on more than 5 million Britons, including many who were only arrested on suspicion of a crime.
U.K. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg promised once-in-a-century privacy reforms in a speech on Wednesday: “We won’t hold your Internet and e-mail records when there is just no reason to do so. CCTV will be properly regulated, as will the DNA database, with restrictions on the storage of innocent people’s DNA. Britain must not be a country where our children grow up so used to their liberty being infringed that they accept it without question.”
February 8th, 2010
In a new study, the researchers report that using a standard 1-inch needle to immunize obese adolescents against hepatitis B virus produced a much weaker effect than using a longer needle.
“As obesity rises in the US, we need to be aware that the standard of care may have to change to protect obese youth,” study co-author Dr. Amy Middleman of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston told Reuters Health.
Over three years her team vaccinated 22 young women and two young men in the shoulder, randomly assigning them to be injected with either a 1-inch or a 1.5-inch needle.
Once injected, vaccines trigger production of small molecules called antibodies, which kick-start our immune system if we are ever attacked by the virus again.
The two groups turned out to have different antibody counts depending on the needle used. In those injected with the short one, the number was almost halved.
Although everyone in the study had enough antibodies to be considered protected against hepatitis B, a lower count generally means a less robust response.
“It gives us more evidence of the importance of choosing the right needle length,” said Middleman, “because we just don’t know what the impact could be in other vaccines.”
The results are no surprise, said Dr. Gregory Poland, who studies vaccines at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. For years, doctors have known that vaccines tend not to work as well in heavy people. Whether the obese have weaker immune systems, or fat keeps shorter needles from reaching muscles, where the vaccines can affect immune cells, was unclear.
The introduction of the hepatitis B vaccine in the 1980s offered some clues. Soon after doctors began using the vaccine, they realized that it was failing to protect some female nurses.
At the time, the shot was given in the buttock, Poland told Reuters Health, and was thwarted by the padding there.
Instead of entering the muscle as it was supposed to, the vaccine apparently was broken down in the fat tissue, where it had little chance to affect immune cells. So doctors began giving the shot in the less-padded shoulder.
With the obesity epidemic now adding extra insulation to the shoulder, “our needles are going to have to be longer,” Poland said.
And those long needles aren’t as unpleasant as they sound. In fact, Poland said, “they turn out to be less painful and have fewer side effects.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends longer needles in obese patients, but it is unclear how many doctors follow these guidelines, or even know about them.
Women are more affected by needle length than men, because their fat distribution is different. But even obese women shouldn’t be overly concerned until more research has been done, Middleman cautioned.
“Should you go back and get all your immunizations repeated?” she said, “No, I don’t think so.”