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Clearing the air. Cockroaches, the urban dwellers best known as most likely to survive a nuclear holocaust, are not only unpleasant to live with, but present a serious health risk, particularly to children with asthma. "Over the past ten years there has been an increasing realization that along with the allergens everyone is aware of-cats, dogs, pollen, and dust mites-cockroaches appear to be a significant source of allergens, particularly for low-income urban populations," says Associate Professor George O'Connor of the School of Medicine's Pulmonary Center.

O'Connor is an investigator in the Innercity Asthma Study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, which looks at whether interventions aimed at reducing exposure to allergens in the home, improves the health of children with asthma. They have found that even with effective pest control to reduce infestation it is much more difficult to bring down the levels of roach-produced allergens than it is to reduce allergens from other sources.

Now in a study just beginning, O'Connor and his colleagues at the National Institute of Environmental Health Science, are recruiting families with cockroach infested homes to test a combination of pest control, intensive cleaning, and monitoring of allergen levels in an effort to devise an effective regimen that will allow people to breathe easier.

Floss daily for a healthier heart. Recent research by Salomon Amar, a professor at the Goldman School of Dental Medicine, indicates that gum disease may aggravate atherosclerosis, the hardening of the arteries associated with heart disease and stroke.

Amar's study exposed mice to Porphyromonas gingivalis, the bacteria associated with periodontal disease (disease of the gums and bones supporting the teeth). He found that animals exposed to the bacteria developed more severe plaque deposits in their arteries than animals that were not exposed -- twice as much plaque for animals fed a high-fat diet and nine times the amount of plaque for animals on a regular diet. The animals exposed to the bacteria also developed arterial plaques earlier than the animals that were not exposed.

The results seem to indicate that daily flossing and brushing, as well as prompt treatment for periodontal disease, not only may be important for saving your teeth, but also may be crucial to protecting your arteries as well. Amar presented his findings at a recent meeting of the American College of Cardiology in Orlando, Fla.

"Research Briefs" is written by Joan Schwartz in the Office of the Provost. To read more about BU research, visit


15 May 2003
Boston University
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