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1.  Effect of Beta-Blocker Therapy on the Risk of Infections and Death after Acute Stroke – A Historical Cohort Study 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(2):e0116836.
Infections are a frequent cause for prolonged hospitalization and increased mortality after stroke. Recent studies revealed a stroke-induced depression of the peripheral immune system associated with an increased susceptibility for infections. In a mice model for stroke, this immunosuppressive effect was reversible after beta-blocker administration. The aim of our study was to investigate the effect of beta-blocker therapy on the risk of infections and death after stroke in humans.
625 consecutive patients with ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke, admitted to a university hospital stroke unit, were included in this historical cohort study. The effect of beta-blocker therapy on post-stroke pneumonia, urinary tract infections and death was investigated using multivariable Poisson and Cox regression models.
553 (88.3%) patients were admitted with ischemic stroke, the remaining 72 (11.7%) had a hemorrhagic stroke. Median baseline NIHSS was 8 (IQR 5–16) points. 301 (48.2%) patients received beta-blocker therapy. There was no difference in the risk of post-stroke pneumonia between patients with and without beta-blocker therapy (Rate Ratio = 1.00, 95%CI 0.77–1.30, p = 0.995). Patients with beta-blocker therapy showed a decreased risk for urinary tract infections (RR = 0.65, 95%CI 0.43–0.98, p = 0.040). 7-days mortality did not differ between groups (Hazard Ratio = 1.36, 95%CI 0.65–2.77, p = 0.425), while patients with beta-blocker therapy showed a higher 30-days mortality (HR = 1.93, 95%CI 1.20–3.10, p = 0.006).
Beta-blocker therapy did not reduce the risk for post-stroke pneumonia, but significantly reduced the risk for urinary tract infections. Different immune mechanisms underlying both diseases might explain these findings that need to be confirmed in future studies.
PMCID: PMC4314079  PMID: 25643360
2.  Clustering of developmental delays in Bavarian preschool children – a repeated cross-sectional survey over a period of 12 years 
BMC Pediatrics  2014;14:18.
While most children display a normal development, some children experience developmental delays compared to age specific development milestones assessed during school entry examination. Data exist on prevalence of delays in single areas, but there is lack of knowledge regarding the clustering patterns of developmental delays and their determinants.
During the observation period 1997-2008, 12 399 preschool children (5-7 years of age) in one district of Bavaria, Germany, were assessed in twelve schooling-relevant development areas. The co-occurrence of developmental delays was studied by means of Pearson’s correlation. Subsequently, a two-step cluster algorithm was applied to identify patterns of developmental delays, and multinomial logistic regression was conducted to identify variables associated with the specific patterns.
Fourteen percent of preschool children displayed developmental delays in one and 19% in two or more of the studied areas. Among those with at least two developmental delays, most common was the combination of delays in "fine motor skills" + "grapho-motor coordination" (in 9.1% of all children), followed by "memory/concentration" + "endurance" (5.8%) and "abstraction" + "visual perception" (2.1%). In the cluster analysis, five distinct patterns of delays were identified, which displayed different associations with male gender and younger age.
While developmental delays can affect single areas, clustering of multiple developmental delays is common. Such clustering should be taken into account when developing diagnostic tests, in pediatric practice and considering interventions to reduce delays.
PMCID: PMC3936812  PMID: 24450504
Developmental delays; Distribution pattern; Preschool children; Preventive medicine
3.  Drug Treatment Patterns of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Children and Adolescents in Germany: Results from a Large Population-Based Cohort Study 
Despite a substantial increase in total methylphenidate (MPH) prescriptions in Germany over the last 20 years, and the introduction of modified release MPH (MR MPH) and atomoxetine (ATX), remarkably little is known about treatment patterns of attention- deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in individual patients.
Usage patterns of ADHD drugs in children and adolescents in Germany were analyzed using data from one large German health insurance including >7,200,000 members. Of those, 6210 ADHD patients newly diagnosed in 2005 were followed for a maximum of 4 years. Kaplan–Meier estimates were calculated for onset and discontinuation of ADHD drug treatment. Predictors of time until drug treatment initiation were assessed by Cox regression.
During follow-up, 52.0% of ADHD subjects (53.4% of boys, 47.5% of girls) received ADHD drug treatment. The majority of them (91.6%) were started on MPH, with immediate release MPH (IR MPH) being the initial treatment choice in 75.3%. In these subjects, change to drug treatment with MR MPH in the first year occurred in 48% by switch or addition. Significant predictors of drug treatment were behavioral and emotional disorders (HR=1.13; 95% CI 1.03–1.24) and a diagnosis of ADHD with conduct disorder (HR=1.21, 95% CI 1.12–1.32), whereas young age showed a protective effect. After 6, 12, and 24 months of treatment initiation, 22.4%, 43.4%, and 66.3% of treated girls, and 17.8%, 36.1%, and 54.1% of treated boys had discontinued ADHD treatment.
Drug treatment of ADHD was relatively common in Germany and more frequent in boys than in girls. IR MPH was the predominant treatment choice at treatment initiation. Approximately 20% of treated subjects discontinued drug treatment within the first 6 months, with girls stopping drug treatment earlier than boys. The reasons for early drug discontinuation need to be further explored.
PMCID: PMC3523251  PMID: 23234588
4.  Regional variation in caesarean deliveries in Germany and its causes 
Determinants of regional variation in caesarean sections can contribute explanations for the observed overall increasing trend of caesarean sections. We assessed which mechanism explains the higher rate of caesarean sections in the former West than East Germany: a more liberal use of caesarean sections in the case of relative indications or more common caesarean sections without indications.
We used a health insurance database from all regions of Germany with approximately 14 million insured individuals (about 17% of the total population in Germany). We selected women who gave birth in the years 2004 to 2006 and identified indications for caesarean section on the basis of hospital diagnoses in 30 days around birth. We classified pregnancies into three groups: those with strong indications for caesarean section (based on classification of absolute indications recommended by the Unmet Obstetrics Need network), those with moderate indications (other indications increasing the probability of caesarean section) and those with no indications. We investigated the percentage of caesarean sections among all births, presence of strong or moderate indications in all pregnancies, the probability of caesarean sections in the presence of indications and the fraction of caesarean sections attributable to strong, moderate and no indications.
In total, 294,841 births from 2004–2006 were included in the analysis. In the former West Germany, 30% births occurred by caesarean section, while in the former East Germany the caesarean section rate was 22%. Proportions of pregnancies with strong and moderate indications for caesarean section were similar in both regions. For strong indications the probability of caesarean section was similar in East and West Germany, but the probability of caesarean section among women with moderate indications was substantially higher in the former West Germany. Caesarean sections were also more common among women with no indications in the former West (8%) than in the former East (4-5%). The higher probability of caesarean section in the case of strong or moderate indications in the former West than in the East explained 87% of the difference between section rates in these two regions, while caesarean sections without indications contributed to only 13% of the difference observed.
The observed difference between caesarean section rates in the former East and West Germany was most likely due to different medical practice in handling relative indications.
PMCID: PMC3652783  PMID: 23634820
Caesarean section; Regional differences; Absolute and relative indications; Time trends
5.  Twin and Sibling Studies Using Health Insurance Data: The Example of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e62177.
Background and Aims
Twin studies are used to assess the contribution of genetic factors to the aetiology of diseases. To show the feasibility of such research on the basis of health insurance data, we analysed twin and sibling data on the attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in the German Pharmacoepidemiological Research Database (GePaRD).
The GePaRD consists of data from four statutory health insurances, including around 17% of the total population of Germany. Among those insured in 2005, we identified 286,653 non-twin sibling pairs and 12,486 twin pairs. Each pair consisted of an index child (6 to 12 years old) and a co-sibling of equal age or up to five years older. ADHD cases were identified by hospital or ambulatory ICD-10 diagnoses (F90.0 or F90.1) and prescriptions. We estimated tetrachoric correlations, percentage of concordant pairs, concordance rates, and heritability. Weighted estimates for the indirect assessment of mono- and dizygotic pairs were derived.
Tetrachoric correlations were highest for twin pairs of the same sex (males: 0.85, 95% CI 0.81–0.89; females: 0.81, 95% CI 0.73–0.88) and lowest for opposite-sex non-twin sibling pairs (0.43, 95% CI 0.41–0.45). Heritability estimates were 0.88 (95% CI: 0.79–0.97) for males and 0.77 (95% CI: 0.60–0.95) for females.
The study clearly reproduced the well-known strong genetic component in the aetiology of ADHD. This approach could be used for further assessments of genetic components in other diseases.
PMCID: PMC3634807  PMID: 23637997
6.  Comorbidities in ADHD children treated with methylphenidate: a database study 
BMC Psychiatry  2013;13:11.
Methylphenidate (MPH) is the most common drug treatment of attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. Treatment with MPH is contraindicated in the presence of certain psychiatric, cerebro- and cardiovascular conditions. We assessed MPH treatment prevalence and incidence and the frequency of comorbid conditions related to these contraindications in new MPH users compared to a control group without ADHD and ADHD medication.
We used health care data for the years 2004 to 2006 from the German Pharmacoepidemiological Research Database (GePaRD) which includes about 18% of the German population. MPH treatment prevalence and incidence was assessed based on at least one MPH prescription in the given year. In MPH users, the prevalence of psychiatric and other comorbidities was assessed in the quarter of the first MPH prescription and the three preceding quarters, whereas in controls it was assessed in the earliest four quarters of continuous insurance time starting at 01.01.2004 or the start of insurance if this was later. Differences in the presence of comorbid diagnoses between MPH users and controls were tested by logistic regression.
In 2005, 1.5% of all children and adolescents aged 3 to 17 years (2.3% of males and 0.6% of females) received MPH in Germany. The proportion of children with a record of a psychiatric comorbidity in any of the nine ICD categories of diagnoses was substantially higher in new MPH users (83%) compared to controls (20%). Cerebro- and cardiovascular comorbidities were rare in general. Still, among new MPH users, 2% of males and females had a diagnosis of a pre-existing cardiovascular disorder but only 1.2% of controls.
Besides MPH treatment prevalence we first publish age-specific incidence rates for Germany. A high proportion of children who were started on MPH had a record of a psychiatric comorbidity preceding the first prescription. Cerebro- and cardiovascular conditions were rare in the studied age range, but still higher among children who received MPH than in the control group. Results show that in a substantial subgroup of patients, comorbidities require a thorough weighting of possible risks of MPH medication against the risks of untreated ADHD.
PMCID: PMC3544568  PMID: 23294623
7.  Health-related locus of control and health behaviour among university students in North Rhine Westphalia, Germany 
BMC Research Notes  2012;5:703.
Health control beliefs were postulated to be associated with health behaviour. However, the results of studies assessing these associations suggest that they might not be universal. Among young adults associations have been reported, but the evidence is limited. The objective of this analysis was to re-examine these associations in a sample of university students in Germany.
Data from a multicentre cross-sectional study among university students in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany was used (N=3,306). The Multidimensional Health Locus of Control Scale with three dimensions (one internal and two external) and six aspects of health behaviour (smoking habits, alcohol use, drug consumption, being over-/ or underweight, physical activity, and importance of healthy nutrition) were evaluated. Students with stronger internal locus of control paid more attention to healthy nutrition and displayed a higher level of physical activity. Individuals with a stronger belief in health professionals were less likely to use drugs and paid more attention to healthy nutrition. Furthermore, higher scores in the second external locus of control dimension (beliefs in luck or chance) were associated with a higher likelihood of current smoking, lower physical activity and less attention to healthy nutrition.
Students engaged more strongly in unhealthy behaviour if they believed that luck determines health. In contrast, believing in having control over one’s own health was associated with more healthy behaviour. These findings support the need to consider health control beliefs while designing preventive strategies in this specific population.
PMCID: PMC3544606  PMID: 23273039
Locus of control; Health behaviour; Students; Cross-National Student Health Study
8.  Individual development of preschool children-prevalences and determinants of delays in Germany: a cross-sectional study in Southern Bavaria 
BMC Pediatrics  2012;12:188.
Even minor abnormalities of early child development may have dramatic long term consequences. Accurate prevalence rates for a range of developmental impairments have been difficult to establish. Since related studies have used different methodological approaches, direct comparisons of the prevalence of developmental delays are difficult. The understanding of the key factors affecting child development, especially in preschool aged children remains limited. We used data from school entry examinations in Bavaria to measure the prevalence of developmental impairments in pre-school children beginning primary school in 1997–2009.
The developmental impairments of all school beginners in the district of Dingolfing- Landau, Bavaria were assessed using modified “Bavarian School Entry Model” examination from 1997 to 2009 (N=13,182). The children were assessed for motor, cognitive, language and psychosocial impairments using a standardised medical protocol. Prevalence rates of impairments in twelve domains of development were estimated. Using uni- and multivariable logistic regression models, association between selected factors and development delays were assessed.
The highest prevalence existed for impairments of pronunciation (13.8%) followed by fine motor impairments (12.2%), and impairments of memory and concentration (11.3%) and the lowest for impairments of rhythm of speech (3.1%). Younger children displayed more developmental delays. Male gender was strongly associated with all developmental impairments (highest risk for fine motor impairments = OR 3.22, 95% confidence interval 2.86-3.63). Preschool children with siblings (vs. children without any siblings) were at higher risk of having impairments in pronunciation (OR 1.31, 1.14-1.50). The influence of the non-German nationality was strong, with a maximum risk increase for the subareas of grammar and psychosocial development. Although children with non-German nationality had a reduced risk of disorders for the rhythm of speech and pronunciation, in all other 10 subareas their risk was increased.
In preschool children, most common were delays of pronunciation, memory and concentration. Age effects suggest that delays can spontaneously resolve, but providing support at school entry might be helpful. Boys and migrant children appear at high risk of developmental problems, which may warrant tailored intervention strategies.
PMCID: PMC3549452  PMID: 23216820
9.  A feasibility trial to examine the social norms approach for the prevention and reduction of licit and illicit drug use in European University and college students 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:882.
Incorrect perceptions of high rates of peer alcohol and tobacco use are predictive of increased personal use in student populations. Correcting misperceptions by providing feedback has been shown to be an effective intervention for reducing licit drug use. It is currently unknown if social norms interventions are effective in preventing and reducing illicit drug use in European students. The purpose of this paper is to describe the design of a multi-site cluster controlled trial of a web-based social norms intervention aimed at reducing licit and preventing illicit drug use in European university students.
An online questionnaire to assess rates of drug use will be developed and translated based on existing social norms surveys. Students from sixteen universities in seven participating European countries will be invited to complete the questionnaire. Both intervention and control sites will be chosen by convenience. In each country, the intervention site will be the university that the local principal investigator is affiliated with. We aim to recruit 1000 students per site (baseline assessment). All participants will complete the online questionnaire at baseline. Baseline data will be used to develop social norms messages that will be included in a web-based intervention. The intervention group will receive individualized social norms feedback. The website will remain online during the following 5 months. After five months, a second survey will be conducted and effects of the intervention on social norms and drug use will be measured in comparison to the control site.
This project is the first cross-national European collaboration to investigate the feasibility of a social norms intervention to reduce licit and prevent illicit drug use among European university students.
Final trial registration number
DRKS00004375 on the ‘German Clinical Trials Register’.
PMCID: PMC3534014  PMID: 23075043
Social norms; Prevention; Drug use; Intervention; University/College students; Europe
10.  Characteristics of prospectively measured vaginal bleeding among women trying to conceive 
Previous research has described variability in menstrual cycle lengths within and across women, though less attention has focused on characterising patterns of bleeding. While clinical definitions for menstrual bleeding are often given in standard textbooks, the validity of conventional definitions has not been empirically evaluated in epidemiological studies. The definition of menstrual bleeding may affect the analysis of time to pregnancy and pregnancy dating that relies upon the last menstrual period. We used daily records of vaginal bleeding from a prospective cohort study that included 74 women trying to become pregnant who reported 430 bleeding episodes. A longitudinal mixture model (PROC TRAJ) was used to classify patterns of bleeding.
Among the first 74 bleeding episodes, 15% comprised only days with spotting or light bleeding (possibly representing non-menstrual bleeding given the length of the cycle defined by these bleeding episodes). When all 430 bleeding episodes were analysed, four distinct bleeding patterns emerged: (1) episodic bleeding comprising 1–3 days of spotting (10%), (2) bleeding lasting 3–6 days (40%), (3) bleeding lasting 6–8 days (33%), and (4) bleeding lasting 8–12 days (17%). These findings suggest that non-menstrual bleeding may be relatively common. Considerable variation in menstrual bleeding patterns is evident, and as such is likely to impact fecundity-related endpoints or gestational age estimates that rely upon menstrual cycle dates. The association between bleeding patterns and female fecundity awaits future research.
PMCID: PMC3422651  PMID: 20078826
cycle length; fecundity; gestation; menstruation; time to pregnancy; vaginal bleeding
11.  Does the individualized birthweight reference outperform a simple ultrasound reference in predicting long-term child neurodevelopment? 
Being small-for-gestational-age (SGA) is associated with an increased risk of morbidity, but questions remain about how best to diagnose SGA, and thus, predict poor health consequences. The authors sought to compare an individualized reference for defining SGA with a simple ultrasound reference in predicting poor cognitive development at age five.
The authors used data from the Successive SGA Births Study, a prospective study including 699 Alabaman and 618 Scandinavian women recruited from 1986 to 1988, and whose children had cognitive development scores measured at age five. Sensitivity, specificity and positive predictive value (PPV) were estimated for each reference using cognitive development as the benchmark. Relative risk of poor neurodevelopment was calculated, comparing infants classified as SGA by either reference with infants not classified as SGA.
The individualized reference had higher sensitivity and PPV in predicting poor neurodevelopment. Babies defined as SGA by the individualized reference alone had a higher risk (RR=2.20, 95% CI: 1.20, 4.00) of poor cognitive outcome, while those identified by the ultrasound reference alone did not (RR=0.95, 95% CI: 0.45, 2.01). None of the references could predict poor neurodevelopment well at age five.
The individualized birthweight reference modestly outperforms the simple ultrasound reference in identifying SGA infants with poor child neurodevelopment. However, neither reference can predict child neurodevelopment well.
PMCID: PMC3059357  PMID: 21154763
Birth Weight; Fetal Development; Infant; Small for Gestational Age; Wechsler Scales
12.  Ethnic differences in perceptions of body satisfaction and body appearance among U.S. Schoolchildren: a cross-sectional study 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:425.
Perceived body appearance and body satisfaction are potentially related to weight problems and poor health. The purpose of this study was to examine how gender, and ethnic differences in body satisfaction, perceived body appearance and weight status change by age in a representative sample of U.S. adolescents 11–17 years old.
We used the US Health Behavior in School-Aged Children (HBSC) 2001 survey which assessed perceived body appearance, body satisfaction, self-reported body mass index (BMI) and socio-demographic indicators. The associations between age and perceived appearance, age and body satisfaction, and between z-transformed BMI and body satisfaction were analyzed using separate non-parametric regression models for both genders and the three ethnic groups.
Body satisfaction did not vary significantly by age except for an increase with age in the proportion of Non-Hispanic White girls who perceived themselves as too fat. Although boys did not report being too fat unless their BMI was above the age- and gender-specific median, one third of Non-Hispanic White girls felt too fat at or below the age- and gender-specific median. Compared to other ethnicities, African-American students’ perceived appearance was significantly more positive and they were less likely to perceive themselves overweight at higher BMI scores. However, during adolescence, the positive self-reported perceived appearance of African-American boys dropped substantially while it remained relatively stable in African-American girls.
There were substantial differences in body satisfaction and perceived appearance across the three largest ethnic groups of school-age children in the U.S. Stability across age indicates that these perceptions are most likely established before the age of 10 and underline the importance of primary schools and parents in prevention. Special attention should be directed to the dramatic loss of positive perceived appearance among African-American boys.
PMCID: PMC3490835  PMID: 22691404
13.  Are perceived stress, depressive symptoms and religiosity associated with alcohol consumption? A survey of freshmen university students across five European countries 
The aim of this study was to investigate the association of perceived stress, depressive symptoms and religiosity with frequent alcohol consumption and problem drinking among freshmen university students from five European countries.
2529 university freshmen (mean age 20.37, 64.9% females) from Germany (n = 654), Poland (n = 561), Bulgaria (n = 688), the UK (n = 311) and Slovakia (n = 315) completed a questionnaire containing the modified Beck Depression Inventory for measuring depressive symptoms, the Cohen’s perceived stress scale for measuring perceived stress, the CAGE-questionnaire for measuring problem drinking and questions concerning frequency of alcohol use and the personal importance of religious faith.
Neither perceived stress nor depressive symptoms were associated with a high frequency of drinking (several times per week), but were associated with problem drinking. Religiosity (personal importance of faith) was associated with a lower risk for both alcohol-related variables among females. There were also country differences in the relationship between perceived stress and problem drinking.
The association between perceived stress and depressive symptoms on the one side and problem drinking on the other demonstrates the importance of intervention programs to improve the coping with stress.
PMCID: PMC3395565  PMID: 22640549
Perceived stress; Depressive symptoms; Problem drinking; Drinking frequency; Religious faith; Freshmen university students
14.  “Blind periods” in screening for toxoplasmosis in pregnancy in Austria – a debate 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2012;12:118.
Recent studies from Austria, France and Italy have shown that there is a poor adherence to the screening scheme for maternal Toxoplasma infections in pregnancy demonstrated by the fact that many recommended examinations are missed. This leads to undetected infections and limits our knowledge of incidence of the disease. We discuss the negative consequences of this situation on research on treatment effectiveness and the outcomes of congenital toxoplasmosis. The responsible public health institutions should assume responsibility for appropriate surveillance of the screening programme and take measures to improve screening adherence during pregnancy. Screening should start as early as possible in pregnancy and the latest test should be done at delivery. Screening schedule should allow distinguishing infections from the first, second and third trimester of pregnancy, as the risk of materno-foetal transmission and outcomes in case of foetal infections varies by time.
PMCID: PMC3476441  PMID: 22591211
15.  Relationships between food consumption and living arrangements among university students in four European countries - A cross-sectional study 
Nutrition Journal  2012;11:28.
The transition of young people from school to university has many health implications. Food choice at the university can differ because of childhood food consumption patterns, sex and the living arrangements. Food consumption may change especially if students are living away from home. We aimed to assess food consumption patterns among university students from four European countries and how they differ by their living arrangements.
We analysed data from a cross-country survey assessing health and health behaviours of students. The sample comprised a total of 2402 first year undergraduate students from one university in each of the countries of Germany, Denmark, Poland and Bulgaria. Food consumption was assessed by means of a food frequency questionnaire with 9 food groups (indicators).
Students’ food consumption patterns differed across the countries. Frequent consumption of unhealthy items was common. Bulgarian students reported most often frequent consumption of sweets and cakes and snacks (e.g. chips and fast food). Polish students reported the least frequent consumption of vegetables and a low consumption of fruits. Across all countries except Bulgaria, men reported substantially more often frequent consumption of snacks than women. Students living at parental home consumed more fruit, vegetables, and meat than those who resided outside of their family home in all studied countries. There was more variation with regard to cakes and salads with more frequent consumption of cakes among Bulgarian female students and Danish male students and more frequent consumption of salads among Danish female students not living at parental home, compared to students from other countries.
Nutrition habits of university students differed across countries and by sex. Students living at parental home displayed more healthy nutrition habits, with some exceptions.
PMCID: PMC3420253  PMID: 22531503
University students; Dietary intake; Fruits and vegetables; Food consumption; CNSHS
16.  Incidence of maternal Toxoplasma infections in pregnancy in Upper Austria, 2000-2007 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2011;11:348.
Despite three decades of prenatal screening program for toxoplasmosis in Austria, population-based estimates for the incidence of maternal infections with Toxoplasma gondii during pregnancy are lacking. We studied the incidence of primary maternal infections during pregnancy in the Federal State of Upper Austria.
Screening tests for 63,416 women and over 90,000 pregnancies (more than 84.5% of pregnancies in the studied region) in the time period between 01.01.2000 and 31.12.2007 were analysed. The incidence of toxoplasmosis was estimated indirectly by binomial and directly by interval censored regression.
During the studied period, 66 acute infections (risk of 0.07% per pregnancy) were detected, but only 29.8% of seronegative women were tested at least three times during their pregnancies. The seroprevalence of Toxoplasma antibodies among all tested women was 31%. Indirectly estimated incidence (from differences in prevalence by age) was 0.5% per pregnancy, while directly estimated incidence (interval censored regression) was 0.17% per pregnancy (95% confidence interval: 0.13-0.21%).
Calculating incidence from observed infections results in severe underreporting due to many missed tests and potential diagnostic problems. Using statistical modelling, we estimated primary toxoplasmosis to occur in 0.17% (0.13-0.21%) of all pregnancies in Upper Austria.
PMCID: PMC3274486  PMID: 22168604
17.  Selected sociodemographic factors and related differences in patterns of alcohol use among university students in Slovakia 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:849.
Alcohol use and misuse and their relation to sociodemograhic factors are well studied among university students in Western European countries and the USA, but less is known about students in Eastern Europe. The historical past as communistic countries might have affected the social life among these populations, which is again one of the main factors determining the alcohol consumption among university students. The aim of our study was to assess the association of selected sociodemographic factors with different patterns of alcohol use among university students in Slovakia.
A sample of 813 young adults (mean age 21.1 years, 63.8% females; response rate of 71%) from four universities in Kosice answered questions about their sociodemographic background and about alcohol use. To obtain a detailed picture of different aspects, alcohol use was measured by four variables: frequency of alcohol use, heavy episodic drinking, frequency of drunkenness and problem drinking. Four separate logistic regression models were used to assess the association between sociodemographic and alcohol-related variables. To assess the potentially different effects in both genders, all two-way interactions with gender were tested.
While 41% of the students drank alcohol once a week or more often, 77% reported heavy episodic drinking and 49% had been drunk more than once in the last month. Problem drinking existed in 23.3% of the sample. Gender was consistently associated with all four alcohol-related variables, with males being at higher risk. A higher study year was associated only with lower levels of heavy episodic drinking, but displayed no association with the other studied variables. Living with parents during the semester was consistently associated with less frequent heavy episodic drinking, drunkenness episodes, and problem drinking while having an intimate relationship was associated with less problem drinking only.
Our findings for the university students from Slovakia are in line with previous studies in Western Europe. Additionally, it appears that frequent alcohol use, excessive alcohol use (heavy episodic drinking and drunkenness) and problem drinking among university students represent a continuum and are influenced by the same sociodemographic factors.
PMCID: PMC3282827  PMID: 22067135
18.  Regional and temporal variations in coding of hospital diagnoses referring to upper gastrointestinal and oesophageal bleeding in Germany 
Health insurance claims data are increasingly used for health services research in Germany. Hospital diagnoses in these data are coded according to the International Classification of Diseases, German modification (ICD-10-GM). Due to the historical division into West and East Germany, different coding practices might persist in both former parts. Additionally, the introduction of Diagnosis Related Groups (DRGs) in Germany in 2003/2004 might have changed the coding. The aim of this study was to investigate regional and temporal variations in coding of hospitalisation diagnoses in Germany.
We analysed hospitalisation diagnoses for oesophageal bleeding (OB) and upper gastrointestinal bleeding (UGIB) from the official German Hospital Statistics provided by the Federal Statistical Office. Bleeding diagnoses were classified as "specific" (origin of bleeding provided) or "unspecific" (origin of bleeding not provided) coding. We studied regional (former East versus West Germany) differences in incidence of hospitalisations with specific or unspecific coding for OB and UGIB and temporal variations between 2000 and 2005. For each year, incidence ratios of hospitalisations for former East versus West Germany were estimated with log-linear regression models adjusting for age, gender and population density.
Significant differences in specific and unspecific coding between East and West Germany and over time were found for both, OB and UGIB hospitalisation diagnoses, respectively. For example in 2002, incidence ratios of hospitalisations for East versus West Germany were 1.24 (95% CI 1.16-1.32) for specific and 0.67 (95% CI 0.60-0.74) for unspecific OB diagnoses and 1.43 (95% CI 1.36-1.51) for specific and 0.83 (95% CI 0.80-0.87) for unspecific UGIB. Regional differences nearly disappeared and time trends were less marked when using combined specific and unspecific diagnoses of OB or UGIB, respectively.
During the study period, there were substantial regional and temporal variations in the coding of OB and UGIB diagnoses in hospitalised patients. Possible explanations for the observed regional variations are different coding preferences, further influenced by changes in coding and reimbursement rules. Analysing groups of diagnoses including specific and unspecific codes reduces the influence of varying coding practices.
PMCID: PMC3170186  PMID: 21849031
19.  Prenatal Application of the Individualized Fetal Growth Reference 
American Journal of Epidemiology  2011;173(5):539-543.
The individualized reference for defining small for gestational age (SGA) at birth has gained popularity in recent years. However, its utility on fetal assessment has not been evaluated. The authors compare an individualized with an ultrasound reference in predicting poor perinatal outcomes. Data from a large clinical trial in predominantly white US women (1987–1991) with singleton pregnancies (n = 9,526) were used. The individualized reference classified fewer SGA fetuses than the ultrasound reference, but the risks of adverse outcomes were similar between fetuses classified by both references. The risk increased substantially only when the percentiles fell below the 5th percentile (likelihood ratio positive at birth = 2.68 (95% confidence interval (CI): 2.00, 3.58) and 3.13 (95% CI: 2.34, 4.18) for ultrasound and individualized references, respectively). SGA fetuses defined by either the individualized or ultrasound reference alone had risk ratios of adverse outcomes of 1.91 (95% CI: 0.77, 4.77) and 1.18 (95% CI: 0.37, 3.77), respectively, compared with normal fetuses (the difference between these 2 risk ratios, P = 0.71). The authors conclude that neither the ultrasound-based nor the individualized reference does well in predicting adverse perinatal outcomes. The 5th percentile may be a better cutpoint than the 10th percentile in defining SGA.
PMCID: PMC3044839  PMID: 21252054
fetal growth retardation; infant, small for gestational age; perinatal mortality
20.  Incidence of anogenital warts in Germany: a population-based cohort study 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2010;10:360.
Human papilloma virus (HPV) types 6 and 11 account for 90 percent of anogenital warts (AGW). Assessment of a potential reduction of the incidence of AGW following introduction of HPV vaccines requires population-based incidence rates. The aim of this study was to estimate incidence rates of AGW in Germany, stratified by age, sex, and region. Additionally, the medical practitioner (gynaecologist, dermatologist, urologist etc.) who made the initial diagnosis of AGW was assessed.
Retrospective cohort study in a population aged 10 to 79 years in a population-based healthcare insurance database. The database included more than 14 million insurance members from all over Germany during the years 2004-2006. A case of AGW was considered incident if a disease-free period of twelve months preceded the diagnosis. To assess regional variation, analyses were performed by federal state.
The estimated incidence rate was 169.5/100,000 person-years for the German population aged 10 to 79 years. Most cases occurred in the 15 to 40 years age group. The incidence rate was higher and showed a peak at younger ages in females than in males. The highest incidence rates for both sexes were observed in the city-states Berlin, Hamburg and Bremen. In females, initial diagnosis of AGW was most frequently made by a gynaecologist (71.7%), whereas in males, AGW were most frequently diagnosed by a dermatologist (44.8%) or urologist (25.1%).
Incidence of AGW in Germany is comparable with findings for other countries. As expected, most cases occurred in the younger age groups. The frequency of diagnoses of AGW differs between sexes and women and men receive treatment by doctors of different specialties.
PMCID: PMC3022833  PMID: 21182757
21.  Relationship between perceived body weight and body mass index based on self- reported height and weight among university students: a cross-sectional study in seven European countries 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:40.
Despite low rates of obesity, many university students perceive themselves as overweight, especially women. This is of concern, because inappropriate weight perceptions can lead to unhealthy behaviours including eating disorders.
We used the database from the Cross National Student Health Survey (CNSHS), consisting of 5,900 records of university students from Bulgaria, Denmark, Germany, Lithuania, Poland, Spain and Turkey to analyse differences in perceived weight status based on the question: "Do you consider yourself much too thin, a little too thin, just right, a little too fat or much too fat?". The association between perceived weight and body mass index (BMI) calculated from self-reported weight and height was assessed with generalized non-parametric regression in R library gam.
Although the majority of students reported a normal BMI (72-84% of males, 65-83% of females), only 32% to 68% of students considered their weight "just right". Around 20% of females with BMI of 20 kg/m2 considered themselves "a little too fat" or "too fat", and the percentages increased to 60% for a BMI of 22.5 kg/m2. Male students rarely felt "a little too fat" or "too fat" below BMI of 22.5 kg/m2, but most felt too thin with a BMI of 20 kg/m2.
Weight ideals are rather uniform across the European countries, with female students being more likely to perceive themselves as "too fat" at a normal BMI, while male students being more likely to perceive themselves as "too thin". Programs to prevent unhealthy behaviours to achieve ill-advised weight ideals may benefit students.
PMCID: PMC2824734  PMID: 20105333
22.  Primary Cesarean Delivery Among Parous Women in the United States, 1990 – 2003 
Obstetrics and gynecology  2008;112(6):1235-1241.
To explore trends in primary cesarean delivery rates among parous women with singleton pregnancies in the United States between 1990 and 2003.
The analysis used data from national birth files based on U.S. birth certificates between 1990 and 2003. The primary cesarean delivery rate was defined as the number of primary cesarean deliveries per 100 deliveries among parous women with singleton pregnancies who have not had a previous cesarean delivery. A stratified analysis was employed to investigate whether trends varied by maternal age, gestational age, race/ethnicity and region.
In the United States, the primary cesarean delivery rate among parous women decreased modestly from 7.1% in 1990 to 6.6% in 1996 but increased progressively to 9.3% in 2003. The increase in cesarean rates from 1996 to 2003 varied substantially by race/ethnicity: Hispanic and non-Hispanic white women exhibited lower and similar rates, while rates for non-Hispanic black women were consistently higher and rose by a far greater extent across the years. There were substantial differences in cesarean delivery trends across geographic divisions, with greatest increases observed in the Mid-Atlantic, South Central and South Atlantic areas of the United States. Primary cesarean rates also declined considerably with increasing gestational age.
Similar to the overall cesarean delivery rate, primary cesarean rates among parous women with singleton pregnancies increased substantially in the United States since 1996.
PMCID: PMC2705208  PMID: 19037031
23.  Nurses’ Contacts and Potential for Infectious Disease Transmission 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2009;15(9):1438-1444.
These data can help predict staff availability and provide information for pandemic preparedness planning.
Nurses’ contacts with potentially infectious persons probably place them at higher risk than the general population for infectious diseases. During an influenza pandemic, illness among nurses might result in staff shortage. We aimed to show the value of individual data from the healthcare sector for mathematical modeling of infectious disease transmission. Using a paper diary approach, we compared nurses’ daily contacts (2-way conversation with >2 words or skin-to-skin contact) with those of matched controls from a representative population survey. Nurses (n = 129) reported a median of 40 contacts (85% work related), and controls (n = 129) reported 12 contacts (33% work related). For nurses, 51% of work-related contacts were with patients (74% involving skin-to-skin contact, and 63% lasted <15 minutes); 40% were with staff members (29% and 36%, respectively). Our data, used with simulation models, can help predict staff availability and provide information for pandemic preparedness planning.
PMCID: PMC2819878  PMID: 19788812
Influenza; communicable diseases; disease outbreaks; computer simulation; health care sector; nurses; social contacts; viruses; expedited; research
24.  Effects of Interpregnancy Interval on Blood Pressure in Consecutive Pregnancies 
American Journal of Epidemiology  2008;168(4):422-426.
The lower risk of preeclampsia observed in parous women has prompted a hypothesis that cardiovascular adaptation from a first pregnancy has ongoing benefits which contribute to a reduced risk of preeclampsia in the second pregnancy. However, how the interpregnancy interval affects mean arterial pressure (MAP) as an indicator of cardiovascular adaptation in subsequent pregnancies has not been well studied. The authors examined the effect of interpregnancy interval on MAP in consecutive pregnancies using data from the Collaborative Perinatal Project (1959–1965) and a semiparametric random-effects regression model. Prenatal MAP measurements were available for 533 women with both first and second births. MAP was lower in the second pregnancy (by approximately 2 mmHg) for very short interpregnancy intervals. However, this difference diminished when the interval increased, and it totally disappeared for intervals longer than 2 years. The authors conclude that although MAP is lower in the second pregnancy than in the first pregnancy, the effect persists for only a short time. It is therefore unlikely that mechanisms involving MAP as an indicator of cardiovascular adaptation contribute appreciably to the reduced risk of preeclampsia in subsequent pregnancies. However, it does not rule out the possibility that other mechanisms of cardiovascular adaptation persist longer.
PMCID: PMC2727274  PMID: 18495629
birth intervals; blood pressure; pre-eclampsia; pregnancy
25.  Food consumption frequency and perceived stress and depressive symptoms among students in three European countries 
Nutrition Journal  2009;8:31.
Certain foods might be more frequently eaten under stress or when higher levels of depressive symptoms are experienced. We examined whether poor nutritional habits are associated with stress and depressive symptoms and whether the relationships differ by country and gender in a sample from three European countries collected as part of a Cross National Student Health Survey.
A cross-sectional survey was conducted among first-year students in Germany (N = 696), Poland (N = 489) and Bulgaria (N = 654). Self-administered questionnaires included a 12-item food frequency questionnaire, Cohen's Perceived Stress Scale, and a modified Beck Depression Index. Linear regression analyses were conducted for two outcomes, perceived stress and depressive symptoms.
Food consumption frequencies differed by country and gender, as did depressive symptoms and perceived stress. For male students, none of the food consumption groups were associated with perceived stress or depressive symptoms. In females, perceived stress was associated with more frequent consumption of sweets/fast foods and less frequent consumption of fruits/vegetables. Additionally, depressive symptoms were associated with less frequent consumption of fruits/vegetables and meat.
Our data show consistent associations between unhealthy food consumption and depressive symptoms and perceived stress among female students from three European countries, but not among male students. This suggests that efforts to reduce depressive symptoms and stress among female students may also lead to the consumption of healthier foods and/or vice-versa.
PMCID: PMC2716364  PMID: 19604384

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