JACKSON — Florida health officials are warning residents and tourists a rare form of flesh-eating, potentially deadly bacteria has made its way to Florida beaches.

The Vibrio vulnificus bacterium grows fastest in warm saltwater and has already infected at least seven people, killing two this year in Florida.

The state health department says there have been 32 cases in the past 12 months. Officials say a spike in cases occurs from May to October when water is the warmest.

Florida Health Department spokeswoman Mara Burger says consuming or handling raw shellfish and swimming in warm saltwater can put people at risk.

People with open wounds can also be exposed to Vibrio vulnificus through direct contact with seawater.

The bacterial infection can cause gastroenteritis, sepsis and can lead to amputation.

The widely used drugs known as proton pump inhibitors, gastric reflux preventives like Prilosec and Prevacid, may increase the risk for heart attack, according to data involving almost 3 million people.

Previous studies have found that PPIs are associated with poor outcomes for people with heart disease, probably because of an interaction with clopidogrel, a drug commonly prescribed after a heart attack. This study examines the heart attack risk in otherwise healthy people.

The researchers used data-mining, a mathematical method of looking at trends in large amounts of data, to analyze the use of the drugs over time.

Evidence that they were increasing the risk for heart attack was clear as early as 2000.

“This is the kind of analysis now possible because electronic medical records are widely available,” said the lead author, Nigam H. Shah, an assistant professor of medicine at Stanford University. “It’s a benefit of the electronic records system that people are always talking about.”

There was no association of heart attack with another class of drugs used to treat gastric reflux, H2 blockers like Zantac, Tagamet and Pepcid. The researchers suggest that PPIs promote inflammation and clots by interfering with protective enzymes.

A significant limitation of the study, in PLOS One, is that PPI usage may be a marker of a sicker patient population, more subject to heart disease in any case.

Blind rats with a sensor and compass attached to their brains were able to navigate a maze as successfully as sighted rats, researchers found.

Researchers at the University of Tokyo wanted to test whether a mammal could use allocentric sense, the awareness of one’s body relative to its environment, to replace vision. The scientists attached a geomagnetic sensor and digital compass to the visual cortices of rats with their eyes sewn shut.

When the rats moved their heads, the sensors generated electrical impulses to tell them which direction they were facing. The rats were then trained to find pellets in various mazes.

Within a few days, the blind rats were able to navigate the mazes as well as rats that could see. The two groups of rodents relied on similar navigation strategies. The findings, published in the journal Current Biology, could help lead to devices that help blind people independently navigate their surroundings.

“The most plausible application is to attach a geomagnetic sensor to a cane so that the blind can know the direction via tactile signals such as vibration,” Yuji Ikegaya, a pharmacologist and co-author of the study, wrote in an email.

Whether the experiment would work as well with rats that were truly blind is not yet known, Ikegaya added. Such rats might “need a longer time to learn the meaning of geomagnetic information,” he said. Still, he said he believed they would be able to do it.

Wire reports