Today’s top health stories: 23 February

The first rapid test for Ebola

Image source: NPR

Today the World Health Organization (WHO) approved a test for Ebola that can give results within 15 minutes, unlike the standard laboratory turnaround time of 12-24 hours.

Named ReEBOV and developed by U.S. firm Corgenix Medical Corp, the new Ebola test is easier to perform than pre-existing options and does not require any electricity. Although ReEBOV is not as reliable as current screening kits, it is able to accurately identify about 92 percent of infected patients and 85 percent not infected.

ReEBOV requires a drop of blood on a small paper strip and after 15 minutes a reaction in the test tube reveals the results. Critics are warning that the test can result in a dangerous false negative or positive and a follow-up standard laboratory test is recommended.

Source: Reuters

 

Eating disorders cost the UK more than £15bn a year

Image source: The Telegraph

Anorexia, bulimia and other such eating disorders are costing the country more than £15bn a year, according to a report by accountancy and professional services firm PwC.

PwC say that their calculations, which were made by adding together the financial burden on sufferers, their carers and the lost income to the economy, highlight the inadequate treatment options available to eating disorder patients in the UK and its economc impact.

If diagnosed early enough, eating disorders can be fully treated. However, according to the report almost half of eating disorder patients have to wait at least six months to receive treatment.

More funding is expected to be invested in treating eating disorders, with the government vowing to fund £150m into young people with eating disorders and stating a commitment to lower waiting times next year.

Sources: The Independent, The Telegraph

WHO call for smart injections to be used by 2020

Image source: M Health Watch

A new smart syringe, which breaks after a single use to prevent the spread of diseases, should be used for injections by 2020 according to The World Health Organization (WHO).

The smart syringes prevent the user from pulling the plunger back after an injection, meaning that it cannot be used again. Diseases like HIV and hepatitis are spread to more than two million people each year as a result of reusing syringes, meaning that the smart syringe is an easy way to combat the spread of disease. It is also impossible for healthcare professionals to accidentally prick themselves with a smart syringe.

The World Health Organization have said that smart syringes are more cost effective than traditional syringes, despite being more expensive, due to smart syringes stopping the need to treat diseases caught as a result of reused needles.

Source: BBC

Today’s top health stories: 18 February

Children of teenage fathers are more likely to inherit birth defects

Image source: TE.com

Teenage fathers have 30 percent higher rates of DNA mutation, according to a study by the University of Cambridge.

The study, which examined 2,400 parents and their children, discovered that teenage fathers carry a similar amount of DNA mutations as middle-aged fathers. Although scientists are uncertain why teenage fathers are at such high risk, the results explain why the children of young fathers are at an increased risk for disorders with a genetic link, such as autism, schizophrenia and spina bifida.

The study rejects previous assumptions that DNA mutations in germ cells increases with age, with scientists saying the new discoveries could force textbooks to be rewritten.

Source: The Telegraph

 

Drug Companies withdrawing funding from dementia research due to repeated failures

Image source: University of Bath

The World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) has reported that drug companies are investing significantly less amounts of money into dementia compared to other major diseases following a series of “repeated and costly failures”.

Despite the huge burden that dementia imposes on international economies, the WISH report is lamenting a “funding fatigue”. Experts say that as resources shrink, dementia research is becoming more conservative, with limited unconventional strategies and parallel drug discovery opportunities.

The WISH report lists solutions that different countries are carrying out to combat the small amount of drug company investment into dementia, with one solution coming from 2013 when the UK named a World Dementia Envoy and established the World Dementia Council. One of the World Dementia Council’s three stated priorities is to increase financial resources for dementia research and drug development.

Source: The Independent

 

GPs encouraged to highlight colleagues who prescribe unwarranted number of antibiotics

Image source: Telegraph

The NHS are to encourage GPs to question and inform colleagues who they believe are giving out too many antibiotics.

Calls for GPs to self-regulate antibiotic prescriptions amongst their own field come following a report suggesting that 97% of patients who ask for antibiotics receive them. The draft guidance, written by National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), has been created to counter increasing concern over the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The overuse of antibiotics in the Western world has been cited as a reason for the growing resistance of antibiotics.

NICE’s draft guidance points to the fact that it is often the patient themselves who demand antibiotics rather than being a suggestion from GPs.

Source: Telegraph

Today’s top health stories: 22 January

Heavy drinking rates amongst youth linked to alcohol TV ads

Image source: Frame Store

A study has found that youths who are highly receptive to alcohol advertisements on television are more likely to develop drinking problems in the future.

Young people aged 15 – 23 were asked which advertisements they remembered seeing on television, with those who recalled alcohol adverts incurring drinking, binge drinking or hazardous drinking at a higher rate than those who did not remember alcohol adverts.

The study suggests that the marketing concepts and campaigns of alcohol companies could be impacting upon the chances of young people turning to alcohol.

Source: Reuters

 

20 minutes of exercise weekly could be enough for healthy life – experts

Image source: Frame Pool

Following criticisms of NHS Guidelines being overly ambitious with their recommendation of 150 minutes of exercise a week, studies have shown that as little as 20 minutes of vigorous exercise a week could be enough to avoid an early death.

The recommendation of 20 minutes a week comes from the British Medical Journal, with the author suggesting that encouraging the end of sedentary life, rather than a life of high exercise, could be more beneficial in getting people more healthy.

The report concludes that research into the effect of promoting reduced sedentary behaviour and increasing light activities is lacking.

Sources: The Guardian, British Medical Journal

 

Cigarettes could be sold in plain packages from as early as next year

Image source: Pharmaceutical Journal

After years of debate, the Government has announced that regulations towards enforced plain and standardised packages for cigarettes will be put to a free vote before the general election.

The news has come on the same day that a Washington state attorney general has campaigned to raise the legal smoking age in the state to 21.

The brand names of the cigarettes will still be placed on the boxes, as well as smoking health warnings.

Sources: The Independent, Reuters

Today’s top health stories: 16 January

App released that can help scientists research the cure for Alzheimer’s

Image source: SBNation

A new app has been released on the Google Play store that ‘donates’ a phone’s processing power towards Alzheimer’s research while the owner is not using the device.

Vijay Pande, a leading doctor and part of the team behind Alzheimer’s research, believes that there needs to be around 150,000 ‘phone-days’ for the next major breakthrough to take place. It is thought that the app could make a large contribution in speeding up Alzheimer’s research.

Folding@Home is available now on Android devices and Google Chrome via the Google Play Store.

Source: The Independent

Salt increases the risk of stomach cancer

Image source: KevinMD

New research suggests that salt increases the risk of stomach cancer, according to statistics provided by NHS Choices.

Along with the long-established connection between salt and high blood pressure and heart disease, salt encourages the growth of a bacteria that inflames the stomach, leading to cancer.

Current British salt targets for adults is no more than six grams per day, with the World Health Organization suggesting five grams.

Source: Express

 

Breakthrough in the reasons behind shell shock brain injury

Image source: Independent

Scientists have made a major breakthrough in shell shock, the reaction of trauma incurred by soldiers who have been a part of warfare.

One century since when the first cases of shell shock were identified during World War One, scientists believe that they have identified a unique brain injury that impacts upon decision making and reasoning.

The Veterans’ mental health charity Combat Stress estimates that around 50,000 veterans will suffer from a mental health problem as a result of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Source: The Independent

Today’s top health stories: 13 January

Fear that NHS cuts could be contributing to lower life expectancy

Image source: Huffington Post

Social care cuts and increased pressure on the NHS could be a factor in the “statistically significant” lowering of life expectancy of elderly people in the North west of England.

Blackburn with Darwen Council emailed Public Health England late last year warning that people aged over 85 in the area “are no longer living longer”. Following the alert, Public Health England have announced that they are “conducting further analysis of these trends”.

Official life expectancy figures have dropped slightly in recent years, with some areas of the North west seeing life expectancy lower in both sexes.

Source: The Independent

 

World Health Organization wants more power to tackle health emergencies

Image source: Talk Radio News

Following criticism of its slow response to the Ebola outbreak, the WHO have claimed that it could have operated more efficiently if it were given greater capabilities to react to situations quickly.

The WHO have accused countries of lacking basic surveillance, risk communication and thorough outbreak preparations. The Ebola outbreak has claimed the lives of 8371 people and infected over 20 thousand across Western Africa.

According to the WHO, a restructuring of the organisation would allow them to set up a team of rapid deployment experts, as well as better communications and logistics systems.

Sources: Reuters, Centers for Disease Control

 

Regular naps helps infants boost memory and learning

Image source: Tesco

Researchers at the University of Sheffield have found that infants who sleep during the day have a greater memory and ability to learn than those who do not.

The study, which was the first of its kind, found that infants who took a short nap within four hours of being shown an action could remember the task whilst those who did not nap were unable to do so.

The research paper was published in PNAS and shone light on an area which we previously knew “very little about”, according to the authors of the study.

Sources: PNAS, BBC News, University of Sheffield

 

Today’s top health stories: 12 January

NHS patients to be offered self-referral cancer tests

Image source: The Guardian

As part of the NHS’s target to diagnose 10% more people with cancer at its early stages than in 2014, patients are to be given the option of booking referral appointments directly with hospitals and testing units instead of first visiting a GP.

The NHS believe that a 10% increase in early stage cancer diagnosis would mean that the number of patients alive five years after diagnosis would increase by 8,000.

As well as introducing self-referral bookings to patients, other NHS initiatives under the same scheme are:

  • Tests for different types of cancers at the same time and day of original appointments
  • Fast-tracking of patients through community pharmacists when cancer symptoms are suspected and ongoing
  • GPs to send patients for cancer tests without having to first refer to a cancer specialist

Source: BBC News, The Independent

National Obesity Forum warn that treating obesity could ‘break the NHS’

Image source: Locally Healthy

In a bid to slow the increasing cost of obesity on the NHS, the National Obesity Forum has stated their desire for annual weight monitoring of every adult.

Obesity costs the NHS £45 billion per year, with the National Obesity Forum warning that the costs could ‘break the NHS’. In the last two decades obesity levels have doubled, with 67% of men now overweight or obese. This week is also National Obesity Awareness Week.

Highlighting the obesity epidemic in Europe and the Western hemisphere, last week the American Medical Association voted to classify obesity as a disease.

Sources: The Daily Mail, Prevention

WHO: e-learning for doctors and nurses as effective as traditional training

Image source: Thrivase

The World Health Organization has advised that electronic education for some healthcare professionals can be just as successful as face-to-face education. It is hoped that the WHO’s approval will go towards encouraging more people to train in healthcare, helping to plug the 7.2 million shortfall of healthcare professionals worldwide.

The study, conducted at Imperial College London, found that distance learning and electronic education enables greater access to teaching. However, barriers still exist at places where electronic media and the Internet are not regularly available.

Source: Reuters

 

Today’s top health stories: 09 January

Waiting times in England A&Es lengthening

Image source: The Telegraph

The latest waiting time figures for A&E are the worst since records began in 2010, with all of the past four weeks being the worst ever for waiting times.

Although the NHS target 95% of all patients entering A&E to be seen within four hours, last week’s figure reached only 86.7%. The recent slump has meant that more than 16,000 patients had to wait between four and 12 hours for treatment.

Healthcare workers have noted that a strain of flu not affected by the seasonal vaccine is causing an influx of extra A&E admissions. Last week at least 17 hospitals felt pressure so great that they needed to take extra measures, such as cancelling operations or turning people away.

Sources: BBC News, The Telegraph 

First ever privately-run NHS hospital “no longer viable”

Image source: The Guardian

Circle Holdings, the first company to privately run an NHS hospital, has announced that its control of Hinchingbrooke Hospital is “no longer viable under current terms”.

According to their website, Circle Holdings boasts the largest partnerships of doctors and nurses in Europe. The company has suggested that an unprecedented rise in A&E patients is part of the reason that they can no longer run the hospital. However, Circle Holding’s announcement has surprised some, as current NHS pressures have been building for some time.

The Care Quality Commission recently visited Hinchingbrooke Hospital and is expected to publish their report of the hospital in the near future.

Source: BBC News

 

UK cases of Flu at a three-year high

Image source: Virology History

Building upon current NHS pressures, UK flu levels are at a three-year high. Senior healthcare professionals are currently calling on those groups vulnerable to flu to get the seasonal flu jab. Despite the already high figures, health officials are warning that the number of flu cases is still set to rise.

Last week there were 12.1 flu consultantations out of every 100,000 GP visits. Figures also show that over 70% of over 65s have received the flu jab this year.

Source: The Telegraph

Today’s top health stories: 08 January

Pharma companies threaten legal action over NHS England’s decision to halt access to expensive drugs

Image source: The Guardian

Pharma companies have expressed their discontent at NHS England’s expected plans to remove access to a range of medicines due to their high prices.

NHS England’s Cancer Drugs Fund, which was set up to allow patients access to drugs regardless of their cost and has been used by 55,000 people, is set to be £100m over budget by the end of the financial year.

Medicines which will be no longer paid by the fund include breast cancer drugs Eisai’s Halaven (eribulin, breast cancer), Sanofi’s Zaltrap (Aflibercept, bowel cancer) and Roche’s Kadcyla (Trastuzumab emtansine, bowel cancer).

Chief executive of Myeloma UK, Eric Lowe, believes that the Cancer Drugs Fund is unsustainable and a “policy anomaly”.

Sources: Financial Times, BBC News

 

Scientists discover 25 new antibiotics in clinical study

Image source: Institute for Creation Research


Following a three-year gap since the last clinical discovery of antibiotics, a novel approach to cultivating bacteria has led to a yield of 25 new antibiotics.

These new antibiotics, described by the researchers as the “tip of the iceberg” in their published journal in Nature, could potentially revive antibiotic discovery.

Recent decades have seen microbes become increasingly resistant to antibiotics, leading to so-called ‘super bugs’ which have caused media stirs.

Source: BBC News

 

Signs that Ebola is slowing in Sierra Leone

Image source: MarketWatch

Although 248 new confirmed cases of Ebola have been reported in Sierra Leone during the past week, the spread of Ebola in the country appears to be slowing according to the World Health Organisation.

Ebola cases in Sierra Leone far outstrip those of any other country, with almost 10,000 cases and 3000 deaths. Ebola cases are still underreported throughout western Africa.

Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, head of the United Nations Ebola response team, is warning against complacency in Sierra Leone against the continual threat of Ebola:  “It is only at this moment of optimism and relative success that sometimes we are worried of a sense of complacency”.

Sources: Reuters, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention