Significant drop in measles cases

By James Gallagher
Health and science reporter, BBC News

Measles jab

There was a sharp fall in the number of cases of measles in England at the end of 2013, figures from Public Health England show.

Twenty four people were infected between October and December, in sharp contrast to the hundreds of cases each month at the beginning of the year.

The fall has been put down to efforts to get more children vaccinated with the MMR jab.

Nighttime finger splints can ease arthritis pain

(Reuters Health) – Inexpensive splints worn nightly can reduce the pain of hand osteoarthritis, a chronic ailment that affects a majority of older adults, a new study shows.

“It’s a well-tolerated, safe and cheap intervention,” rheumatologist Dr. Fiona Watt told Reuters Health.

Watt, from the Arthritis Research UK Centre for Osteoarthritis Pathogenesis at the University of Oxford, led the new study. She and her colleagues tested custom-made splints on London clinic patients who suffered painful and deforming hand osteoarthritis.

Tick test for persistent Lyme disease tried in humans

(Reuters Health) – A small experiment to see whether uninfected ticks could “diagnose” a lingering Lyme infection in people produced modest results, researchers say.

DNA from the Lyme parasite, but not live parasites themselves, were transmitted to the ticks from just two people out of two dozen who had persistent Lyme symptoms despite treatment.

In animal studies, researchers have successfully used “xenodiagnosis,” or diagnosis with another animal, to detect the signs of a persistent Lyme infection in the blood. The technique has also worked in people to detect another parasitic infection, Chagas disease.

Indoor tanning tied to risky behaviors among teens

(Reuters Health) – U.S. teenagers who use indoor tanning devices are more likely to take part in other risky behaviors, according to a new government study.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that using indoor tanning devices was linked to binge drinking, having sex and using unsafe methods to control weight among high school students.

“I think it’s important to understand the prevalence of indoor tanning and its relation to other risky behaviors,” Gery Guy, Jr., the study’s lead author from the CDC, told Reuters Health.

Supplement users are seeking wellness: study

(Reuters Health) – People who use multivitamins and other nutritional supplements tend to lead healthier lives overall, so taking supplements can be seen as a positive sign, suggests a new review of past research.

More than half of American adults use supplements such as multivitamins, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and fiber, the researchers say. But the other things users are more likely to do – like exercise and maintaining a normal weight – are often downplayed in discussions of the value of dietary supplements.

Dirty stethoscopes 'bacteria threat'

GP using a stethoscopeStethoscopes can pick up bacteria directly from a patient’s skin

Doctors should disinfect their stethoscopes after every examination because the instruments are heavily contaminated by bacteria, a study says.

Stethoscopes were found to carry as many bacteria as the palms of doctors’ hands, and only doctors’ fingertips were ‘dirtier’.

University of Geneva researchers said stethoscopes may contain thousands of bacteria, including MRSA.

Doctors should clean stethoscopes regularly to cut down on transmission.

Three-person baby details announced

By James Gallagher
Health and science reporter, BBC News


How the creation of babies using sperm and eggs from three people will be regulated in the UK has been announced.

The draft rules will be reviewed as part of a public consultation and could come into force by the end of 2014.

Doctors say three-person IVF could eliminate debilitating and potentially fatal diseases that are passed from mother to child.

Obese kids may face higher risk of bad elbow breaks

(Reuters Health) – Complicated elbow fractures could be added to a growing list of heightened health risks for obese children, according to a recent analysis.

Obese kids were nine times more likely to suffer an elbow fracture with multiple fracture lines in the same arm, or with the bone exposed through the skin, compared to normal-weight children, researchers found. Obese kids were also more likely to have fallen on their outstretched hand.

“As a public health message, this study validates the efforts of medical organizations to raise awareness about childhood obesity,” Dr. Michelle Caird told Reuters Health.

Groups urge FDA to halt launch of Zohydro pain drug

(Reuters) – A coalition of addiction experts, physicians and others is urging U.S. health officials to reverse course and block the launch of a powerful painkiller called Zohydro, expected to hit the market next month.

The opioid drug, manufactured by Zogenix Inc, contains a potent amount of an active ingredient that could be lethal to new patients and children and is not safer than other current pain drugs, the groups told the Food and Drug Administration.

Cognitive decline in obese diabetic mice can be reversed with regular exercise, surgical removal of belly fat

Cognitive decline that often accompanies obesity and diabetes can be reversed with regular exercise or surgical removal of belly fat, scientists report.

A drug already used to treat rheumatoid arthritis also helps obese/diabetic adult mice regain their ability to learn and comprehend, while transplanting belly fat to a normal mouse reduces those abilities, said Dr. Alexis M. Stranahan, neuroscientist at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University.

Studies in humans and animals indicate that obesity and diabetes – which often go hand in hand – essentially triple the risk of mild cognitive impairment as well as Alzheimer’s. Stranahan focused on the effect of fat- and diabetes-associated inflammation in the brain‘s hippocampus, the center of learning and memory.