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News Archives, December 2005
Wednesday, 28 December 2005 12:01
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Vitamin D could lower cancer risk
Scientists from the university of California have suggested that high doses of vitamin D can reduce the risk of developing some cancers by 50 per cent following a review of 63 previous studies.

Researchers found the vitamin could reduce susceptibility to breast, ovarian and colon cancer after examining the relationship between blood levels of vitamin D and cancer risk.

They reviewed papers published worldwide between 1966 and 2004, including 30 investigations of colon cancer, 13 of breast cancer, 26 of prostate cancer and seven of ovarian cancer.

The study revealed that taking 1,000 international units (25 micrograms) of the vitamin daily could reduce the risk of colon cancer by 50 per cent and the risk of breast and ovarian cancer by 30 per cent.

However, the researchers acknowledged that large doses of vitamin D could be dangerous, with more than 50 micrograms a day potentially causing damage to the liver and kidneys.

Professor Cedric Garland, who led the review study, said: "A preponderance of evidence, from the best observational studies the medical world has to offer...has led to the conclusion that public health action is needed."

Professor Garland warned that sun exposure posed its own potential dangers

"Dark-skinned people, however, may need more exposure to produce adequate amounts of vitamin D, and some fair-skinned people shouldn't try to get any vitamin D from the sun.

"The easiest and most reliable way of getting the appropriate amount is from food and a daily supplement."

Vitamin D is produced naturally in the skin after exposure to sunlight but can also be obtained from foods such as oily fish, margarine and meat.

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Wednesday, 28 December 2005 10:58
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New pill eliminates periods
A new Pill promising to eliminate menstruation and premenstrual syndrome has been unveiled in the US.

Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturer, claims the Pill – which contains both oestrogen and progestogen – is safe and does no permanent damage to fertility.

Experts believe the Pill could revolutionise the lifestyles of career women who will be able to eliminate the inconvenience of periods from their busy schedules.

However, critics have warned that oral contraceptives raise the risk of breast cancer and blood clots. Continuous exposure to hormones might make it more difficult to spot potential health problems, they say.

Women on the Pill usually take it for 21 days and then stop for seven - during which they experience a light period.

The new Pill, called Anya, is designed to be taken 365 days a year without a break.

The chemical composition of Anya is actually very similar to the current Pill but dose is varied so it can be taken non-stop.

Researchers found that 71 per cent of women stopped having any bleeding after taking it for seven months, while women with a history of pre-menstrual syndrome also had fewer symptoms.

Melissa Dear of the fpa, formerly the Family Planning Association, said: "It is safe to suppress menstruation and I would have thought some women would jump at the chance of it. Others will still want the reassurance of a monthly bleed."

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Wednesday, 28 December 2005 10:20
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Scientists urges stem cell treatment for terminally ill
The scientist who cloned Dolly the Sheep has called for stem cell treatment to be offered to people with terminal illnesses, The Scotsman has reported.

Professor Ian Wilmut told the newspaper that the treatment could save lives or at least enhance the pace of stem cell research.

Stem cells are the body’s master cells capable of forming almost any type of tissue. It is hoped that the cells will one day produce cures for disorders such as liver disease, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and spinal cord injury.

The head of the Institute of Human Genetics at Newcastle University, Professor John Burn, told BBC Radio Five Live: "If you've developed a treatment that might be beneficial in, say, motor neurone disease, then it's reasonable to allow people who are in the last stage of the disease to offer themselves.

"It sounds like they're being used as guinea pigs but sometimes people with a terminal illness volunteer to be used as guinea pigs if it will advance medical treatment for others," he said.

Professor Wilmut, recently appointed the first director of Edinburgh University’s Centre for Regenerative Medicine, agreed that some patients would volunteer to participate.

"I've come across people who have neuro-degenerative disease who face a steady, slow decline and premature death, a very unpleasant situation," he said.

"Imagine you've got motor neurone disease and you've got no movement below your neck. You hear reports of benefits from stem cells in news reports, on the internet. That person would be very enthusiastic."

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Wednesday, 28 December 2005 10:06
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Hewitt to review £1 billion hospital plan
The future of the private finance initiative in the NHS has been cast into doubt following a review of Britain’s biggest hospital rebuilding project by the health secretary Patricia Hewitt.

The review was launched over concerns about the affordability of the £1 billion plan to rebuild the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel and partly rebuild St Bartholomew’s. The health secretary also questioned whether such schemes best serve patient’s needs as healthcare provision rapidly changes.

Professor Chris Ham, a health policy expert at Birmingham University, warned last night: "This is an early signal of all that is going to happen to big PFI schemes in due course. The bigger they are, the bigger the financial hole that has to be filled. The more ambitious ones will be scaled back."

The review has been announced just days after the Barts and The London NHS trust agreed terms with its preferred bidder, Skanska Innisfree. The trust will now have to "reconsider its plans to ensure that [they] are both affordable and meet local needs".

In a statement, The Department of Health stressed that all PFI programmes were kept under review to ensure value for money. "This does not mean there is a freeze on hospital PFI projects," it said.

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Tuesday, 27 December 2005 11:40
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Kitchen sponges may hold key to beating MRSA
Scottish scientists at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh have discovered that a kitchen sponge could hold the key to wiping out the deadly superbug MRSA.

The scientists are developing powerful anti-MRSA antibiotics produced by bacteria discovered on seaweed in Scotland.

But tests show the microbes only feel at home on the surface of a particular brand of kitchen sponge scourer.

Now researchers want to find the maker of the polyurethane scouring pad - on sale in 89p packs of eight at Morrisons supermarkets.

Brian Austin, a professor of microbiology at Heriot-Watt University, said: "We want to speak to the manufacturer to find out what's special about these sponges.

"Why won't the bacteria produce these antibiotics on any other supermarket sponges? It could be something subtle like how shiny the surface is.

"We're keen to take the study further as an antibiotic powerful enough to kill MRSA clearly has lots of potential”.

Prof Austin's team discovered the bacteria earlier this year growing on longstranded fucus seaweed in the Firth of Forth on the east coast of Scotland.

They found it produced a powerful chemical that ate away at the superbug. The researchers' trials showed the protein could even kill deadly food poisoning infection listeria.

They began cultivating the bacteria in glass containers of meat broth in the university laboratory.

But the microbes would only yield the special antibiotic when grown on discs of the Morrisons kitchen sponge - no other brand placed would work.

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Tuesday, 27 December 2005 11:31
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Close to finding a new treatment for glaucoma
Ophthalmologists at the University of Liverpool are close to finding a new treatment for glaucoma one of the world's leading causes of blindness.

More than 65 million people across the globe suffer from glaucoma, which is most common among the elderly.

The ophthalmologists have become the first in the world to discover new structures inside the human body which cause cells to become rigid and fail to work properly, resulting in diseases such as glaucoma.

The structures are called Clans - cross-linked action networks - and scientists have likened their design to the Eden Project and the courtyard at the British Museum.

Professor Ian Grierson said: "Confirmation of their presence in the part of the eye affected by glaucoma, known as the trabecular meshwork, could well lead to new treatments for this disease.

"Such treatments are essential as glaucoma remains a major cause of blindness in the elderly.

"After cataracts, it is the second leading cause of vision loss in the world, with over 65 million people suffering from the disease”.

The team say the findings have already opened new doors in the search to find new treatments for common eye diseases.

They are now working to understand the reasons why Clans form.

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Tuesday, 27 December 2005 11:25
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Passive smokers face just as much harmful damage to their skin
According to dermatologists at the skin cream maker Clinique Laboratories passive smokers face as much damage to their skin as those who smoke.

The dermatologists claim that there is a link to passive smoking and a type of skin damage commonly known as "smoker's skin".

More than three-quarters of Britons will passively smoke on average three times a week in bars and clubs during December and January. Tom Mammone, the head of research and development at Clinique, said: "We found that secondhand smoke is extremely harmful to the skin.

"Exhaled smoke contains significant levels of nicotine, tar, nitric oxide and carbon monoxide, which disrupt and weaken the skin's barrier, leading to the break down of collagen, resulting in symptoms of smoker's skin”.

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Tuesday, 27 December 2005 11:12
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Hospitals ignoring new killer superbug
The Health Protection Agency and the Healthcare Commission the Government’s health watchdog has urged the health service to do more to minimise the risk to patients of Clostridium difficile (C. difficile).

More than a third of hospital trusts are failing to follow basic guidelines that could prevent the spread of the deadly hospital-acquired infection Clostridium difficile which kills 1,000 people a year.

Sir Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer, has now written to every trust chief executive to give warning of the need to monitor and treat effectively the infection, which was linked to the deaths of 12 patients at Stoke Mandeville Hospital earlier this year.

In the survey, released today, nearly 90 per cent of trusts admitted that they did not have a ward for isolating patients with C. difficile while more than a third said that they were unable to isolate routinely such patients.

Marcia Fry, Head of Operational Development at the Healthcare Commission, said: “This survey reflects the views of the trusts of their own arrangements for managing C.difficile. It is deeply worrying that a significant number of trusts are not managing to implement existing guidance on C. difficile.

“We recognise that these outbreaks are not easy to control, but trusts must do more to ensure that they have systems in place to protect patients from this potentially lethal infection. We and the HPA will be working with them on this”.

Professor Graham Medley, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Warwick University, said: “We understand all about these infectious diseases and how to control them, but what we lack is the political and economic will to change the current situation and reduce the incidences of these diseases.

“This is because a change would require restricting hospital visiting hours and having hospital beds free in case there is a need to isolate patients. That would result in an increase in waiting lists.”

A new strain of C. difficile has recently been detected in a number of NHS trusts in England. Outbreaks of this strain were first reported in Canada and the USA and have been associated with more deaths and relapses. Infections with this strain caused 109 deaths over a six-month period in Quebec last year and it was later identified at an outbreak at Stoke Mandeville Hospital.

Andrew Lansley, the Shadow Health Secretary, said: “It is very concerning that trusts are not following guidelines to reduce infection rates. What’s the point of guidelines if they are not implemented?

“Hospitals should take every possible measure to prevent outbreaks of C. difficile. There is no clear line of accountability, there is no requirement for access to 24/7 cleaning, there is no measure for the availability of isolation facilities and there is no requirement to reduce excessive bed occupancy rates.” Today’s report is an interim study. A more detailed version will be published in the spring.

Jane Kennedy, the Health Minister, said: “Some trusts still have work to do. The new hygiene code currently under scrutiny in Parliament will make it a statutory duty for trusts to have all these systems in place; and the Healthcare Commission will have the power to issue improvement notices if hospitals are failing to carry out these measures.

“The Chief Medical Officer has written a firm reminder to all trusts today, to help ensure that they have all the relevant practice in place to minimise the risk of C. difficile infection”.

Questionnaires were sent to directors of infection prevention and control in all 173 acute trusts in England in October 2005. 118 responded.

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Monday, 26 December 2005 11:23
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Oral contraceptive can cut women's short-term risk of multiple sclerosis
The Harvard School of Public Health research suggests that by taking the oral contraceptive pill can cut women's short-term risk of multiple sclerosis.

The researchers compared 106 women who had a new diagnosis of MS between January 1993 and December 2000 with 1,001 other women without MS. Information was taken from the British General Practice Research Database.

Incidence of MS was 40% lower in women using oral contraceptives than in those who were not taking the Pill.

Women were also found to have a lower risk of MS during pregnancy, but a higher risk in the six months after having a baby - compared to those who were not pregnant.

Writing in Archives of Neurology, the researchers led by Dr Alvaro Alonso, said: "These findings are consistent with studies on the effect of pregnancy in patients with MS and the immunological changes associated with pregnancy.

"Our findings suggest that high levels of exogenous [from outside the body] oestrogens from OC use and of endogenous [from the body] oestrogens during pregnancy may delay the first clinical attack of MS”.

Chris Jones, chief executive of the UK's MS Trust said: "Any new information which highlights potential protective factors for MS is welcomed.

"It is already well documented that sex hormones such as oestrogen can influence the development and course of MS as evidenced by the higher ratio of women with MS compared to men, and the higher risk of MS in women post-pregnancy.

"But it is however difficult to draw firm conclusions from this one study.

"As the authors comment themselves, other factors may have influenced the results, such as a pregnancy during the follow-up period or whether those using the pill were 'healthy' individuals - ie not smokers or overweight.

"Overall, these findings are interesting, although more research needs to be conducted within this area before firmer conclusions can be drawn”.

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Monday, 26 December 2005 11:02
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Public defibrillators could save lives
An American and Italian research team claim that by putting electric shock machines in public places to treat cardiac arrest victims saves lives.

The teams analysed data from Brescia before and after machines were place in the community, they found that the one-year survival rate trebled to three in 100 patients.

Defibrillators have been placed in shopping centres, railway stations and airports in the UK in recent years to be used by trained volunteers.

The researchers, from Milan, Brescia and Washington universities, also said the study proved that defibrillators could easily and safely be operated by lay people.

And they concluded that if the response time for using defibrillators was shortened to within eight minutes, it would save the lives of 15 out of 100 people who collapse with cardiac arrest.

Lead researcher Riccardo Cappato said: "There was an increase in survival for patients in both urban and rural areas, although it was significantly larger in the city than the countryside due to the shorter response time and larger number of defibrillators available”.

Colin Elding, medical spokesman for the British Heart Foundation, said: "Modern defibrillators are becoming increasingly quick and easy for the lay person to use, which can mean the difference between life and death.

"Every second counts when someone's heart goes into cardiac arrest.

"An electric shock needs to be delivered to the chest as quickly as possible to restore the person's heart to a normal rhythm”.

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