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News Archives, September 2005
Tuesday, 27 September 2005 11:48
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Sea sponges may fight cancer
Researchers from the Welsh School of Pharmacy have revealed that sponges found in rock polls may provide a new treatment to tackle breast and lung cancer.

Scientists told the British Pharmaceutical Conference that the Hymeniacidon sponge, found in south Wales, produces compounds which can block the spread of malignant tumours.

Dr Alex White, who led the research, said the compound could be extracted by drying out the sponge and grinding it into powder. However, he added that it was still unclear whether the extracts had a beneficial effect.

"The sponge is made up of a complex mixture of compounds," he said on the BBC News website.

"The next step is to try to characterise the natural products responsible for the anti-proliferative properties and to identify lead compounds for further development.

"It is not uncommon to find extracts from marine organisms, especially sponges, which have this type of activity.

"But British sponges, and their medicinal properties, are largely unexplored and have untapped potential for the discovery of new drugs."

Dr Kat Arney, of Cancer Research UK, said: "Creatures and plants from the sea are a rich source of potential anti-cancer agents, and these results suggest there are possible new treatments hiding within British sea sponges.

"But the research is still at a very early stage and these experiments have only been done in laboratory-grown cells.

"Scientists need to discover precisely which molecules within the sponge are responsible for the effects and how they work.

"They will then need to find out if they have an anti-cancer effect on tumours in humans."

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Tuesday, 27 September 2005 11:07
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
IVF case to be heard by human rights court
An infertile woman is appealing to the European Court of Human Rights to allow her to use frozen IVF embryos to conceive after her former partner withdrew his consent for her to use the embryos after they split.

Natalie Evans, from Wiltshire, started IVF treatment with her then partner Howard Johnston in 2001 after she was left infertile by cancer treatment.

However, when the couple split, Mr Johnston decided he did not want the eggs, which had been fertilised with his sperm, to be used by Ms Evans to become pregnant.

The hearing will be Ms Evans’ last chance to conceive with the embryos after the Court of Appeal and High Court both ruled that she could not use them.

Ms Evans, who underwent IVF treatment following a diagnosis of ovarian cancer, argues that Mr Johnston has already consented to the creation of the embryos and does not have the right to change his mind. The law currently requires both parties to give consent.

The court’s ruling is expected to have serious ramifications for law, medicine and science.

Muiris Lyons, of Alexander Harris solicitors, who will be representing Mrs Evans at the hearing, said it has been a "long and hard legal battle".

But he added: "Natallie hopes that in Strasbourg, she will finally succeed in winning the right to try to have a natural child of her own, using her own stored embryos."

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Tuesday, 27 September 2005 10:52
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Hospital bans visitors from interacting with mothers and babies
Hospital bosses in Halifax have asked visitors to the maternity wing to respect the privacy of patients by not staring into cots or questioning mothers about their newborn babies.

Staff at Calderdale Royal Hospital in Halifax put up a display of a doll in a cot with a sign saying: “What makes you think I want to be looked at?”

Debbie Lawson, a ward sister at the special care baby unit, said in the Daily Mail: "We know people have good intentions and most cannot resist cooing over new babies but we need to respect the child.

"Cooing should be a thing of the past because these are little people with the same rights as you or me.

"We often get visitors wandering over to peer into cots but people sometimes touch or talk about the baby like they would if they were examining tins in a supermarket and that should not happen.

"Hopefully our message comes across loud and clear. The Government has set a benchmark that every patient has a right to privacy and dignity and we say that includes tiny babies as well."

The hospital promoted the initiative through an “advice day” last week, when cards reading “respect my baby” were handed out to visitors. The cards also read: “I am small and precious so treat me with privacy and respect. May parents ask you to treat my personal space with consideration. I deserve to be left undisturbed and unprotected against unwanted public view.”

A spokesman for Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Trust said the measure was just “common sense” in the fight against hospital acquired infections and visitors were not banned from talking to mothers.

"Staff were wishing to highlight issues of patient confidentiality and dignity, especially for young babies and their parents in what can be very emotional times," he said.

"Infection control was also a key part of the message as the unit deals with very small babies with very vulnerable immune systems."

But Belinda Phipps, chief executive of the National Childbirth Trust, said: "Babies like to interact and like to look at a human face. We need to treat the mother and baby as one unit. The mother should be able to say what she wants to happen with her baby.

"Some mothers think people cooing over their baby is fantastic and a lot of women do want to talk about their labour because it is a big experience.

"Some women take a very different approach and don't want anybody near their baby. It's wrong to dictate this approach to all women."

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Tuesday, 27 September 2005 10:25
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
TV and video games make kids fat, stupid and lazy, study finds
The biggest study ever conducted into the effects of TV and video games on school children has concluded that over exposure to one or both produces fatter, lazier and less intelligent individuals compared to those whose exposure is limited.

The Criminological Institute of Hanover in Germany studied the behaviour of 23,000 children aged between 10 and 15, with institute director Christian Pfeifer describing the results as “truly alarming”.

"Over-consumption of either makes them fat, lazy, stupid, ill, sad, unhealthy," he said.

"TVs and computers literally steal meaningful time for play, sport and fun from their lives. In addition, brutal films or video games displace things learned at school or from parents from their memories."

"The performance of children at school was noticeably worse, their grades went downhill if they spent too much time in front of either.

"This was a survey taken in Germany but I think it would be the same results in England or other western European nations, and probably America, too."

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Tuesday, 27 September 2005 10:15
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Thousands dying from drug restriction
A University of Oxford study has found that the wider prescription of life-saving statin drugs could save thousands of lives.

The availability of cholesterol lowering statins, which reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, is restricted to people suffering from high cholesterol.

However, researchers found that many more patients with diseased arteries could have their risk of heart attack and stroke reduced by one third by taking a big enough dose of the drug.

Colin Baigent, who led the study, said: "There aren't many drugs that can do that. Given a decent dose, statins are wonder drugs. [But] they are being used in a less than efficient way. What we have found is that if you are at high risk of a heart attack or stroke, reducing your cholesterol, regardless of its current level, will reduce your risk.'

"Many doctors use target levels for cholesterol. If you have an average cholesterol level you might get no statin or a low dose. Of those who are being treated with statins at least half are not getting a high enough dose.

"What matters most is that doctors identify all patients at risk of a heart attack or stroke, largely ignoring their blood cholesterol level, then prescribe a statin at a daily dose that reduces their cholesterol substantially. The goal of treatment should be to reduce cholesterol as much as possible. There is a problem of under-treatment."

The study, involving 14 randomised trials of 90,000 patients, found the risk of heart attack or stroke was reduced by a fifth for every 1mmol reduction in the patient’s low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol level.

With appropriate use of statins, most patients reduced their cholesterol level by at least 1.5mmols, achieving a one third reduction in risk.

Researchers also found no evidence of increased incidence of cancer or depression leading to suicide, both of which have raised concerns among doctors in the past.

Professor Anthony Keech of the University of Sydney, said: "Statins are often prescribed in relatively small doses which may only reduce cholesterol modestly. Our results indicate that the benefits of statins appear directly proportional to the size of the reduction in cholesterol produced by treatment. So, bigger cholesterol reductions with more intensive treatment regimens should lead to greater benefits."

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Tuesday, 27 September 2005 09:17
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Seaweed could end junk food
Scientists at Newcastle University claim that by adding a seaweed extract to junk food could make it healthier without changing the taste.

The seaweed extract, called alginate, could be used to increase the fibre content of pies, burgers, cakes and other high fat foods.

The scientists said this was an important breakthrough because it would allow people to continue eating junk food but enjoy the benefits of the traditionally more healthy alternatives.

The team believe the seaweed will be a valuable weapon in the battle against obesity, diabetes, heart problems and diseases such as bowel cancer.

Professor Jeff Pearson, a member of the research team, said: "We're just not eating enough fibre, yet we need this to keep us healthy.

"The problem is that a lot of people don't enjoy many of the foods that are high in fibre, like fruit and vegetables, yet to consume the recommended daily amount of fibre they would have to eat a lot of these types of foods.

"We believe it's hard to change people's habits and that the most practical solution is to improve the food they do eat.

"With a burger, for example, you would simply remove some of the fat and replace it with the seaweed extract, which is an entirely natural product from a sustainable resource.

"You'd have a healthier burger and it's unlikely to taste any different”.

He added: "This compound can also be added to any number of foods, such as synthetic creams and yoghurts.

"With pork pies, one of my favourite foods, it could replace the gelatine which usually covers the meat, as the seaweed extract has gelling properties too”.

Professor Pearson, who has already made loaves of bread containing the seaweed extract, which passed the 'taste test' with colleagues, added: "Bread is probably the best vehicle to reach the general population because most people eat it.

"Adding the seaweed extract could quadruple the amount of fibre in white bread”.

Nigel Denby, of the British Dietetic Association said: "Replacing one ingredient for another in order to make a food healthier can be a useful way of improving the food's overall nutritional profile.

"Often, the problem with this approach is that the food loses some of its taste qualities which make it a popular choice in the first place - healthier food is only healthy if people actually eat it!

"This work looks promising and it will be interesting to see how the team move forward and develop the use of alginates outside of the laboratory”.

Dr Denby added: "As technology brings us findings such as these, it would be a tragedy if we simply gave up trying to help people make healthy diet and lifestyle choices.

"While this process can be slow, it is ultimately the most powerful way to improve the diets of population groups and as with any dietary dilemma, there is never just one quick fix”.

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Tuesday, 27 September 2005 09:02
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Children's hospital is set to move
Edinburgh’s Sick Children's Hospital is to be replaced with a new purpose-built home.

NHS Lothian's governing board is due to give the go-ahead to replace the crumbling Victorian building at a meeting later this week.

The sites that have been considered are New Edinburgh Royal Infirmary at Little France, but health officials insist the location is open to debate and it is thought the Western General, which occupies a more central location, is also under consideration.

Leading children's health experts have also said that if a new building was situated near adult, maternity and neonatal facilities, services could expand and the quality of care would be enhanced.

Dave Simpson, the head of anaesthesia and intensive care at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, said: "I think saving lives is something that I hope we are already able to do in our present facility.

"When looking at the reprovision of services, we need to look at how we can deal with patients as quickly and as safely as possible, as close to home as is reasonable and where there's a whole range of facilities there".

He added: "I think the care delivered here at the moment is of the highest standard but the fabric of the building limits future development.

"If we were on a site where we could expand and could develop links to other paediatric services, then I think the quality of care and the quality of services would be enhanced”.

Doctors and parents welcomed the move.

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Monday, 26 September 2005 12:41
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
E-coli investigation should be public
The Welsh Assembly Government is facing mounting calls for a public enquiry into the E-coli outbreak in the south Wales valleys.

Some 115 people have already been affected, with 25 hospitalised and four children in specialist care, and some are believed to have taken legal advice on compensation claims.

The meat supplier John Tudor and Son of Bridgend has been told to stop trading pending the outcome of an investigation into the source of the outbreak, and the Food Standards Agency has asked all local authorities to contact local businesses to ensure they have not bought any cooked meat from the company.

Rhodri Morgan told BBC Radio Wales that the Welsh Assembly had not been slow to respond to the outbreak and said he was “absolutely” committed to a full inquiry.

"There is no difficulty about having to make this as open and as independent and as transparent as possible," he said.

"I can't give you the details of the inquiry now, but simply a commitment that it will be an open inquiry, because the lessons must be learned."

Solicitor Stephen Webber, said the priority was to ensure that the children recovered but added that legal action may follow.

He said: "The main concern is that there is a full public, open inquiry to find out what's happened, why it's happened, and to stop anything like this happening again."

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Monday, 26 September 2005 12:14
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Doctor to face GMC over euthanasia charge
A prominent euthanasia campaigner is to appear before the General Medical Council after admitting his willingness to help his friend commit suicide.

Dr Michael Irwin, formerly the head of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, faces being struck off the medical register if found guilty.

The 74-year-old, who openly admits his readiness to assist the death of fellow campaigner Patrick Kneen, said he was too old to practice medicine but hoped his case would highlight the need for a change in the law.

Mr Kneen died without Dr Irwin’s intervention but his willingness to expedite the death led to a police caution.

"I hope that the present GMC interest in me will have, in some small way, positive consequences for the ongoing debate on the need to change the law to permit physician-assisted suicide in this country," he said.

He added that many doctors have “twinning” arrangements with colleagues who have agreed to assist each others deaths should the need arise and said he would ask the GMC panel for their individual views on euthanasia to ensure a fair hearing and

"I expect that the physicians on this five-member Fitness To Practise Panel already know where and how they can obtain assistance to hasten their own deaths, when the time comes, if this should be necessary and desirable for them," he said.

"If physicians are willing to help each other at the end of life, surely they are guilty of applying double standards if they do not extend this privilege to their terminally ill patients or close friends."

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Monday, 26 September 2005 11:58
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
HIV treatment to fight cancer
A team of scientists from the Mayo Clinic believe they may have found a way of helping the body to stave off cancer by boosting the immune system using a technique developed for health workers who become exposed to HIV.

It has proved possible to remain free of HIV following exposure by using anti-viral treatments to dramatically increase the number of infection-fighting immune cells produced by the body and the Mayo scientists believe the drugs could be similarly effective at warding off cancer.

Antiretroviral therapy (ART) boosts the production of T-cells, which fight invading pathogens, by the thymus organ.

The number of immune cells can be increased by a factor of 1,000 and the treatment even works among the elderly who are known to produce fewer T-cells.

Experiments on mice revealed that using ART to improve immunity against illnesses such as cancer would not be harmful to the patient.

Dr McKean, who worked on the research, said: "One of the potential uses we envision is to use the ART treatment as a way to use tumour components to immunise cancer patients against their own cancer cells.

"If we can use the ART drugs to increase the number of newly produced T cells in cancer patients first, we can potentially improve the likelihood of getting a cancer vaccine to work."

ART may also be used to help patients who do not respond well to vaccines, he added.

A spokeswoman from the international Aids charity AVERT said on the BBC News website: "It does sound like a promising approach if they can get it to work clinically.

"These drugs have been around for a long time and have been proven to be safe and fight HIV."

Professor John Toy of Cancer Research said: "There's a lot of promising early research suggesting that it may be possible to adapt the body's immune defence system to recognise cancer cells and destroy them.

"The real challenge in immunotherapy is to generate T cells able to identify cancer cells and kill them and not be deceived into ignoring them as acceptable versions of normal cells."

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