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218 records found from year 2006
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Sunday, 16 July 2006 10:11
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Scientists at the Imperial College London and the University of Surrey have developed a technique to crystallise proteins, which they say could aid the development of new drugs.

The team have found a way of producing high quality crystals.

In Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they say this will allow better analysis of proteins, leading to the development of targeted drugs.

Crystallisation is the process which converts materials, such as proteins, into 3D crystals so they can be examined using X-ray crystallography.

Finding a way to do this successfully could make it much easier to examine many of the molecular pathways underpinning human biology.

Professor Nadia Chayen, who led the research, said: "The first step in obtaining a good crystal is to get it to nucleate in an ordered way.

"The 'holy grail' is to find a 'universal nucleant' which would induce crystallisation of any protein.

"Although there has been considerable research in search of a universal nucleant, this is the first time we have designed one which works on a large number of materials."

She added: "To target proteins, we need to know what they look like, what they do, their size and structure”.

She said treatments resulting from the research could be seen in around a decade.

The researchers plan to turn their discovery into a commercial product, using Imperial Innovations, Imperial College's technology transfer company.

Professor Stephen Pennington, of the Proteome Research Centre at University College Dublin, said the researchers were describing a "new and potentially very exciting approach".

He added: "There is clearly a long way to go to establish whether the silicon pore based nucleant is the desired universal nucleant.

"To their credit the authors do not claim that their approach will be the universal panacea.

"Realistically it is likely to become an important part in an armoury of approaches to induce protein crystallisation”.

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Sunday, 16 July 2006 09:35
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A third of family doctor practices working to a new government contract have stopped giving vaccinations to children.

The new contract which allows doctors to opt out of giving immunisations, leading to fears that parents may find it harder to get their children vaccinated against life-threatening diseases such as meningitis and measles.

Department of Health statistics, provided in a Parliamentary answer, show that last year 36.7 per cent of practices working to the General Medical Contract refused to give injections for MMR, whooping cough, diptheria, meningitis and tetanus.

Of the 334 practices which opted out, 153 were in London, where immunisation rates are among the lowest in the country. Nationally, in 2004, just 6.3 per cent of practices opted out.

The Royal College of GPs sought to play down the immunisation exodus. Its chairman, Prof Mayur Lakhani, said: "The figures seem high to us and care should be taken not to over-interpret them”.

He said many GP surgeries were on the Personal Medical Services (PMS) contract and were excluded from the calculations. The PMS contract is negotiated with Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) and covers more than 40 per cent of practices in England.

The Conservative shadow health secretary, Andrew Lansley, said: "It is a matter of concern that so many practices have chosen to opt out. I would have thought most GPs would see childhood immunisation as an essential part of their relationship with patients”.

A Department of Health spokesman said: "Uptake has remained level for years at around 90 per cent for all childhood immunisations, bar MMR which fluctuates around 80 per cent. It is the responsibility of the PCTs to provide vaccination services and patients should be able to get the vaccinations they need regardless”.

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Saturday, 15 July 2006 10:05
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International researchers claim that smoking is to blame for half of the difference in male death rates between men in the top and bottom social classes.

In England, Wales, the US, Canada and Poland, men of lower social class, income or education have a two-fold increased risk of dying earlier.

More than half of this involved differences in smoking-related death risk, they found.

Experts said the Lancet study showed the impact stopping smoking could have.

Professor Sir Richard Peto, co-author from the University of Oxford, said: "Widespread cessation of smoking could eventually halve the absolute differences between these social strata in the risk of premature death”.

Focusing on smoking cessation might be a quicker and simpler fix than tackling other causes of social inequalities.

Michael Marmot, from the International Institute for Society and Health at University College London, said: "The conclusion might be to forget social conditions, neighbourhood deprivation, employment conditions, early childhood and subsequent adult disease, just focus on getting the smoking rates down in people of low status”.

Cancer Research UK's medical director Professor John Toy said: "All men who smoke play Russian roulette with their lives but the odds are heavily stacked against those in lower income groups as they are much more likely to smoke.

"This study, part-funded by Cancer Research UK, shows that social inequality in death rates demands attention, concentrating on ways to help less privileged people to stop smoking”.

Sir Richard and colleagues estimated the number of deaths among men aged 35-69 that could be attributed to smoking and those not attributed to smoking in three social bands in four countries using mortality data from 1996.

They found on average a 19% difference between the highest and lowest social strata in the risk of dying in each country and about half of the difference was due to the risk of being killed by smoking.

Ian Wilmore, of Action on Smoking and Health, said: "Smoking is the number one contributor to health inequalities because it accounts for at least half of the difference in life expectancy between the social classes.

"If you are a man in social class E, the poorest social group, your chance of surviving until the age of 70 is about one in two. If you’re a man in social class A, the highest group, your chance is about two in three.

"Encouraging people to quit is the number one public health intervention that will help to deal with health inequalities. That is why comprehensive smoke-free legislation is needed”.

A spokesman for the British Heart Foundation, said: "We know there are black spots of heart disease in deprived areas, and it's increasingly clear that smoking is a major cause of these variations.

"We're supporting projects to encourage smokers to quit right across the country,

"We will continue to call on the government to offer tailored smoking cessation services to give smokers the best possible chance to quit”.

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Saturday, 15 July 2006 09:12
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According to a response to a written parliamentary question that appeared in Hansard yesterday the number of people admitted to hospital because of wasp, bee and hornet stings more than doubled from 369 in 2003-04 to 843 in 2004-05.

In addition, eight people died from insect stings in 2004; in 2003 there were three deaths. Professor Lars Chittka, an expert in behavioural ecology at Queen Mary, University of London, said millions of bumblebees shipped to Britain for use in commercial glasshouses could be partly responsible for the rise in stings.

He said: "The one increase we have seen is in bumblebees used to pollinate plants such as tomatoes and strawberries, which are now grown all year round in glasshouses in Britain.

"Millions of colonies are shipped in for this and they can be very aggressive close to their nests, so workers in the glasshouses would be more at risk of stings. Apart from this though we are not seeing any major increases of numbers elsewhere”.

The number of stings is also closely linked to the hot weather; Professor Chittka added "At the end of the summer is the most likely time for an unpleasant encounter. Their natural resources decline and you will find bees and wasps looking for food at our barbecues and in our ice creams, so they are more obvious to us then”.

According to NHS Direct advice, anyone bitten by a wasp, bee or hornet should carefully remove the sting, wash the area with soap and water and cover it with a cold flannel. Raise the area that has been stung to prevent swelling, use a spray containing local anaesthetic or antihistamine to stop the itching and take painkillers if it is painful.

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Friday, 14 July 2006 11:04
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Researchers from Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital in south London, suggest that twice as many children may be affected by autism and similar disorders than previously thought.

The researchers studied 56,946 children in south London and found that almost 0.4 per cent had "classic" childhood autism and just below 1.2 per cent had autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), including Asperger's and milder forms.

Until the 1990s, the generally accepted figure in Britain was four to five cases of autism per 10,000 - 10 times lower than the rate suggested in the new study.

The researchers extrapolated their findings to suggest one in 100 British children may have some form of autism.

Professor Gillian Baird, who led the research, said: "Prevalence of autism and related ASDs is substantially higher than previously recognised.

"Whether the increase is due to better ascertainment, broadening diagnostic criteria or increased incidence is unclear.

"Services in health, education, and social care will need to recognise the needs of children with some form of ASD, who constitute 1% of the child population”.

Similar increases in autism and related disorders have been reported from around the world, but the reasons remain unclear. In a commentary on the latest finding, Hiroshi Kurita, of the Zenkoku Ryoiku Sodan Centre in Tokyo, said genetic factors were the most important cause of autism, but "no study has ever clarified the rising prevalence of pervasive developmental disorders from this aspect".

Two suspects among possible environmental causes are the measles mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, and thimerosal, a vaccine preservative containing mercury.

But Dr Jurita rejects these explanations. "Among many other compelling lines of evidence, the continuous increase in the incidence of pervasive developmental disorders after cessation of use of MMR vaccine in a northern district of Yokohama, Japan, and of thimerosal-containing vaccine use in Denmark, is a strong and overwhelming refutation," he said.

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Friday, 14 July 2006 10:50
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An investigation by BBC2's Newsnight has revealed that alternative health centres are giving backpackers dangerous advice on malaria prevention by recommending unproven homoeopathic remedies instead of effective conventional drugs.

In the investigation, Simon Singh, a science writer and broadcaster, picked ten clinics and pharmacies at random from the internet, and sent Alice Tuff, an intern with the charity Sense About Science, to approach them for advice.

Ms Tuff, 23, posed as a backpacker about to start a ten-week truck tour through central and southern Africa that would take her through several malarial zones. She told each homoeopath that the anti-malarial drugs prescribed by her doctor were making her feel unwell, and asked whether they could provide an alternative.

In every case, a homoeopathic remedy was recommended, and none of the practitioners advised Ms Tuff to keep taking her conventional drugs. None referred her back to her GP, who would have been able to prescribe an alternative drug that might have more tolerable side-effects.

Only three of the homoeopaths advised on mosquito bite prevention, and only one gave advice on the symptoms of malaria and recommended that she seek professional medical help if she experienced these. Four of the homoeopaths offered anecdotal stories of patients who had used their preparations to prevent malaria.

Dr Singh said: “Homoeopathy is not just useless, it is worse than useless in the case of malaria because it dupes people into thinking that they are protected when they are not. I was shocked that there was such willingness to give advice and sell products that would leave people exposed to a highly dangerous disease”.

Ron Behrens, director of the Hospital for Tropical Diseases Travel Clinic in London, said that it is critical that people visiting malarial regions do not substitute homoeopathic preparations for prophylactic drugs.

“We are urging the public to take on board this warning at a time of year when many people are planning to travel,” he said. “The misleading travel advice being given by homoeopaths is not a trivial problem. We have treated people at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases who thought that they were protected by homoeopathic medicines and contracted malaria. The messages given by some homoeopaths are inaccurate, counter-productive and place lives at risk”.

Professor Brian Greenwood, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: “The use of homoeopathy creates a more dangerous situation than taking no precautions if the traveller assumes that she or he is protected and does not seek help quickly for any illness that might be malaria”.

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Friday, 14 July 2006 10:15
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Under powers announced yesterday by Patricia Hewitt, the Health Secretary patients and the public will be able to challenge their local NHS over the services it offers.

Primary care trusts, which organise services, will be required to respond to public petitions that can demonstrate significant support.

A suitable threshold could be 1 per cent of the public served by a trust, or 10 per cent of the patients using a particular service. The trust will not be obliged to agree with the petitioners, but will have to produce good reasons for disagreeing.

One of the first tests of the system could be from NHS traditionalists concerned over the Government’s plans to increase use of the private sector in the management of trusts.

Announcements yesterday also set out plans for commissioning community services amid concerns about a take-over by private companies of local NHS services. Miss Heweitt said private companies would not be allowed to commission NHS services for patients and then provide them as well.

"There will be clear rules on conflict of interest," she said in London.

Sir Ian Carruthers, the acting chief executive of the NHS said: "This is not about handing over the management role [to private companies]. PCT boards will be in charge. It is not the intention to franchise out PCT management”.

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Wednesday, 12 July 2006 10:14
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Scientists from the University of Liverpool claim that nausea and sickness during pregnancy are the body's way of protecting mother and baby against poisons and stomach bugs in food.

Gillian Pepper and Dr Craig Roberts at the university put together 56 studies from 21 countries that looked at the prevalence of nausea and sickness in pregnant women. They linked these figures to the typical diet in each country.

They found that countries with a high intake of sugars, sweeteners, stimulants such as caffeine, vegetables, meats, milk and eggs had more sick pregnant women, and those with high intake of cereals and pulses had lower levels. "Taken together, our results add to a growing body of evidence suggesting links between nausea and vomiting during pregnancy and diet," they write in today's issue of Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Dr Craig Roberts said: "While there may be no particular harm in eating, say, meat, now that we have refrigeration and best before dates, our bodies may be pre-programmed by evolution to avoid these particular foodstuffs in the first trimester.

"It may be that the nausea women feel towards certain foodstuffs could be helpful and that although it is inconvenient and miserable, their nausea could be nature's way of avoiding problems in pregnancy for both mother and foetus”.

Dr Maggie Blott, a consultant obstetrician at London's King's College Hospital, said: "I can understand why Mother Nature might do this.

"Morning sickness is always worst in the first three months, which is when the most important part of a foetus's development is happening”.

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Wednesday, 12 July 2006 09:39
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
The General Medical Council (GMC) has heard how a woman was forced to opt for an abortion after a Harley Street doctor conducted radiation tests which could harm her baby.

Gynaecologist Dr Adrian Lowe allegedly didn't check blood tests which would show that the woman known as Mrs A was expecting.

The doctor took X-rays and injected dye into her womb in a test which can cause miscarriage or the baby to develop cancer. Mrs A, 34, who had cysts, fainted after being told she was five weeks pregnant. She miscarried days before she was due to have an abortion. Dr Lowe denies seven counts of misconduct and admits six.

The London hearing continues.

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Wednesday, 12 July 2006 09:26
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
An outbreak of the E.coli stomach bug has infected 40 children and closed two schools.

After 38 children became ill at Hayes primary in Bromley, South East London, they had to close the school.

It was also reported that the nearby Parklands nursery sent youngsters home after two youngsters were affected.

Dr Rachel Heathcock, director of the South East London Health Protection Unit, said: "We are trying to identify the source of the infections”.

A Bromley Council spokesman said an extensive clean-up in the two schools was expected to take 10 days.

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