France has ranked third in a list of the world’s best smart hospitals, compiled by a leading US magazine and an online platform specializing in market and consumer data. According to Newsweek and Statista’s World’s Best Smart Hospitals 2023 – the second iteration of its kind – France is home to more than 6% of the most state-of-the-art hospitals in the world. In fact, only the United States (28%) and Germany (7.6%) have more. Furthermore, the AP-HP - Hôpital Universitaire Pitié Salpêtrière in Paris was ranked third overall among all the European hospitals that made the top 300 list. As outlined in the survey’s methodology, “Smart Hospitals use state-of-the art technology to fundamentally rethink how care is delivered within the health system. Taking advantage of these new technologies can not only improve care delivery outcomes and efficiencies within the hospital but can help to drive health goals around prevention, population health and quality of life outcomes.” The final list of 300 facilities in 28 countries represents institutions that lead in their use of AI, digital imaging, telemedicine, robotics and electronic functionalities. More than 4,000 votes were collected in the month the survey was open (June-July 2022) and a score was calculated for each hospital based on the number of recommendations. The survey itself was developed by a global board of renowned experts. Contact us now to find out more about our services. Photo by Pixabay
Following on from our post last week on what to expect during a physical examination, today’s blog will explain some of the laboratory and screening tests you may also undergo. Now it’s important to note that there are no standard laboratory or screening tests during a physical exam, so what you are advised to have will depend on your physician and health history. Laboratory tests during a physical exam The main laboratory tests you are likely to undergo during a physical exam are: – Complete blood count (CBC) – A CBC is a blood test that helps evaluate your overall health and detect a wide range of conditions, including anemia, infection and leukemia. – Chemistry panel – A comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP) will include an electrolyte panel (which measures levels of sodium, chloride, potassium and bicarbonate), kidney function tests, liver function tests and also measures glucose and calcium. – Blood glucose – To look for signs of diabetes or pre-diabetes. – Urinalysis – Using a sample of your urine, this test can detect a range of conditions, including urinary tract infections, kidney disease and diabetes. – Fecalysis – A stool sample test (fecalysis) can detect certain conditions affecting your digestive tract, including parasites, viruses, bacteria, poor nutrient absorption and even cancer. Screening tests during a physical exam In addition to the laboratory tests outlined above, you may also undergo the following screening tests: For women: – Mammogram – A screening test for breast cancer, usually recommended for women 40 and over – Pap smear – A screening test for cervical cancer, usually recommended for women 21 and older For men: – Prostate exam – A digital rectal exam is the most common method used for physically checking your prostate, while a PSA test measures the level of prostate-specific antigen in your blood – both of which can flag early signs of prostate cancer. – Testicular exam – A physical exam that checks both testicles for signs of abnormality, including lumps, changes in size, and tenderness. – Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) screening – This simple ultrasound looks for a bulge or swelling in the aorta, and is usually recommended for men 65 and over, as they are most at risk. Both men and women: – Cholesterol test – Also called a ‘lipid panel’, this checks your cholesterol levels to see if you are at risk of heart attack or stroke. – Osteoporosis - A bone density scan can help reveal potential issues relating to weak bones. – Hepatitis – Everyone should be tested for hepatitis C at least once to find out if they have ever been infected with the virus. – Colorectal – A colonoscopy is usually used to check for colorectal cancer and other abnormalities in your colon. If you are a smoker, or have a family history of certain conditions, your physician may also recommend further tests in addition to those above. * Image by Ernesto Eslava from Pixabay
Taking a short walk after eating can help lower the risk of type-2 diabetes and heart problems, a new study suggests. According to the study, published in Sports Medicine, just 2 to 5 minutes of light walking after a meal can reduce blood sugar and insulin levels. Blood glucose levels spike after eating, triggering the pancreas to release insulin to control the increase and promote the storage of glucose in fat, muscle, liver and other body tissues. Over time, some people's cells develop a resistance to insulin, which can lead to blood glucose levels remaining elevated. If this persists, complications, including cardiovascular disease and nerve damage, can occur. “With standing and walking, there are contractions of your muscles” that use glucose and lower blood sugar levels, Aidan Buffey, the lead study author and a PhD student in physical education and sport sciences at the University of Limerick, told The Times. “If you can do physical activity before the glucose peak, typically 60 to 90 minutes [after eating], that is when you’re going to have the benefit of not having the glucose spike,” he said. *Image by
Coffee consumption is linked to numerous health benefits, including a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, as well as liver, heart, and neurological diseases. Now, new research suggests we can also add kidney protection to that list. According to the study, the results of which are published in Kidney International Reports, people who regularly drink coffee have a reduced risk acute kidney injury. However, the benefits are most apparent in those who drink 2-3 cups of coffee each day. For the study, the team of researchers used data from 14,207 adults ages 45-64 from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study. The researchers asked the participants to disclose information relating to how much coffee they drank. The results were: 27% never drank coffee 14% drank less than a cup of coffee per day 19% drank 1 cup per day 23% drank 2-3 cups per day 17% drank more than 3 cups per day After adjusting for demographic factors, the researchers found that participants who consumed any amount of coffee had an 11% lower risk of developing acute kidney injury than those who did not drink coffee. The researchers further noted a that those consuming 2-3 cups of coffee per day experienced the most substantial risk reduction (23%) *Image by Craig Melville from Pixabay
For people living with type 1 diabetes, finger prick tests to check blood glucose levels are a necessary part of daily life. Without them, these individuals could experience potentially life-threatening hypoglycaemic attacks, where their blood sugar levels fall too low. But regular finger prick tests could become a thing of the past for people with type 1 diabetes thanks to an artificial pancreas being trialled in England. The technology includes a sensor under the skin that monitors blood glucose levels, a pump that automatically adjusts the amount of insulin the person needs and a smartphone app where they can input the number of carbohydrates they eat at meal times. NHS England says the artificial pancreas trial – which currently involves around 900 people – is the first nationwide test of the technology in the world. It also comes 100 years after the first diabetes patient received insulin injections. Prof Partha Kar, NHS national speciality adviser for diabetes, said: "Having machines monitor and deliver medication for diabetes patients sounds quite sci-fi like, but technology and machines are part and parcel of how we live our lives every day. "It is not very far away from the holy grail of a fully automated system, where people with type 1 diabetes can get on with their lives without worrying about glucose levels or medication." *Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay
Sugar-free and low sugar drinks can help people realise a number of health benefits, a new study has found. According to the research, the results of which are published in JAMA Network Open, drinking diet soda and sugar alternatives, such as Stevia and Equal, instead of can help people lose weight, reduce their BMI, and lower their risk of diabetes. In fact, the researchers said participants who consumed low and no-calorie beverages saw positive effects similar to those one would expect from water. “Ideally, you would replace sugary beverages with water as much as possible, but our findings show that people have another choice — a low-calorie or no-calorie beverage is a good option as well,” said Tauseef Ahmad Khan, MBBS, PhD, a researcher at the University of Toronto department of nutritional sciences and a coauthor of the study. Modern Western diets often contain too much sugar and it's causing a huge health problem. For example, the average American consumes 22 teaspoons (tsp) of added sugar daily, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends people limit their daily intake of sugar to about 6 tsp women and 9 tsp for men. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, lists higher blood pressure, inflammation, weight gain, diabetes, and fatty liver disease among the health issues related to too much sugar intake. *Image by DesignDraw DesignDrawArtes from Pixabay
Just 10 minutes of exercise a day could prolong your life, as well as save hundreds of thousands of deaths every year, new research suggests. According to the study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, if adults over 40 added 10 minutes of moderate to physical exercise to their daily routines, more than 110,000 deaths in the US alone could be prevented annually. But the benefits of exercise don't stop there. If the amount of physical activity was increased by 30 minutes, even more lives – as many as 272,297 – could be saved each year. “We have known that regular exercise is essential and has tremendous health benefits,” said Dr. Vanita Rahman, clinic director of the Barnard Medical Center at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a non-profit organization that promotes preventive medicine. The good news is that almost anyone can benefit because your 10 minutes of exercise could be as simple as a walk around the block or dancing to a few of your favorite songs in your kitchen. Dana Santas, a mind-body coach for professional athletes, said: “Fitting in ten minutes of exercise every day is so much easier than people think. Consider how fast ten minutes goes by when you're mindlessly scrolling social media or watching your favorite TV show. It's not a big time investment, but it can deliver big health benefits.” *Image by Mabel Amber, who will one day from Pixabay
A French medtech start-up that is developing the world’s first-ever open-stent heart valve has secured €2.5m in funding following a seed financing round. Open Stent Solution (OSS) says the funding will support the development of its ribbon-shaped stented mitral valve for transcatheter replacement. OSS says its breakthrough device is the first-ever open-stent heart valve and the only device bearing the promise to implant large size mitral valves through small delivery systems, comparable in size to TAVI (transcatheter aortic valve implantation). The OSS valve components are attached to a ribbon-shaped open stent, which reduces the overall device’s size when loaded onto a delivery system, compared to conventional, radially expanding devices. Once implanted, the OSS heart valve gets locked, forming a circular shape, with stable radial anchoring force exactly like balloon expandable devices. Doctor Doron Carmi, senior cardiac surgeon, founder and CEO of Open Stent Solution, said: “We are grateful to our investors for their trust and for their support to our venture. The financing enables us to proceed to concept freeze for our unique minimally invasive solution. In few years from now, we aim to offer an effective transfemoral solution to millions of patients with failed mitral valves who cannot access treatment today.” *Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay
Pain medicines produced from cannabis oil have the potential to significantly improve the lives of patients, a French study has found. According to the initial results from a trial that began in a French hospital back in March, using medical cannabis for pain relief is effective. Psychiatrist Dr Nicolas Authier, Chair of the Scientific Committee on Medical Cannabis, is in charge of the experiment being conducted at the University Hospital of Clermont-Ferrand in central France. Dr Authier picked 20 suitable patients for participation in the trial. One patient, Mounir, 47, who suffered a stroke aged 21 and consequently struggled with painkiller addiction in an attempt to manage his neuropathic pain, told France 3: “I'm not yet completely relieved of the pain. There is some still, but it is nothing like what I felt before.” The trial is part of a two-year nationwide experiment in France that is primarily designed to evaluate the best conditions of access to medical cannabis. Depending on the patient and their condition, medical cannabis can deliver mild to significant relief. However, some patients have experienced no improvement, while others experienced more undesirable effects than therapeutic ones. Dr Authier hopes that medical cannabis can be legalized for patients whose suffering is poorly relieved by conventional treatments. Image by Julia Teichmann from Pixabay
A new home kit that can be used to restart someone’s heart following a heart attack could reduce the number of deaths in France from cardiac arrest by 50,000 each year. Paris-based Lifeaz has seen demand for its defibrillators for the home and office soar in the first seven months since its launch. The firm hopes its machines, which deliver electric shocks to the heart, will help prevent heart attack deaths in France by enabling people to restart a heart in the crucial first four minutes of an attack. Célia Rich, the firm’s chief training adviser, said: “In places like Seattle in the United States, where there are lots of defibrillators, the chances of surviving a big heart attack are 60% to 70%, while in France they are just 5%." Lifeaz’s founder, Johann Kalchman, previously worked for a business specialising in pacemakers. This is where he became enlightened about the need to improve heart attack victims’ chances in France. It’s estimated that 80% of heart attacks occur at home, but a lack of first aid training and fear of intervening mean people often wait the 10 to 15 minutes it takes for emergency services to arrive without helping. “Our machines are designed to make things as easy as possible,” said Ms Rich. “Once they are opened, you push a button to choose between French or English and then just follow the voice instructions and pictures. “After the shock treatment, it guides people on how to give cardiac massage until the victim recovers consciousness.” The defibrillators are designed and made in France and individuals can buy them for €990, or rent them for €29.90 per month. The price is slightly higher for businesses, but includes staff training. *Image by Pexels from Pixabay
Liver cancer patients in France are benefiting from world-leading robot technology that is helping physicians treat and operate on them. The only two of their kind, the two robots, developed by Montpellier-based medical device company Quantum Surgical, assist oncologists in the delivery of a treatment known as “elimination by microwaves”. Prior to the addition of the robots, physicians needed to guide a tiny needle into a liver cancer patient’s tumor so that microwaves could be passed into it. Now, the robots carry out this part using 3D images with pinpoint accuracy. The robots are being used as part of a clinical trial at Montpellier Hospital that will test the technology on 20 patients. Currently, it is only being used on liver cancer patients, but the technology has been used target cancerous tumours in animals’ lungs and kidneys. Professor Thierry de Baère, head of therapeutic imaging at the Institut Gustave Roussy in Villejuif, one of Europe’s leading cancer centres and one of two in France where the robot is currently used, said: “The robot can put a small needle in exactly the right place, from the right direction and at the right depth.” Prof de Baère has performed five operations using the technology and all the patients were discharged the next day. *Image courtesy of Quantum Surgical
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has published an update in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine stating that, during the pandemic, telemedicine has been an effective tool for the diagnosis and management of sleep disorders. Since the academy’s last update in 2015, the use of telemedicine services has increased exponentially as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The academy’s latest update adds that the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted telemedicine’s ‘importance in improving access to sleep care and advocating for sleep health.’ Furthermore, a growing body of published research has found telemedicine to be effective in the management of patients with sleep disorders, such as apnea, and for the delivery of cognitive behavioral therapy for the treatment of insomnia. The update authors also outlined how a shortage of trained behavioral sleep therapists has led to the development of online application-based CBT-I programs and a recent systematic review and meta-analysis found that internet-delivered CBT-I is effective in improving sleep. Telemedicine, the academy says, is also effective for helping to treat sleep disorders among children: ‘Telehealth follow-up visits, primarily via telephone, have been used for chronic management of obstructive sleep apnea and internet delivered CBT-I has been shown to be effective in adolescents with insomnia.’ *Image by Claudio_Scott from Pixabay
During the coronavirus pandemic, eligible Australians have been accessing Medicare-subsidised telehealth services. However, this arrangement is due to end on June 30. But it now looks like there will be an extension until at least the end of the year. Australian Health Minister, Greg Hunt, has said the government will extend Medicare-subsidised telehealth services until the end of the year, while the government works with peak bodies to design a post-pandemic telehealth system going forward “Over the last 12 months, telehealth services have been life-changing for many in need of support,” Mr Hunt said. “The extension will ensure that Australians can continue to see their GP, renew scripts and seek mental health support from the safety of their own home. This allows vulnerable Australians to feel protected and supported during these unprecedented times.” The Australian Government rapidly rolled out telehealth subsidies back in March 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic became apparent to enable citizens to continue to access GP, mental health and allied health services even during lockdowns. Over the course of the year to the end of March, more than 54 million Medicare-subsidised telehealth services were delivered to 13.5 million patients. The cost of the six-month extension will be detailed in the Australian federal budget on May 11, 2021. *Image: Sydney Opera House, courtesy of Patty Jansen from Pixabay
Telehealth services have really come into their own during the coronavirus pandemic, offering a way for patients and clinicians to have consultations without the need for a face-to-face meeting. Now, a group of inventors at the University of Cincinnati (UC) want to take telehealth consultations to another level by facilitating them to be performed via drone. The technology aims to fill the gap in telehealth delivery among those who do not own or have access to the devices, such as smartphones, computers and internet connectivity, that are required for telehealth consultations. Inventors Victoria Wangia-Anderson, Manish Kumar, Seung-Yeon Lee and Debi Sampsel from three colleges at UC collaborated to develop a semi-autonomous prototype that can be dispatched right to people’s homes. The drones are capable of carrying certain medical equipment and supplies, but remain agile enough to navigate the tight spaces found in homes. A variety of health assessments can be conducted using the telehealth drones, including taking temperatures and measuring oxygen levels. The drone kits also include patient-friendly devices, and the clinician will be able to instruct patients on how to use them. Patients who require assistance can also seek help from family or other caregivers during the drone sessions. Speaking about the telehealth drones, Debi Sampsel, director of telehealth at UC’s College of Nursing, said: “We can perform all kinds of functions: chronic disease management, post-operative care monitoring, health coaching and consultations,” she said. “And in the health care arena, there is no age limit. Telehealth services are useful from birth to death.” Find out more via the University of Cincinnati website. *Image courtesy of Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative + Brand for the University of Cincinnati
People in France aged over 65 with existing health problems will be allowed to be given the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, after the French Government reversed its policy. When the AstraZeneca vaccine was approved for use by European Union regulators, the French Government said it should only be given to eligible people under 65 because data from trials in older age groups was limited. The AstraZeneca vaccine will now be offered to people up to the age of 74. However, the shot has been hit by a slow rollout and a lack of trust. French Health Minister Olivier Veran said Monday: "Anybody aged 50 or over who is affected by co-morbidities can get the AstraZeneca vaccine, including those between 65 and 74." The announcement has the potential to affect more than two million people. British health authorities released new data on Monday that showed the AstraZeneca vaccine reduced hospitalization from COVID-19 by more than 80%. The vaccine is widely used in the UK but has missed delivery targets in the EU. People aged 75 and over would continue to get the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines only, Veran said. Meanwhile, Germany still hasn’t cleared the AstraZeneca vaccine for over 65s. This has led to fewer people stepping up for the shot and several doses being wasted. Image courtesy of Marco Verch on Flickr, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
A baby has been born in France following a uterus transplant for the first time, the hospital treating the mother and baby announced on Wednesday. While such births are not unprecedented, they are extremely rare, happening after a woman whose own uterus is damaged or missing has had a cutting-edge procedure to have a healthy one transplanted. The baby, a girl weighing 1.845kg, was born last Friday, according to the team at the Foch Hospital outside Paris. "Mother and baby are doing well," said Dr Jean-Marc Ayoubi, head of gynaecology, obstetrics and reproductive medicine at the hospital. The 36-year-old mother, who reports are naming only as ‘Deborah’, was born without a uterus because of a rare condition known as Rokitansky Syndrome, which affects about one in 4,500 women. Deborah received a uterus transplant in March 2019 from her own mother, then aged 57. The transplant was performed by the same team at the Foch Hospital that delivered the new baby. The first ever birth after a uterus transplant was in Sweden in 2014 and there have been other such births in the United States and Brazil to date. However, they remain rare. Nevertheless, this new birth, as well as those before it, will give hope to women who suffer similar reproductive problems that they maybe have alternatives to adoption or surrogacy.
Last Saturday, February 6, France reported both a fall in new COVID-19 infections and in the number of patients being treated in hospital. The country registered 20,586 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, down from 22,139 the previous day and marking the third straight daily fall. Meanwhile, hospitals across the country were treating 27,369 people for the disease, down 245 from the previous day, marking the fourth consecutive daily fall. The fall in numbers comes as France continues with its COVID-19 vaccination programme, with 1.86 million people now having received their first dose. Almost a quarter of a million people (247,260) have also received their second dose. At present, France has three vaccines approved for use: Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca, the latest to be received. The country has taken delivery of 273,600 AstraZeneca, according to the health ministry, with a second batch of 304,800 doses scheduled to be delivered this week. The initial AstraZeneca shots were prioritized for health personnel under 65, with the first injections taking place over the weekend. While the arrival of the AstraZeneca shot will help France accelerate its vaccination programme, the quantities that are expected to be delivered are likely to be less than first thought. Nevertheless, with a third approved vaccine and COVID numbers falling, pressure on the French health system is easing day by day.
Despite Covid-19-related lockdowns continuing in many countries across the world, the Michelin Guide has awarded its coveted stars for 2021 — and France (including Monaco) now has more three-star establishments than any other country. Originally due to be announced at a lavish gala ceremony in Cognac, southwest France, the Michelin awards were broadcast via Facebook on Monday from the Jules Vernes restaurant (one star) on the second floor of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Social distancing rules forced Michelin to call off the event in Cognac, which would have been the first time the awards were held outside Paris. Ahead of this year’s awards, Michelin had promised that no three-star restaurants would be demoted as the global pandemic continues, causing many establishments to remain closed or switch to take-aways and deliveries. One of the main talking points of this year’s awards was ONA, which stands for Origine Non Animale or Non-Animal Origin. The vegan restaurant in Ares near Bordeaux, which serves only plant-based foods, became the first of its kind in the country to be awarded a Michelin star. Vegan restaurants in the US, Germany and Spain have already received Michelin stars in recent years. ONA was also awarded a green star for its strong ethical and sustainable practices.
A researcher from the University of Southern California (USC) Medical Center in Los Angeles says telemedicine had a positive impact on inner city children with asthma at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. According to Kenny Kwong, MD, making the switch to telemedicine for routine asthma visits early on in the pandemic resulted in positive disease control and an increase in appointment "show rates" among Los Angeles inner city children. Prior to taking advantage of telemedicine, in-person appointment show rates between March and June 2019 averaged 70%-80%. After the switch to telemedicine, this increased to 90%-95% between March and June 2020. Furthermore, delivering routine asthma care via telemedicine did not appear to negatively impact asthma control among the children in the study, Wong said in a presentation at the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology virtual meeting. There was also a notable increase in the amount of time healthcare providers spent with patients after switching to telemedicine, with appointments conducted over the telephone lasting as much as 62% longer than pre-pandemic in-person visits. “This system has worked very well. We have been able to treat many asthmatic children until the debacle of COVID-19. All our face-to-face visits on the mobile asthma units came to a grinding halt, and we had to switch almost overnight to telephone visits,” Wong said.
The United States Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has released new data that shows usage of telehealth services has jumped significantly over the past year. According to the figures, more than 34.5 million services were delivered via telehealth in Medicare and in the Children's Health Insurance Program from March through June. This represents an increase of a whopping 2,532% in services delivered via telehealth compared to March through June 2019. Furthermore, the agency also notes that there is always a "claims lag" between the time a service occurs and when the claim is reflected in its database. Taking this into account, the actual number of services delivered via telehealth is likely to be higher than reported. The CMS data reflects the relaxation of federal regulations around virtual care at the start of the pandemic, which caused usage of telehealth services to skyrocket. Speaking about the figures, CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in a statement: "This revolutionary method of improving access to care is transforming healthcare delivery in America." [Related reading: Telehealth in the ER affords better outcomes for both patients and healthcare providers – research]
Several studies have revealed that COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting men and the potential reasons include everything from biology to bad habits. According to the World Health Organization, men have accounted for 69% of COVID-19 related deaths in Europe. Meanwhile, reports suggest that in New York City men have been dying from COVID-19 at almost twice the rate of women. It is thought that both genetics and lifestyle choices play a part when it comes to COVID-19 outcomes in men. First and foremost, because of their extra X chromosome, women have stronger immune systems and respond better to infections than men. Then there is the fact that more elderly men suffer from heart disease than elderly women and that high blood pressure and liver disease are more prevalent in men too. All of these conditions are factors that are associated with more negative COVID-19 outcomes. In addition, men are statistically more likely to smoke than women. In fact, according to Our World in Data figures, more than one-third (35%) of men in the world smoke, compared to just over 6% of women. With smoking one of the biggest risk factors for chronic lung disease, men are at a much greater disadvantage should they get COVID-19. [Related reading: Can you catch the new coronavirus twice?]
With news headlines currently dominated by the Covid-19 outbreak, it could be easy to overlook other health stories worthy of note. That’s why we are pleased to share that cancer rates in the United States are continuing to fall, according to a new report. As outlined in the Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, cancer rates in the U.S. continued falling from 2001 to 2017 – dropping, on average, by 1.5% a year. Furthermore, new cancer diagnoses have decreased at an average annual rate of 0.6% over the same period. Interestingly, the annual decline in mortality was slightly more pronounced among men (1.8%) than women (1.4%); nevertheless, decreases were seen across all major racial/ethnic groups and among adults, teens and children alike. Among men, mortality rates fell for 11 of the 19 most common cancers. They remained stable for four cancers, including prostate. And increased for another four: mouth, pharynx, soft tissue and pancreas. Among women, mortality rates fell for 14 of the 20 most common cancers, including the top three: lung, breast and colon. However, an increase in mortality rates was seen in cancers of the uterus, liver, brain, soft tissue and pancreas. Mouth and pharynx cancer rates remained stable. Despite mortality rates decreasing by 4.8% a year in men and 3.7% in women, lung cancer remains the number one cause of cancer death in the United States. Commenting on the findings of the report, U.S. Centers for Disease Control director, Dr. Robert Redfield, said: “The United States continues to make significant progress in cancer prevention, early detection, and treatment.”
A British woman has become the first in the world to receive a revolutionary new cancer therapy which involves injecting a high dose of chemotherapy directly into cancer cells. Karen Childs, from north-west London, is the first patient on the clinical trial for acoustic cluster therapy to treat cancer that has spread to her liver. During the therapy, clusters of microdroplets and microbubbles are injected into the patient at the same time as chemotherapy, which experts say will enhance its delivery. Ultrasound scans are then used to ensure the clusters “pump” the drug directly into the tumour, which should result in substantially more chemotherapy reaching cancer cells. Experts hope the technique will mean fewer doses of chemotherapy for cancer patients going forward, which should reduce side-effects. The new treatment is being trialled by the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust in London. Ms Childs, who was diagnosed with cancer in November 2013, said: “I’m not sure it’s sunk in yet that I’m the very first patient in the world to be receiving this new treatment. This trial is an exciting step for the hospital and a huge step for patients like me.” The aim of the clinical trial at this stage is to establish if the new therapy is safe and to provide data on its effectiveness. Eventually, it is hoped the treatment could be used to reduce the size of tumours prior to surgery, making them easier to remove and potentially offering more patients a cure.
A compound found only in avocados could help reduce type 2 diabetes, new research suggests. The study by researchers from the University of Guelph in Canada found that a fat molecule called avocatin B, or AvoB - which avocados alone contain – can help strengthen insulin sensitivity and could forestall type 2 diabetes. Initial tests involving mice showed that AvoB slowed weight gain and increased insulin sensitivity by ensuring the complete oxidation of fats. As a result, mice that were given the compound had improved glucose tolerance and utilization. Then, in a separate, double-blind placebo‐controlled human trial, an AvoB supplement was given to people with an average Western diet for 60 days. The researchers found that the participants had tolerated the compound well and no negative effects in the liver, muscles, or kidneys were witnessed. There was also some weight loss among participants that took the supplement, though the authors of the study considered it statistically insignificant. Paul Spagnuolo, Ph.D., an associate professor at the University of Guelph, said the research team will now design clinical trials to assess AvoB's effectiveness in people. Furthermore, they have already received clearance from Health Canada to sell AvoB in powder and pill forms, perhaps as early as next year.
A new way of cooling human livers could significantly extend the time they can be kept ahead of an organ transplant By supercooling livers to -4C, researchers have been able to triple their viable lifespan to more than one day. It could revolutionise the way organs are stored in the future and allow even more people to benefit from transplants. The team from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School pioneered the technology using rats’ livers five years ago. The tiny livers were supercooled, while nutrients and oxygen were pumped around their blood vessels. But developing the technique to work with human organs wasn’t without its challenges. Because they are much larger, human livers are at greater risk of ice crystals forming, which can rupture cells and kill tissue. To overcome this, the researchers used protective agents to prevent the livers from freezing. As a result, they were able to extend their viable lifespans to 27 hours – a significant increase on the current nine hours when organs are stored on ice. Once brought back up to temperature, the livers were found to function normally and also responded as expected when connected to an artificial blood supply. One of the researchers, Dr Reinier de Vries, said: “This is a big breakthrough in organ preservation. “This is the first time that we actually show that it is feasible to preserve human organs at sub-zero temperatures.”
New research suggests that tickling the ear with a small electric current could help rebalance the body’s nervous system in people over-55 and help them age more healthily. The therapy works by stimulating the vagus nerve, the longest of the nerves that connect the brain with other parts of the body such as the heart, lungs and gut. The vagus nerve is usually difficult to access and usually requires surgical intervention so that electric stimuli can be delivered. However, one small branch of the vagus nerve reaches a part of the outer ear and that’s where the researchers from the Universities of Leeds and Glasgow — both in the United Kingdom – stimulated it from. Patients who received the electric stimuli for 15 minutes a day over a 14-day period noted improvements in body, sleep and mood. As we age, our body’s nervous system gradually becomes out of balance and the sympathetic branch begins to dominate. This makes us more prone to diseases, such as hypertension and heart problems, as well as anxiety and depression. The researchers found that the electric ear tickling therapy – named so because that’s how it feels – helped rebalance the body’s nervous system by increasing parasympathetic activity and decreasing sympathetic activity. People with the greatest imbalance at the start of the trial showed the biggest improvement at the end.
A leading UK cancer charity has warned that obesity now causes more cases of four common cancers than smoking. According to Cancer Research UK, bowel, kidney, ovarian and liver cancers are more likely to be caused by being overweight than by smoking tobacco. The warning is particularly concerning as obese people outnumber smokers by two to one in the UK, which means millions of people are at risk of developing any of these cancers simply because they are overweight. Despite the fact that smoking remains the number one preventable cause of cancer in the UK and causes more cases of cancer than being overweight each year (54,300 vs. 22,800), for the four cancers previously mentioned, obesity causes more. However, Cancer Research UK’s latest billboard campaign highlighting the risks associated with being overweight has been accused of fat-shaming. And it’s not the first time the charity has been picked up for this either. Nevertheless, the charity remains adamant that outlining the risks of being overweight when it comes to cancer is an important step. Speaking about the Cancer Research UK warning, the British Medical Association said: “While we are very much aware of the health risks associated with smoking, less effort has been thrown behind tackling obesity, which is now a major cause of cancer.”
The humble garden snail could provide us with some ammunition in the fight against aggressive bacteria, according to two researchers from the United Kingdom. Intrigued how garden snails spend their lives sliding over dirt and coming into contact with deadly bacteria, yet don’t seem affected, Sarah Pitt, Ph.D. and Alan Gunn set out to discover why. It seems the answer lies in the mucus snails excrete. After analysing snail mucus, Pitt, principal lecturer in the School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Science at the University of Brighton, and Gunn, subject lead for biosciences in the School of Natural Sciences and Psychology at Liverpool John Moores University, discovered four new previously unknown proteins. What’s more exciting is that two of these proteins appear to have strong antibacterial properties – especially against aggressive strains of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bacterium that causes dangerous lung infections in people who have cystic fibrosis. Speaking about the findings of their research, which appears in the British Journal of Biomedical Science, Pitt said: “In previous work, we found that the mucus consistently and convincingly inhibited the growth of one species of bacterium P. aeruginosa, a tough bacterium that can cause disease, but it did not seem to work against other bacteria. “So, in this study,we tried all the control strains of P. aeruginosa we had available in the lab here at the university as well as five strains taken from patients with [cystic fibrosis] who had lung infections with this bacterium.” The new discoveries could open up new possibilities in the fight against bacterial infections.
A fungus that has been genetically modified (GM) to produce spider toxin can rapidly kill 99% of mosquitoes that carry and spread malaria. Following trials of the fungus – known as Metarhizium pingshaense – in Burkina Faso, 99% of malaria mosquito populations were wiped out in just 45 days. Metarhizium pingshaense was used because it naturally infects Anopheles mosquitoes (the ones that carry and spread malaria). Scientists then enhanced it using genetic engineering so the fungus would start creating its own version of a venom found in a species of funnel-web spider. For the trials, scientists built a fully-enclosed ‘mosquitosphere’ that mimicked a small village community. They introduced 1,500 mosquitoes. When the insects were left alone, their numbers soared, but when the fungus was introduced, just 13 mosquitoes remained after 45 days. The researchers say their aim is not to destroy all mosquitoes, simply to cull the spread of malaria – a disease that kills more than 400,000 people every year (mostly children). Speaking about the trials, Dr Tony Nolan, from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, said: “These results are encouraging. “We need new and complementary tools to augment existing control methods, which are being affected by the development of insecticide-resistance.” The results of the GM fungus trials are published in the journal Science.
A British teenager has become the first person in the world to have a drug-resistant bacterial infection treated by genetically engineered viruses. Isabelle Holdaway, 17, was given just a 1% chance of survival after a double lung transplant to treat her cystic fibrosis left her with an intractable bacterial infection that could not be treated with antibiotics. Her arms, legs and buttocks had numerous big, black, festering lesions where the bacteria were pushing up through her skin. She finally ended up in intensive care after her liver began to fail. Every previous patient in Isabelle’s situation died – some within a year, despite aggressive treatment. Desperate for a solution, Isabelle’s mother researched alternative treatments online and came across phage therapy. It’s not new; doctors have been using it for nearly a century, but its use has been eclipsed by antibiotics because they are much easier to use. Isabelle’s care team at Great Ormond Street Hospital contacted Prof Graham Hatfull at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, in the US, who had the world's largest collection of phages (approximately 15,000). Hatfull and his team identified three potential phages that would be effective in tackling Isabelle’s bacterial infection and genetically modified two of them to make them more effective. Isabelle was injected with the cocktail of phages twice daily and they were also applied to the lesions on her skin. Within just six weeks, a liver scan showed that the infection had essentially disappeared. Phage therapy involves injecting bacteria-killing viruses into a patient’s body which track down, infect and ultimately kill bacteria. The phages hijack the bacterial cell and turn it into a phage factory until the viruses burst out of the bacteria killing it in the process. While Isabelle’s fatal infection has not been completely cured, it is under control and she is beginning to lead a normal life. She still has two infusions of phages every day and is currently waiting for a fourth phage to be added to the mix, which will hopefully clear the infection completely.
A radical new Parkinson’s treatment that reawakens brain cells damaged by the condition has been tested in people. Patients in the trial were either given the new drug or a placebo. Those who received the drug had it administered via a “port” in the side of their heads which allows it to be delivered directly to their brains. The authors of the study say they saw visual evidence of improvements to the affected areas of the patients’ brains that were given the real drug, glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), suggesting that it might help regenerate dying brain cells. After an initial safety study, 35 patients took part in the main trial. Half received monthly infusions of GDNF, while the other half received a placebo. Interestingly, both groups of patients showed improved symptoms at the end of the trial, although the group that received GDNF were the only ones who showed actual brain tissue improvements. Speaking about the findings of the trial, Dr Alan Whone, principal investigator, said: “We've shown with the Pet [positron emission tomography] scans that, having arrived, the drug then engages with its target, dopamine nerve endings, and appears to help damaged cells regenerate or have a biological response.” More research is now needed to see if it was actually GDNF that triggered the patients’ improvements and not a so-called placebo effect, where individuals feel better despite them taking medication with no active ingredient.
For the first time ever, a commercial drone has been used to deliver an important vaccine to a remote island. Unicef arranged for the drone to carry the vaccine 40km (25 miles) across rugged mountains in Vanuatu, a small Pacific island. The vaccine was given by local nurse Miriam Nampil to 13 children and five pregnant women. While it’s not the first time that a drone has been used to deliver medicine to remote areas, it is a first for a country to reach out to a commercial drone company to help with vaccine delivery. Approximately 20% of all children in Vanuatu do not receive vaccines because getting them there is too difficult. Following the successful trial flight at the beginning of December, Unicef now hopes that drones will play an important role in facilitating remote vaccination programmes going forward. “Today's small flight by drone is a big leap for global health,” said Unicef executive director Henrietta Fore. “With the world still struggling to immunize the hardest to reach children, drone technologies can be a game changer for bridging that last mile to reach every child.” Vaccines have to be kept cool, which presents several challenges when transporting them long distances. If undertaken on foot, the journey would have taken several hours. By drone, however, with the vaccine stored in a styrofoam box with ice packs and a temperature logger to monitor conditions, the delivery took just 25 minutes. Follow this link to Twitter to see some footage of the drone in action: https://twitter.com/UNICEFPacific/status/1070603704414298112
The physical health problems associated with diabetes are well understood and publicised. For example, diabetics have an increased risk of developing cancer, kidney disorders and cardiovascular disease. But what about the mental impact of living with diabetes? It’s not something that gets a lot of attention, but the findings of a new study could see it thrust under the spotlight. That’s because the study by researchers from Finland found a worrying connection between diabetes and the risk of someone dying by suicide or alcoholism. According to the study, diabetics are more than 10 times more likely to die as a result of alcoholism – predominantly cirrhosis of the liver – and 110% more likely to commit suicide than the general population. The highest risk was seen among diabetes patients who rely on regular insulin injections to avoid serious health complications. Professor Leo Niskanen, of the University of Helsinki, who led the study, said diabetes patients who have to monitor their glucose levels and administer insulin frequently suffer tremendous mental strain. “This strain combined with the anxiety of developing serious complications like heart or kidney disease may also take their toll on psychological well-being,” he said. Is it time we started talking about the mental health implications of living with diabetes? [Related reading: Type-2 diabetes could actually be detected up to 20 years in advance, researchers say]
By 2043, obesity will surpass smoking to be the biggest preventable cause of cancer in UK women. That’s one of the shocking new predictions to come out of a report by Cancer Research UK. At present, around 7% of cancers in women are linked to being overweight and obese, while 12% are said to be caused by smoking. But as the number of individuals who smoke continues to fall and obesity rates continue to rise, the UK cancer charity believes that gap will completely disappear over the next 25 years (assuming current trends continue). In fact, by 2035, the percentage of cancers caused by smoking and by carrying excess weight will almost be equal (25,000 cancer cases each year related to smoking vs. 23,000 related to being overweight). However, after just another eight years (by 2043), being overweight and obese is likely to be linked to even more cases of cancer in women than smoking. Interestingly, the cancer charity says that obesity will not overtake smoking as the leading cause of cancer in men until some time later. The reason for this, though, is simply because more men than women smoke. While obesity is more prevalent among men too, it is thought to be a greater catalyst in women for developing cancer. Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK's prevention expert, said the UK government must act now to stem the tide of obesity-related cancers. “That's why we are raising awareness of the link between cancer and obesity and calling for measures to protect children, like a ban on junk food adverts before 9pm and for restrictions on price promotions of 'less healthy' products,” she said. Smoking-related cancers include: acute myeloid leukaemia lung bladder bowel cervical pancreatic stomach Obesity-related cancers include: bowel gall bladder kidney liver breast ovarian thyroid
Alcohol and the amount people drink is the frequent focus of medical studies. However, studying alcohol consumption often results in mixed findings. For example, while drinking too much alcohol can result in liver disease and high blood pressure, other studies have shown that a glass of beer or wine a day can help people live longer. [Related reading: Drinking alcohol while breastfeeding: new study shows possible child cognitive development impact] Now a new study suggests people who abstain from alcohol in middle age may have a heightened risk of dementia later in life. The long-term study, which tracked the health of more than 9,000 civil servants in London, found that middle-aged people who drank over the recommended alcohol limit each week and those who abstained completely were more likely to develop dementia. Specifically, abstinence in midlife was associated with a 45% greater risk of developing dementia compare to people who drank between one and 14 units of alcohol per week. But before you reach for a glass of wine, it should be noted that early life alcohol consumption was not taken into account for the study. People who are teetotal in midlife may have a history of heavy alcohol consumption in their younger years. Indeed, Dr Sara Imarisio, the head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “As this study only looked at people’s drinking in midlife, we don’t know about their drinking habits earlier in adulthood, and it is possible that this may contribute to their later life dementia risk.” The results of the study were recently published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
Women who regularly eat fast food and don’t consume enough fruit are more likely to experience problems trying to conceive, a study suggests. The study of 5,598 women in Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Ireland, which was published in the journal Human Reproduction, found that women who ate fast food four or more times a week took almost a month longer to get pregnant than those who rarely or never ate it. Furthermore, women who regularly eat junk food were also less likely to conceive within a year. Women who had eaten fruit three or more times a day, on average, conceived half a month quicker than those who had eaten it less than one to three times a month. While experts say the study suggests a good diet boosts the chances of getting pregnant, some limitations - including the participants having to remember what they’d eaten in the month before conceiving - have been highlighted. Prof Claire Roberts, from the University of Adelaide, Australia, who led the study, said: "These findings show that eating a good quality diet that includes fruit and minimising fast food consumption improves fertility and reduces the time it takes to get pregnant." [Related reading: UK hit by weight-related fatty liver disease epidemic]
Individuals who routinely drink more than one alcoholic beverage every day have an overabundance of bad bacteria and less good bacteria in their mouths, a new study has found. Compared to their non-drinking peers, drinkers have less good, such as Lactobacillales that help protect your gums, and more bad bacteria, such as certain Actinomyces, Bacteroidales, and Neisseria species that can lead to gum disease, heart problems and even some cancers. [Related reading: Regular excess drinking found to shorten life expectancy] Publishing their findings in the science journal Microbiome, the study authors said the acids found in alcoholic drinks could make the oral environment hostile for certain bacteria to grow, hence the lower number of so-called good bacteria. For the study, a group of more than 1,000 individuals had their saliva tested. The group included 270 non-drinkers, 614 moderate drinkers and 160 heavy drinkers. The results show that the drinkers had more Bacteroidales, Actinomyces and Neisseria species of bacteria, all potentially harmful, as well as fewer Lactobacillales, a family of bacteria associated with a reduction of gum inflammation. Talking about the findings of the study, Jiyoung Ahn, the study's senior investigator and an epidemiologist at the NYU School of Medicine, said: "heavy alcohol intake is a known risk factor for multiple chronic diseases, including cancers (head and neck, esophagus, colon and breast), liver disease and cardiovascular diseases."
One in eight middle-aged UK adults is at risk of developing cirrhosis of the liver, liver failure and death because they have a potentially serious form of liver disease. The primary cause of this disease? Being overweight, according to new research. Scans of almost 3,000 people from the UK Biobank research project showed that 12% had inflamed, fatty livers. What’s particularly alarming is the silent nature of this disease epidemic, with symptoms often not presenting themselves until permanent damage has been done. However, the condition is reversible if caught in time. The good news is that a new type of MRI scan is showing lots of promise, offering a non-invasive way to evaluate the nature and severity of liver disease. Developed by Perspectum Diagnositics, a spin-off company from the University of Oxford, the new scan utilises smart health technology called LiverMultiScan. Dr Rajarshi Banerjee, CEO of Perspectum Diagnostics said: "LiverMultiScan is a great example of a smart health technology discovered and developed by UK clinicians and scientists with clear benefits for patients, the NHS, and taxpayers. Until now, needle biopsies have been the gold standard for assessing liver disease, but they are costly, invasive, painful and carry some health risks. Meanwhile, LiverMultiScan can be used in any MRI scanner, but it is not part of routine practice yet. David Breen, associate professor of radiology at University Hospital Southampton, said: "The scan gives a map of the entire liver as opposed to a needle-core biopsy which samples just one area and can be unpleasant. "It also allows us to re-scan patients over time and see if they improve."
Developing a universal blood test for cancer has been one of the biggest goals in medicine ever and now scientists at John Hopkins University have taken a huge step towards achieving it. The team have trialled a test that can detect eight common forms of cancer, with the ultimate goal being to develop an annual test that can catch cancers early and save lives. While more work is needed, experts in the UK have described the breakthrough as “enormously exciting”. The test works by picking up on tiny traces of mutated DNA and proteins released into a person’s bloodstream by tumours. The CancerSEEK test, as it is known, looks for mutations in 16 genes and eight different proteins released by tumours. In a trial involving 1,005 patients with cancers in the stomach, liver, ovary, pancreas, colon, oesophagus, lung or breast, which had not yet spread to other tissues, the test was able to successfully detect 70% of the cancers. The test is particularly exciting as it was able to detect some cancers that currently have no early detection screening programmes. Pancreatic cancer is one area where the test could really make a big difference. At present, four in five pancreatic cancer patients die within the year they are diagnosed. That’s because the disease emits so few symptoms and sufferers are often diagnosed too late. The CancerSEEK test will now be trialled on individuals who have not been diagnosed with cancer. This will be the real measure of its effectiveness and usefulness.
A new large-scale study has found that using aspirin long-term could slash the chances of developing gastrointestinal cancer. Of all the gastrointestinal cancers, which include pancreatic cancer, liver cancer, oesophageal cancer, stomach (or gastric) cancer and small intestine cancer, colorectal cancer is the most common in the western world. While there are a number of lifestyle changes people can make to reduce their risk of developing cancer, including avoiding tobacco, limiting their alcohol consumption, eating healthier and exercising more, an increasing number of studies suggest the use of aspiring could also help. For this latest study, Prof. Kelvin Tsoi, of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and his team set out to investigate the effect of aspirin use on gastrointestinal cancers. Over a 10-year period, the team of scientists examined over 600,000 participants and analysed how aspirin use affected their chances of developing gastrointestinal cancer. They found that aspirin users were 47% less likely to have liver and oesophageal cancer, 38% less likely to have stomach cancer, 34% less likely to have pancreatic cancer and 24% less likely to have colorectal cancer. In addition, aspirin use also significantly reduced the risk of leukaemia, lung cancer and prostate cancer.