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3 Key Medical News Stories: 4th April 2019

Gaming

Welcome to this week’s medical news round up! In our latest edition, we bring you the healthcare topics that have been under the microscope over the past week, just in time for your med school applications. 

Joining us this week: antibiotics, new blood tests and screen time.

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Antibiotics

Fish slime could be the key to new antibiotics.

The news hits headlines this week as the government announces it will offer incentives to pharmaceutical companies to discover new antibiotics. With antibiotic resistance an ever-growing concern, the NHS is aiming to cut antibiotic use by 15% by 2024.

Now researchers suggest that the mucus found on the outer surface of young fish may be the answer. The microbes found within the mucus are of particular interest.

Researchers harvested the substances produced by the mucus and found a number of them were able to tackle the antibiotic resistant bacteria MRSA. Additionally some also proved effective against yeast and colon cancer cells.

What can we learn from this?

Most current antibiotics originate from microbes found in the soil. These are progressively becoming ineffective and there is a critical lack of new antibiotics.

This research is still in its early stages but it is a time of excitement for finding potential new drugs in new environments. The potential drugs found within fish mucus are only active against some of the main pathogens, but there is a hope that we can modify them to tackle most ‘superbugs’.

Question: Discuss the future of antibiotics in relation to antibiotic resistance.

Read: NHS Hot Topics – Antibiotic Resistance  

New Blood Tests

NHS England to offer pregnant women a new blood test for pre-eclampsia

The ‘placental growth factor’ (PLGF) test will become more widely available following evidence that suggests it aids earlier diagnosis.

Pre-eclampsia is a potentially life-threatening condition characterized by dangerously high blood pressure and damage to vital organs, namely the liver and kidneys.

The new PLGF test reveals whether a woman’s risk is high, medium or low, enabling closer monitoring of those at high risk. Trials have also shown it speeds up diagnosis time from four days to two days, which is potentially lifesaving for mother and baby.

There is an option for NHS Wales, Scotland and NI to offer this test too.

What can we learn from this?

Preeclampsia affects one in 10 pregnancies in the UK. If not identified and managed early, its complications include seizures, stroke, coma and death. Previously, diagnosis has relied on regular blood pressure tests and urine tests.

The evidence shows that this new measurement leads to better outcomes for women and their babies. Widespread implementation of the test is hugely welcome.

Question to think about: how important is evidence based practice in medicine?

Read: Depth and Breadth of Interest Questions

Screen Time

GP prescribes a two-week ban from computer games.

The news has highlighted the seriousness of gaming addiction, especially for young people who can struggle to find other activities to fill their time.

Dr. Amir Khan advised the gaming ban to an 11-year-old boy, due to concerns about the impact of gaming on his life.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) explain gaming is troublesome as it is a sedentary activity and young people often snack whilst they play. Therefore, a seemingly light-hearted activity can contribute to serious physical and psychological consequences.

In contrast, the RCPCH also highlight that gaming is a “vibrant and important aspect of young people’s culture”, but that this must be balanced with other activities.

What can we learn from this?

Childhood obesity and its consequences continues to pose a great challenge to the NHS, with nearly a third of children aged 2 to 15 overweight or obese.

This is a problem as overweight and obese children are likely to stay obese into adulthood and are therefore more likely to develop diseases such as diabetes and coronary heart disease.

Although there is no ‘toxic’ level of screen time for children, the RCPCH do advise that families negotiate screen time limits based on need, use and impact on physical activity.

Question to think about: what do you think is contributing to the childhood obesity crisis?

Read: Challenges facing the NHS

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