Welcome back to the new instalment of The Medic Portal’s weekly news summary. This edition will cover the key stories in health news from the 18th to the 24th of July. This week has seen a breakthrough in asthma treatment, new guidelines published on vitamin D recommendations and the government’s announcement that bursaries supporting student nurses and midwives will end in 2017.
Researchers at Southampton University have discovered a novel way of preventing asthma by addressing origin of disease. Associate Professor Hans Michael Haitchi who led the research analysed the impact of the gene ADAM33 which is linked to the development of asthma. The gene produces an enzyme which can cause poor lung function in those suffering with asthma. Studies carried out on human tissue and mice models indicate that is ADAM33 is switched off the symptoms of asthma are reduced. Prior to this research many experts thought that asthma was caused solely by an inflammatory response triggered by allergy. Mouse models without ADAM33 showed some signs of asthma when confronted with house dust mite allergen but this was increased by 50% when they carried the ADAM33 gene. Future research will use ADAM33 as a drug target to reduce to symptoms of asthma in those with the gene.
New advice was published this week by Public Health England regarding vitamin D guidelines. Although some newspapers have been publishing headlines suggesting that everyone should take a vitamin D supplement in winter, Public Health England (PHE) have simply published new recommended amounts of vitamin D that should be consumed. Vitamin D is required to control the levels of calcium and phosphate in the body that are needed for the maintenance of healthy bones, teeth and muscles. It is mainly obtained from the sun through our skin but can come from our diet through foods such as oily fish, red meat and egg yolks. The PHE have published guidelines saying that adults and children over one should consider taking a supplement of 10mcg, especially during winter months when there is less sun.
The government have confirmed plans to stop bursaries for student nurses and midwives from 2017. The Department of Health currently spends £800 million a year on the bursaries and it is hoped that this will create additional nursing roles by 2020. Both the Royal College of Nursing and Midwives have stated that they believe the move is risky and threatens the future of nursing and midwifery. Currently, student nurses and midwives do not pay tuition fees, they receive both means tested and non-means tested bursaries. Health Education England currently decides how many student places are available each year, however it is hoped that with students paying fees an extra 10,000 training places will become available.