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Medical News Summary, 31 May 2016

Welcome to this week’s latest edition of our latest health news & medical current affairs blog. This piece will cover recent research news that occurred between the 23rd to the 30th of May. Over the past 7 days, we’ve seen controversy over the new sugar tax, government cuts that fund local pharmacies and the possibility that dogs could be used to detect malaria.

Sugar tax – who will it affect the most?

Sugar tax is likely to affect poor people hardest
Sugar tax is likely to affect poor people hardest

A pressure group has highlighted how the sugar tax is unfair and targets the poorer groups in Britain. Some drinks that have a high sugar content will be exempt from the new tax, for example sugary milk based drinks of coffees. Coca-Cola that contains 10.6 grams of sugar in 100 millilitres will be taxed under the new law whereas a Starbucks hot chocolate that contains 11 grams of sugar per 100 millilitres will not be.

Interestingly, a debate over the tax has been sparked as it is thought that the tax will affect the poorest families the hardest. Groups are urging the government to consider the sugar content of all drinks when bringing in the new sugar tax.

Government to take away £170m subsidy from local chemists

Thousands of pharmacies will be forced to close
Thousands of pharmacies will be forced to close

It is thought that thousands of local chemists could be closed after the Government has said it will withdraw £170 million subsidy in the current financial year. This is thought to affect mainly small and rural pharmacies.

The announcement has sparked local MPs, and elderly campaign groups to fight against the cuts. Alastair Burt, a health minister has stated that he believes up to 3,000 chemists in England will close as a result of the withdrawal of the subsidy.

The Government believes that currently there are too many pharmacies often in the same area, and the withdrawal of funds will force some of these to close. However, withdrawing the funds does not control which of the pharmacies will close. This has sparked fears those who are sick or elderly may have to travel out of their way to collect vital medicines. Tim Bonner the chief executive of the Countryside Alliance has expressed concerns that the Government has not considered the true impact on those living in rural areas who rely heavily on their local pharmacies.

Dogs could be used to detect malaria

Dogs could be used to detect malaria
Dogs could be used to detect malaria

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been awarded a grant to research the possibility that dogs may be able to use their acute sense of smell to detect malaria in humans. If this is possible it would allow doctors to identify those with malaria quickly and with non-invasive testing allowing for faster treatment.

It is hoped that dogs might be able to detect odours that are associated with the condition that are not detectable by humans. This is not the first time dogs have been used to aid diagnosis, previously dogs have been accurate in detecting cancer in humans.

Malaria which is caused by a parasite causes an odour to be released in the patient’s breath. If dogs are able to detect this they could be used in airports and other ports of entry to screen travels to cut down on the spread of the disease. In the year 2015 there were 214 million malaria cases worldwide and 438,000 deaths caused by the disease. If dogs were available for detecting, it is hoped that these numbers could be reduced.   

Uploaded by Joelle on 31 May, 2016

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