Published on 9th August 2016 by Roya

Welcome back to the latest edition of The Medic Portal’s news summary. This blog covers the key stories in health news from the 1st to the 7th of August. This week’s summary includes the development of three new vaccines to combat the Zika virus, research suggesting that obesity causes accelerated brain ageing and the NHS spending £1.75 million on homeopathy in the last decade.

Zika virus vaccine progress

Zika virus vaccine in progress
Zika virus vaccine in progress

Research into methods to prevent the Zika virus have been given a push following the spread of the virus to Florida. Three vaccines against the Zika virus have be found to be effective in giving protection to monkeys. The vaccines were trialled on monkeys and are now ready to be trialled on human participants.

It is hoped that within a few months an effective vaccine will be available that could prevent the devastated effects of the virus. The virus has been linked to 1,700 cases of microcephaly a neurological birth defect that causes babies to be born with small heads.

A collaboration of scientists from Harvard University and the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil have been working together to formulate the effective vaccines which have been shown to give complete immunity to monkeys. One of the three vaccines uses an inactivated form of the Zika virus whilst the others use fragments of viral DNA that trigger an immune response and leads to immunity.

No side effects were recorded from the trials on monkeys. Scientists are encouraged by the results and the next step in the process will be completing clinical trials of a Zika vaccine in human participants. The first step of the clinical trial, phase 1 for the ZPIV vaccine is expected to begin later this year.

Overweight people age more quickly

Overweight people could age more quickly
Overweight people could age more quickly

A group of researchers at Cambridge University have found that natural aging process in the brain is accelerated in those who are overweight. As we get older the brain naturally loses some white matter, this is the part of the brain in which information is transmitted.

New research now suggests that this loss is intensified for those who are overweight. The research team studied 473 participants aged between 20 and 27.  They looked at their brain functioning as well as putting them into categories of either “lean” or “overweight”. Their results showed that there was significantly less white matter in those that were overweight compared to those who were lean.

The differences due to weight was only seen in those who were middle-aged or older suggesting that being overweight was especially risky for older individuals. Although the study shows a link between obesity and the aging of the brain it is not clear whether the obesity causes ageing of the brain of vice versa. Additionally, further research needs to be conducted to determine whether the changes are reversible with weight loss.

Should we invest in homeopathy?

The NHS has spent almost £2m on homeopathy treatment
The NHS has spent almost £2m on homeopathy treatment

Over the last decade the National Health Service has spent more than £1.75 million on homeopathy despite there being “no good-quality evidence” that it is effective. The figures were obtained by The Independent under freedom of information rules.

The figures do not include the additional costs that would be occurred once staff costs and prescriptions are also taken into account. Homeopathy is a concept that is based on the idea of diluting substances in water which are then believed to become stronger and have the ability to heal the body.

The National Health and Medical Research Council claims that it is a “therapeutic dead-end” after it was not found effective for any of the 68 health condition it was tested on.  A spokesperson for the Department of Health has said that they will be launching a public consultation into the future of providing homeopathic treatments on the NHS.

Uploaded by Joelle on 9th August, 2016


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