Long-term aspirin ‘blindness link’

Long-term aspirin ‘blindness link’

The impact of macular degeneration on vision

People who regularly take aspirin for a few years, similar to people with cardiovascular disease, usually tend to develop a kind of blindness, researchers say.

A study on 2,389 people, within the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, showed aspirin takers had twice the danger of “wet” age-related macular degeneration.

The disease damages the ‘sweet spot’ within the retina, obscuring details within the centre of a patient’s visual view.

The researchers said there has been not yet enough evidence to vary aspirin use.

Taking low doses of aspirin daily does reduce the chance of a stroke or heart attack in patients with heart problems. There are even suggestions it may prevent cancer.

One in 10 people within the study, conducted on the University of Sydney, were taking aspirin once or more every week. On average the participants were of their mid-60s.

Eye tests were performed after five, 10 and 15 years.

By the tip of the study, the researchers showed that 9.3% of patients taking aspirin developed wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) compared with 3.7% of patients who didn’t take aspirin.

Their report said: “The increased risk of [wet] AMD was detected only after 10 or 15 years, suggesting that cumulative dosing is very important.

“Given the widespread use of aspirin, any increased risk of disabling conditions would be significant and affect many of us.”

Wet AMD is because of blood vessels growing inside the wrong place. They cause swelling and bleeding which damages the retina.

The process can happen right away with vision being damaged in days. Age, smoking and a family history are the most important risk factors.


There are already known risks of aspirin including causing internal bleeding. The research team suggest the chance of damaging eyesight “can also should be considered”.

They acknowledge that for many patients there’s “insufficient evidence” to modify how aspirin is prescribed.

However, they suggested using the drug might have to be reappraised in high-risk patients resembling people with wet AMD in a single eye already.

Prof Jie Jin Wang, a professional in vision research at Sydney University in Australia, said this was something doctors will need to seek advice from high-risk patients.

The Macular Society said: “The evidence is now accumulating concerning the association of aspirin and wet AMD, however, it’s not overwhelming at this point.

“For patients vulnerable to cardio-vascular disease, the health risks of preventing or not prescribing aspirin are much higher than those of developing wet AMD.

“Patients who’re taking aspirin because their doctor has prescribed it’s going to not stop taking it without consulting their doctor first.”

Matthew Athey, from the RNIB charity, said any concerns must be discussed with a family doctor.

“However, here’s interesting research as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading reason for sight loss within the UK, and this study could contribute to our understanding about why some people may develop ‘wet’ type macular degeneration.

“Further research is wanted to explain and investigate a few of the issues raised within the study, however this association can be valuable for doctors sooner or later when considering aspirin for his or her patients.”

Cleaning jobs ‘link’ to adult asthma

Cleaning products ‘linked to adult asthma’

A good excuse to not do cleaning?

People who work with cleaning products risk developing asthma, believe UK experts who’ve explored the link.

Their study of greater than 7,000 people suggests exposure to bleach and other chemicals is an element in a single in six cases of adult-onset asthma among British people of their mid-50s .

The study, in Thorax, identified 18 high-risk jobs – four of which involved cleaning.

Top of the list were farmers, followed by aircraft mechanics and typesetters.

General cleaners, office cleaners, domestic helpers and care workers all featured at the list.

So too did hairdressers and laundry workers.

Experts say a person’s working environment is guilty in preference to their occupation per se.

Inhaled particles

Hundreds of occupational agents were associated with asthma. This includes flour and grain in addition to detergents.

Fine particles might be inhaled into the airways and cause irritation.

Lead researcher Dr Rebecca Ghosh said cleaning products were growing to be recognised as a possible reason for asthma.

She said there have been specific Control of gear Hazardous to Health (COSHH) guidelines on the topic of cleaning products.

Employers are expected to manipulate exposures to hazardous substances and report any cases of occupational asthma.

“Occupational asthma is widely under-recognised by employers, employees and healthcare professionals. Raising awareness that here’s a nearly entirely preventable disease will be a primary step in reducing its incidence,” Dr Ghosh said.

Malayka Rahman, of Asthma UK, said: “We recommend anyone who works within the industries highlighted on this study and who’ve experienced breathing problems to debate this with their GP, and we urge healthcare professionals to make certain they give thught to possible occupational causes in adult-onset asthma and tailor their advice to those with asthma accordingly.”

Donated genetic data ‘privacy risk’

Donated genetic data ‘privacy risk’

Genetic data was used to spot 50 people

Researchers have identified people within the US who anonymously donated their DNA to be used in medical research – raising concerns about privacy.

They could uncover a person’s identity using records of donated DNA coupled with other on hand sources of knowledge on the web.

It was made possible thanks to large “genetic genealogy” databases which help people trace their genealogy.

The study was reported inside the journal Science.

Weak male link

There is a sturdy link in men between their surname and unique markings at the male, or Y, chromosome.

These genetic markings are a useful gizmo when investigating a genealogy as they’re passed from father to son and are utilized in “genetic genealogy” databases.

Researchers from the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research used this freely available data to create a working laptop or computer programme which can match unique markers to surnames.

This was used to seek through an educational database – the 1,000 genomes project.

It contains all the genetic code of volunteers who donated their DNA anonymously. The one record is of the donor’s age and their home state.

The computer programme, however, could now training session surnames to boot. This was enough, combined with a basic internet search, to see the identities of around 50 people.


One of the researchers, Yaniv Erlich, said: “Here’s a massive result that points out the opportunity of breaches of privacy in genomics studies.”

But he stressed very strongly that he doesn’t like to see public sharing of genetic information curtailed, rather that folk were aware about the realities.

“More knowledge empowers participants to weigh the hazards and benefits and make more informed decisions when considering whether to share their very own data.

“We also hope that this study will eventually bring about better security algorithms, better policy guidelines, and higher legislation to aid mitigate probably the most risks described.”

The team shared their findings with officials on the US National Human Genome Research Institute who then removed ages of participants from the publicly-accessible genome database.

In an accompanying editorial Eric Green, director of the Institute, says there ought to be a balance between the rights to privacy of these playing research and the advantages to society to be gained from the sharing of biomedical research data.

Hit rate

Frances Rawle, head of policy on the UK’s Medical Research Council, said: “This paper comes in handy and in addition timely as there’s currently a lot of discussion concerning the sharing of knowledge both between researchers and more widely.

“The possible benefits to be gained from sharing genetic data in terms of individuals have to be balanced with the aptitude harm of unintended disclosure of private information.”

Prof Mark Jobling, a Wellcome Trust senior fellow on the University of Leicester, said if an analogous study was done within the UK the hit rate may well be even higher because their have been less changing of surnames through the years.

He added that lots of effort was still required to spot individuals or even if someone had your genetic profile, most human traits don’t seem to be easily predictable from DNA.

“When people enroll to genetic testing, you’ll want to make it clear that that there’s an out of doors chance someone could identify you. It’s the very basis of informed consent.”

Weightloss ‘fights off gut worms’

Weight loss ‘is body’s way of fighting off gut worms’

Mice were infected with a worm called Trichinella spiralis within the study

Weight loss following infection with intestinal worms is the body’s way of fighting off the parasites, University of Manchester researchers have said.

The immune system hijacks a hormone that controls when to prevent eating, their study of mice suggests.

This then triggers the kind of immune response had to expel the worms from the gut, PLoS Pathogens reports.

The finding could lead on to new the right way to treat those with intestinal worms, researchers say.

Researchers first saw a possible link once they were measuring levels of a hormone called cholecystokinin in volunteers when they were fed a meal.

One man had incredibly high levels and on further investigation it was found he had an intestinal worm infection he had picked up on holiday.

Joining forces with a team specialising in gut worm infections the researchers did a study in mice infected with a worm called Trichinella spiralis.

They found that immune cells called T-cells responded to the worm infection by driving up levels of cholecystokinin.

This increase has a knock-on effect of driving down another hunger hormone, leptin, which influences what form of immune response the body must produce.

When they artificially added leptin back into the infected mice, the immune system mounted the incorrect response and the intestinal worms remained within the gut for longer.

Global problem

Nearly one in every four of the world’s population are infected with gastrointestinal parasites.

It has long been known that these infections often bring about a period of reduced appetite and weightloss but why or how this occurs was not understood.

Study author Dr John Worthington said the researchers had checked out only 1 variety of parasitic worm but were now doing tests to work out if a similar response was produced in line with other worms.

“Naturally you can think that when you are shedding pounds you will have less energy to fight off infection,” he said.

“This does the alternative of what you could expect.”

Dr Worthington added that finally they’d be taking a look at whether different treatment or nutrition strategies might possibly be designed to lift this immune effect in people affected with intestinal worms.

Dr Mark Robinson, lecturer in parasite proteomics at Queen’s University Belfast, said that diseases of humans and animals brought on by parasitic worms were among the many most widespread and economically devastating during the world and drug resistance was becoming an issue.

“Find out how to combat worm infections at some point may be the development of vaccines which represent safer, more environmentally-friendly, alternatives to drugs,” he said.

“Right this moment, vaccine development is hampered by an absence of basic understanding of ways parasitic worms interact with, and influence, our immune system, so research during this area will hopefully contribute to creating new anti-parasite vaccines a reality.”

Bacteria use ‘biological alchemy’

Leprosy bacteria use ‘biological alchemy’

Infectious bacteria have for the primary time been caught performing “biological alchemy” to rework parts of a bunch body into those more suited for their purposes, by a team in Edinburgh.

The study, within the journal Cell, showed leprosy-causing bacteria turning nerves into stem cells and muscle.

The authors said the “clever and complicated” technique could further therapies and stem-cell research.

Experts described the invention as “amazing” and “exciting”.

Alchemists might have didn’t morph base metals into gold, but a team on the University of Edinburgh has shown that bacteria can transform parts of the body into something more valuable to them.

It is a feat that scientists have already achieved within the laboratory. Skin cells has been transformed into flexible stem cells that could become any of the body’s building blocks from heart muscle to brain cells.

One of the researchers, Prof Anura Rambukkana, said: “Our body’s cells could be manipulated and why would a bacterium not cash in on that?”

Master manipulators

Experiments on mice and cells grown within the laboratory showed the leprosy bug infected nerve cells. Then over a period of some weeks the bacteria started to subvert the nerves for his or her own ends. The chemistry of the cells changed and so they became stem cells.

These can grow and spread round the body, unlike the static nerves.

“This can be a stem cell which is generated by the body’s own tissue so the immune system doesn’t recognise it and so they can get anyplace they need without being attacked,” said Prof Rambukkana.

Those cells could lodge inside muscle and become muscle cells.

“We realised, ‘Wow, here’s something very, very striking’.

“It is the first time a bacterial infection have been shown to make stem cells, that is the big thing here.”


He hopes the findings increases understanding of leprosy and result in new ways of developing stem cells – that have been touted as future treatments for a number of diseases.

Prof Rambukkana also believes it’s “probable” that other species of bacteria would have evolved a similar ability to reprogramme their host.

Prof Chris Mason, a expert in stem cell research at University College London, said: “The flexibility of bacteria to transform one mammalian cell type to a different is ‘alchemy’ by nature on a grand scale.

“Whilst this amazing discovery is in a mouse model, it highlights the extreme complexity of the interactions between mammals and bacteria and the ingenuity of scientists to uncover disease mechanisms that a decade ago would was beyond science fiction.

“The subsequent essential step is to translate this valuable piece of data into tangible benefits for patients – a process that could take a decade before its relevance to clinical medicine is fully understood.”

Prof Diana Lockwood, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: “Their finding that bacteria can reprogramme cells is rather interesting and exciting.”

However, she cautioned that there has been “quite a spot between this and clinical leprosy and that i do not believe it is going to end in new treatments”.

Dr Rob Buckle, head of regenerative medicine on the Medical Research Council, said: “This discovery is vital not only for our understanding and treatment of bacterial disease, but for the rapidly progressing field of regenerative medicine.”

Self-help books ‘treat depression’

Self-help books ‘treat depression’

Can a self-help book aid depression?

Prescribing self-help books at the NHS is a good treatment for depression, a study suggests.

Patients offered books, plus sessions guiding them in how you can use them, had lower levels of depression a year later than those offered usual GP care.

The effect was seen along with some great benefits of other treatments reminiscent of antidepressants, Scottish researchers report inside the journal Plos One.

Such an approach will help the NHS tackle demand for therapy, they said.

More than 200 patients who have been diagnosed with depression by their GP took part inside the study, half whom were also on antidepressant drugs.

Some were supplied with a self-help guide going through different aspects of depression, comparable to being assertive or overcoming sleep problems.

Patients also had three sessions with an adviser who helped them get the foremost out of the books and plan what changes to make.

After four months those that were prescribed the self-help books had significantly lower levels of depression than those that received usual GP care.

A year later, those within the self-help group were likely to be keeping on top in their depression.

Study leader Prof Christopher Williams, from the University of Glasgow, who also wrote the books called Overcoming Depression and coffee Mood, said the guided sessions were the most important to getting people engaged.

The sessions could be delivered as a rule practice without referral to a expert, taking pressure off waiting lists.

In Scotland, a telephone support service has now been arrange to assist support those using the books, that are freely copied and disseminated, he added.

“We found this had an extremely significant clinical impact and the findings are very encouraging,” he said.

“Depression saps people’s motivation and makes it hard to believe change is feasible.”

The challenge for the NHS, where self-help books are already utilized in many places, is find out how to implement this model so people have easy supported access in primary care, he said.

‘Worth investing in’

There have been huge investment in better treatment for depression within the UK in recent times with the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programme in England arrange to widen access.

It have been estimated this approach could save the NHS as much as £272m and the broader public sector £700m.

But, says Prof Williams, despite the large levels of investment, it’s only impossible to refer everyone with depression to mental health services.

Dr Paul Blenkiron, consultant in adult psychiatry at Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, said the effects showed that guided self-assistance is effective and is “something the NHS ought to be investing in”.

He is currently advising on behalf of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, on a countrywide Books On Prescription Scheme, to be rolled out across UK public libraries this year.

Thirty books, including the single utilized in the study, has been selected.

But Dr Blenkiron said self-help does not be suitable for everybody: “The important thing thing is that the man is committed to doing a little work.”

Phone apps ‘delay skin diagnosis’

Phone apps may delay skin cancer diagnosis

Researchers say you should seek medical advice in case you are interested in a mole

Using a smartphone app to determine whether a mole is cancerous could delay sometimes life-saving treatment, in step with American researchers.

The University of Pittsburgh scientists put four applications to the test by showing them 188 pictures of cancers and no more concerning skin conditions.

Three of the apps wrongly labelled the cancerous lesions as unproblematic in almost a 3rd of cases.

Doctors warn using phones instead of seeking expert help may be harmful.

The research, published within the journal JAMA Dermatology, checked out four well-known applications.

The images selected to check the apps were all of skin lesions that were later removed and checked for a correct diagnosis.

Three of the apps analysed the images using automated algorithms, without the involvement of doctors.

But users submitting pictures to the fourth app had their images reviewed by a professional skin specialist.

In this situation just one out of 53 cancerous legions was misdiagnosed, but this app cost $5 (£3.10) per use.

Prof Laura Ferris, lead researcher of the study, said: “It is necessary that users don’t allow their apps to take where of medical advice and physician diagnosis.

“In the event that they see a concerning lesion however the smartphone app incorrectly judges it to be benign, they might not follow up with a health care provider,” she added.

Deborah Mason, of the British Association of Dermatologists, said: “There are many mole-check apps available on the market – those who purport to give diagnosis needs to be treated with caution.

“A diagnosis can only be made by a health practitioner and anyone with a suspicious mole should speak to their GP or dermatologist about it.”

The researchers also raised concerns concerning the loss of regulation of applications purporting to offer medical advice.

The US Food and Drug Administration is currently staring at the potential of regulating some applications regarding health.

Last year in America two application developers were fined for making unsubstantiated claims that their software could treat acne using a colored light from a smartphone.

The UK regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, said: “The regulation of software corresponding to these health applications is complex and desires to be checked out on a case-by-case basis.

“Work is progressing on the European level to provide the best guidance to most effectively regulate this rapidly growing area.”