Friday Five

Llama blood, meat tax and funding for preventive medicine – this week’s Friday Five

Prevention is better than cure

Health and Social Care Secretary of State Matt Hancock has called for people to be better supported to take more responsibility for their own health. He wants there to be a much greater focus on prevention, to stop people from falling into poor health.

Hancock said: “In the UK, we are spending £97bn of public money on treating disease and only £8bn preventing it across the UK.

“You don’t have to be an economist to see those numbers don’t stack up.”

Labour has praised this announcement, but stated that the government was planning a further cut to health services funding next year by £1bn.

Read more in the Independent.


London hospital drops chemotherapy due to nursing shortage

One of the biggest NHS trusts will stop providing chemotherapy at one of its hospitals this month due to a lack of specialist cancer nurses to staff the unit.

The Cedar Centre at King George Hospital in Ilford has had four nurses resign and two others go on maternity leave.

It is thought to be the first time the NHS’s widespread staffing problems have led to a specialist cancer unit no longer being able to offer a vital service such as chemotherapy.

Tom Sandford, the Royal College of Nursing’s England director, said: “The loss of the chemotherapy service at the Cedar Centre is a serious blow to patient care at a time when the government’s referral target for urgent cancer treatment has not been met for five years.”

More than 500 patients a year received their cancer treatment at The Cedar Centre, and in future patients will have to go to Queen’s Hospital in Romford instead. Queen’s Hospital sees almost 2,000 cancer patients a year and is currently understaffed, with two of their cancer nurses on maternity leave.

Read more on The Guardian.


Study proposes a meat tax to prevent nearly 6,000 deaths a year

Researchers have suggested that raising the price of red and processed meat by up to 80 per cent would prevent nearly 6,000 deaths a year and save the NHS more than £734m.

The report predicts a meat tax could reduce consumption by about two portions a week. The cost of an average full English could rise around 54% if proposals were implemented.

Lead researcher Dr Marco Spingmann from the Nuffield Department of Population Health at Oxford University said, “Nobody wants governments to tell people what they can and can’t eat. However, our findings make it clear that the consumption of red and processed meat has a cost, not just to people’s health and to the planet, but also to the healthcare systems and the economy.”

The World Health Organisation has also recently said that cured, smoked and other processed meats cause cancer.

Read more in the Independent.


Llama blood clue to beating all flu

In a bid to develop a new flu treatment, scientists in the US have recruited Llamas as their secret weapon.

Llamas have been used to produce a new antibody therapy that has the potential to work against all types of flu, including new pandemics.

A new flu jab is required each year, and sometimes isn’t effective, due to influenza constantly mutating its appearance to evade our immune system.

Science is on the hunt for a way to kill all types of flu, no matter the strain or how much it mutates. The focus has moved to llamas as animals produce incredibly tiny antibodies in comparison to humans.

Antibodies are weapons of the immune system and they bind to the proteins that stick out from the surface of a virus. Our antibodies tend to attack the tips of those proteins, but, unfortunately, that’s the part influenza mutates most readily. Llama antibodies, on the other hand, use their size advantage to wriggle a little bit deeper and attack the parts that flu cannot change.

Prof Ian Wilson, one of the researchers, told the BBC’s Science in Action: “It’s very effective, there were 60 different viruses that were used in the challenge and only one wasn’t neutralised and that’s a virus that doesn’t infect humans.

“The goal here is to provide something that would work from season to season, and also protect you from possible pandemics should they emerge.”

More tests will need to be done before moving on to human trials.

Read more on BBC.

Breast cancer risk is lower for early birds

Women who are ‘morning people’ have a lower chance of developing breast cancer, according to UK researchers.

The team at Bristol University analysed 341 bits of DNA that show whether people are more likely to be a ‘lark’ and early to rise – or ‘owl’ and productive later in the evening. They looked at more than 400,000 women and determined that those genetically programmed to be larks were less likely to have breast cancer than owls.

Dr Richard Berks, from Breast Cancer Now, said: “These intriguing results add to the growing body of evidence that there is some overlap between the genetics of when we’d prefer to sleep and our breast cancer risk, but more research is required to unravel the specifics of this relationship.”

Previous studies have highlighted the link between sleep and mental health, and the World Health Organisation has stated disruption to body clocks is probably linked to cancer.

Read more on the BBC.


Quote of the week

“Stabbing victims look scared. There are no heroes in a resuscitation room. Most of those who are conscious fear for their lives. They’ve never seen their own blood spilt and don’t want to die.”

This week’s quote comes from Dr Martin Griffiths, consultant vascular and trauma surgeon at the Royal London Hospital, lead for trauma surgery for Barts Health NHS trust and a co-author of a new research study which found that a large proportion of stabbing victims treated at a London trauma centre were children.

Read more in the The Guardian.