Friday Five

Bacteria linked to aggressive prostate cancer, unexplained hepatitis cases in children, new hope for multiple sclerosis sufferers and how a trip to the supermarket could save your life – this week’s Friday Five

Bacteria, Medical, Biology, Health, Anatomy, Science

Bacteria linked to aggressive prostate cancer

In research led by the University of East Anglia, genetic analysis of urine and prostate tissue of over 600 men revealed 5 species of bacteria linked to progression of the disease. Whilst these bacteria species have been linked to the disease, it has not been confirmed that they are involved and new work will be undertaken to identify the role they play. Once this has been confirmed it may be possible to create tests that can detect those at risk and perhaps even employ antibiotics to minimise the risk of these bacteria.

Colin Cooper, a professor of cancer genetics at the University of East Anglia and lead scientist of the research, said “If you knew for sure that a species of bacteria was causing prostate cancer, you could work out an antibiotic to remove it and that would prevent progression, one would hope.” Whilst this may potentially be able to prevent cases, treatment will not be straightforward. “There are many complications. Antibiotics don’t get into the prostate very well and you would need to choose an antibiotic that only kills certain bacteria.”

Whilst prostate cancer is a common disease, patients do not usually die because of it but 12,000 people die from aggressive forms in the UK each year. Dr Hayley Luxton, from Prostate Cancer UK commented: “If the team can demonstrate that these newly identified bacteria can not only predict, but actually cause aggressive prostate cancer, for the first time we may actually be able to prevent prostate cancer occurring. This would be a huge breakthrough that could save thousands of lives each year.”

Read the full story in The Guardian.

empty hospital bed inside roomUnexplained hepatitis cases in children in Europe and US

There have been cases of hepatitis, also known as liver inflammation, found in children in European countries including Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands and Spain, as well as the US. The cause of this is currently unknown and is under investigation by health officials.

According to the World Health Organization, there have been three cases in Spain and fewer than five cases recorded in Ireland. It is unclear how many have been found in total across the four European countries. So far, Alabama’s public health department reported nine cases, and cases continue to be investigated in the US.

In the UK, 74 cases have been reported, yet according to the UK Health Security Agency, there has not been any detection of the viruses that commonly cause infectious hepatitis. Other possible causes are currently being investigated, one of which is adenoviruses which are usually responsible for mild illnesses such as colds or vomiting. Covid-19 has not been ruled out as a cause but there has been no link to Covid-19 vaccines as of yet.

Read the full story in BBC News.

Nerve Cells, Neurons, Nervous System, Brain

New hope for multiple sclerosis sufferers as scientists ‘reverse symptoms’ with cells transplant

A groundbreaking study has claimed that immune cells against glandular fever have the potential to halt or even reverse symptoms of MS. Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a condition that affects the brain and spinal cord due to nerve coating being damaged. Symptoms range from fatigue, blurred vision and problems with movement and feeling. A trial was conducted where MS patients were implanted with T-cells that were extracted from people who had recovered from Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which causes glandular fever.

Scans of the patient’s brains revealed progression of the condition was slowed down or even reversed and some patients experienced less pain when walking, which is caused by their condition. The researchers have confirmed the study was small and have not been able to rule out the placebo effect. But results could mark a major advancement in experts understanding of MS, which is currently uncurable.

The revelation follows a major study from Harvard University which included 1 million soldiers. The study found that EBV has potential to be the leading cause of MS. In fact, patients of the virus are 32 times more likely to develop the condition.

Read the full story in The Independent.

How a trip to the supermarket could save your life

NHS England began sending lung cancer screening trucks equipped with mobile scanners to supermarket carparks at the start of 2020. By January this year, 600 new lung cancer cases had been identified. The £70 million programme invites people aged 55 to 74 who are more at risk of the disease, such as heavy smokers and former smokers, for an assessment. Those assessed are then offered an on-the-spot chest scan if it is required. However, since the start of the programme only about a third of the 270,000 people invited took up the offer.

Between 2016 and 2018, lung cancer was the third most common cancer in the UK, according to Cancer Research UK. Each year, there are roughly 48,500 new lung cancer cases across the UK. Health chiefs have urged people not to ignore invitations for lung cancer screening as NHS officials hoped that the Targeted Health Check scheme would reach 600,000 people over four years and detect 3400 lung cancers to improve survival in the worst affected areas of England.

Professor Peter Johnson, NHS clinical director for cancer, said: “Lives are saved when cancers are caught early and when more people are referred for tests, which is why the NHS has put so much effort into early diagnosis in recent years.”

Read the full story in The Times.

Quote of the week

A 31-year-old Spanish healthcare worker caught Covid twice within 20 days. This is the shortest-known gap between infections. In a presentation at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, study author Dr. Gemma Recio, from the Institut Catala de Salut, Tarragona in Spain discussed the case.

“This case highlighted that Omicron can evade the previous immunity acquired either from a natural infection with other variants or from vaccines. In other words, people who have had Covid-19 cannot assume they are protected against reinfection, even if they have been fully vaccinated. Nevertheless, both previous infection with other variants and vaccination do seem to partially protect against severe disease and hospitalisation in those with Omicron”.

Read the full story in BBC News.