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Friday five: top health stories of the week

This week the Zika Virus, Microplastics and NHS Professionals have dominated the news.

Zika virus used to treat aggressive brain cancer

The harmful virus that can cause devastating brain damage in babies could be used as a treatment for adult brain cancer. Latest research shows the virus can be used to selectively infect and kill hard to treat cancerous cells. Zika injections shrank aggressive tumours in fully grown mice, yet left other brain cells unscathed. Human trials are still a way off, but the Zika treatment appears to work on human cell samples in the lab. Read more at BBC.

GlaxoSmithKline sets up first team for acquisitions in 93 years

GSK is scouting the domestic markets for the first time in its 93 years. Their change in strategy comes after price controls on branded generic medicines have cut their profits. GSK are looking to expand into respiratory, dermatology and diabetes treatments. They are also looking to acquire other brands to enhance their portfolio. Read more at Business Standard.

No prosecution risk for Northern Ireland medical staff over abortion referrals

Medical staff in Northern Ireland will no longer face prosecution if they refer women to clinics in England and Wales for abortions. Until now the threat of prosecution has made medical professionals feel constrained in the advice they give to women seeking abortions elsewhere. Abortion in Northern Ireland has the harshest criminal penalty for illegal abortion in Europe – life imprisonment for the woman undergoing the abortion and for anyone assisting her. Read more at the Guardian.

Plastic fibres found in tap water around the world

Microplastic contamination has been found in tap water around the world, study reveals. The findings have scientists calling for urgent research into the health implications. The US had the highest contamination rate at 94%. The UK, Germany and France had the lowest contamination rate, however, at 72% it highlights the alarming scale of the problem. Microplastics contain and absorb toxic chemicals and research shows that these are released into the body when consumed. Research shows that microplastics are found in a third of fish caught in the UK. The scale of global microplastic contamination is only starting to become clear with researchers in Paris discovering microplastic falling from the air, depositing three to ten tonnes of fibres on the city each year. Read more at the Guardian.

Ministers abandon sale of NHS Professionals

The DH has backtracked on selling off a subsidiary company that provides temporary staff to trusts. NHS Professionals was established in November 2016 and this week it was announced that it will remain in public hands. None of the bids the department received reflected the increasing value of the organisation which has more than 100,000 clinical and non-clinical staff on its books. Read more on the HSJ (£).

Quote of the week – Niall Dickinson speaks about the looming litigation threatening the NHS

“We cannot go on like this. This rising tide of litigation is draining the NHS of resources and must be urgently addressed.” – Read more on the BBC


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