Peanut allergy treatment 'lasts up to four years'

PeanutImage copyright Thinkstock

An oral treatment for peanut allergy is still effective four years after it was administered, a study has found.

Children were given a probiotic, with a peanut protein, daily for 18 months.

When tested one month later, 80% could tolerate peanuts without any allergic symptoms and after four years, 70% of them were still able to eat peanuts without suffering any side-effects.

Food allergies have risen dramatically in recent decades, with peanut allergy one of the most deadly.

Lead researcher Prof Mimi Tang, of Murdoch Childrens Research Institute in Melbourne, said half the children were consuming peanuts regularly while others were only eating them infrequently.

"The importance of this finding is that these children were able to eat peanuts like children who don't have peanut allergy and still maintain their tolerant state, protected against reactions to peanuts," she said.

Prof Tang said it was the first time a treatment for peanut allergy had been shown to be effective for this long.

The probiotic used is called Lactobacillus rhamnosus, which has been associated with preventing certain allergic symptoms.


When is it safe to eat peanuts?

Image copyright Thinkstock
  • There is often confusion about when peanuts are safe as the guidelines used to advocate avoidance
  • Peanuts are now thought to be safe in pregnancy[1]
  • If there is no family history of allergies or eczema then health officials say peanut butter and other ground or crushed nuts are OK after six months[2]
  • If there is a heightened risk then parents should consult a doctor
  • This research suggests careful introduction of peanut may help such children, but parents should not do this on their own
  • No child under five should eat a whole nut

The Australian research team now wants to assess whether the treatment has improved the children's quality of life, as some 250 million people worldwide are affected by food allergy - a number which has more than trebled in the last 20 years.

Peanut allergy, which is one of the most common causes of death from food allergy, has increased at the greatest rate.

Prof Tang said the findings, published in The Lancet Child &Adolescent Health,[3] suggest "the exciting possibility that tolerance is a realistic target for treating food allergy".

She added:"This is a major step forward in identifying an effective treatment to address the food allergy problem in Western societies." ...

References

  1. ^ safe in pregnancy (www.nhs.uk)
  2. ^ after six months (www.nhs.uk)
  3. ^ The Lancet Child &Adolescent Health, (www.thelancet.com)

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Bowel cancer test: 'No health minister' means NI people must wait

Bowel Cancer UKImage copyright Brendan Foster Image caption Screening tests reduce the mortality rates from bowel cancer

A new, more accurate screening test for bowel cancer is on hold in Northern Ireland because there is no Stormont health minister.

Bowel cancer is second only to lung cancer as the leading cause of death from the disease in both the UK and in Europe.

Up to 16,000 people in the UK die from the disease every year.

The new test is being rolled out in England, Scotland and Wales, but Northern Ireland is lagging behind.

The Department of Health said the UK recommendation for the new test was endorsed by the Northern Ireland Screening Committee in July.

Now it is up to a Northern Ireland health minister to consider it - when that minister is appointed.

"In the interim, the department and Public Health Agency will be taking forward the necessary preparatory work," a spokesperson for the Department of Health said.

Asha Kaur, policy and campaigns manager, Bowel Cancer UK, said the new test was much more accurate and also easier to complete than the current screening test.

Image copyright Bowel Cancer UK Image caption Ms Kaur said Northern Ireland had not committed to the new test

"This means we could potentially save more lives from bowel cancer," she said.

The Faecal Immunochemical Test - FIT - detects tiny amounts of blood in the stool just like the current screening test.

"Where the FIT test differs is in the way that it measures the level of blood whereas the current test indicates the presence of blood so FIT is far more accurate," she said.

Image caption Bowel cancer is difficult to treat with all patients currently offered chemotherapy

"A key difference with FIT is that it requires only one sample rather than the three needed previously.

"The pilot found that FIT picks up twice as many cancers and four times as many advanced adenomas as the current screening test," she said.

"This is important because the more cancers we can pick up early, the more lives we can save.We know that cancers picked up through the screening are more likely to be early stage cancers.The earlier bowel cancer is detected, the easier it is to treat and the greater chance of survival."

Image copyright SPL Image caption The earlier bowel cancer is detected, the easier it is to treat

Ms Kaur said England, Scotland and Wales have committed to replace the screening test with FIT.Scotland will introduce it first in November 2017, followed by England in 2018 and then Wales.

But Northern Ireland is waiting for a new health minister to approve it.

On average 59% of people living in Northern Ireland who are sent the bowel cancer screening test for free in the post actually complete it, but this drops to 57% in Scotland, 56% in England and 54% in Wales.Bowel Cancer UK believes this should be increased with the new easier FIT test.

"The National Screening Committee recommended the introduction of the FIT test in 2016," said Ms Kaur.

Image copyright Nuala Mccann

"However, because Stormont is not currently running and ministerial approval is needed, I understand that is not forthcoming."

A spokesperson for the Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland said current bowel cancer screening is not a test for cancer but, rather looks for blood and, as cancers often bleed, this means further investigations are recommended.

She said studies have shown that current screening reduces mortality rates from bowel cancer by 15%.

"A combination of availing of the screening programme when invited and being alert to signs and symptoms of bowel cancer can help increase the chances of the illness being caught at an earlier stage," she said....

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Drug deaths in Scotland rose by 23% in 2016

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Media captionMen accounted for 68% of deaths

The number of drug-related deaths in Scotland last year totalled 867, a rise of 23% on 2015.

Numbers have been steadily increasing since 1995, when 426 fatal overdoses were recorded.

The latest statistics from the National Records of Scotland[1] showed more than 70% of deaths were among people aged 35 or over.

Critics say the continuing rise calls into question the effectiveness of the Scottish government's drugs strategy.

However, the minister for public health, Aileen Campbell, said "unfortunately" the figures for Scotland were representative of a general trend of increasing drug deaths "across the UK and in many other parts of Europe".

'No easy solutions'

She added that the problem in Scotland was complex and based on a legacy of drugs misuse "stretching back decades".

Ms Campbell explained:"What we are seeing is an ageing group of people who are long term drugs users.

"They have a pattern of addiction which is very difficult to break, and they have developed other chronic medical conditions as a result of this prolonged drugs use."

She said she recognised more needed to be done but that there were "no easy solutions".

The Scottish Conservatives urged ministers to embark on a new strategy in light of the "appalling" figures and the Scottish Greens said there was "little sense" in funding cuts to initiatives combating drug and alcohol problems.

A breakdown of the figures showed that;

  • men accounted for 68% deaths
  • 38% of the total were people aged between 35 and 44
  • 30% of the fatalities were in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board area
  • the next biggest area was Lothian at 15%
  • 88% of the deaths were related to the taking of opiates or opioids
  • 55% involved heroin and/or morphine
  • 49% were linked to benzodiazepines, for example diazepam and etizolam

Dave Liddell, chief executive of the Scottish Drugs Forum, said the scale of the problem was a "national tragedy that requires a fundamental rethink of our approach".

He said:"Other countries have achieved a reduction in overdose deaths by ensuring that people are appropriately retained in high-quality treatment and we must aspire to do the same."

Is being drug-free the only solution?

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Media captionDanny Campbell believes the Road to Recovery drugs programme has been distorted to become "just about abstinence"

In 2008, the Scottish government introduced its Road to Recovery strategy[2] focused on tackling the country's drug problems "through prevention, treatment and rehabilitation, education and enforcement".

Danny Campbell, who is project manager at North Edinburgh Drug Advice Centre, believed the strategy had been "distorted" to become "just about abstinence".

He insisted that becoming drug free was not the right solution for all addicts.

Mr Campbell told BBC Scotland's social affairs correspondent:"The Road to Recovery was about whole journey from chaos to an element that may not include abstinence.

"It may be that some of those clients are going to have medication of some kind to help them cope with life, whether it be physical health or mental health conditions, anxiety, depression and therefore total abstinence is never going to be a realistic place for them to be in."

What's the Europe-wide picture on drug deaths?
Country Number per million of population
Scotland 160
Estonia 103
Sweden 100
Norway 76
UK 60
Lithuania 59
Denmark 58
Germany 27
European Union 21
  • Most figures are from 2015, some are from 2014 or earlier.For all countries apart from Scotland, the figures are taken from Table A6 of the EMCDDA's European Drug Report 2017[3], which is available from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction website.

What opposition parties are saying

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs said the figures were nothing short of "appalling".He went on to urge the government to embark on a new drugs strategy.Mr Briggs said:"People will be stunned that the death rate here is more than twice that of the rest of the UK, and that poses some extremely tough questions for the Scottish Government.For decades now we've had a drugs policy that simply parks people on methadone programmes, offering them zero hope of ever beating addiction completely."

Scottish Green health spokeswoman, Alison Johnstone, said that given the rise in drug deaths it made "little sense" as to why the Scottish government had cut funding for drug and alcohol initiatives.She added:We need a serious rethink of how we support people with addictions.Often, they are being asked to jump through hoops, where rather than making a single phone call to register for support, they are instructed to make phone calls and attend appointments at specific times - no easy thing to do if you're struggling with addiction and a chaotic lifestyle and little support.Regardless of location, equal access to a range of treatment is key."...

References

  1. ^ latest statistics from the National Records of Scotland (www.nrscotland.gov.uk)
  2. ^ Road to Recovery strategy (www.gov.scot)
  3. ^ European Drug Report 2017 (www.emcdda.europa.eu)

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Apology over Indian blood donation 'embarrassment'

Blood donations Image caption The Blood Transfusion Service has now clarified its malaria testing rules for Indian-born blood donors

The Blood Transfusion Service has apologised after 120 members of the Indian community were turned away from giving blood.

The blood drive was organised specifically for the Indian community last year, but confusion over criteria meant many were unable to donate[1].

Community leaders said they were left feeling "hugely embarrassed".

The Northern Ireland Blood transfusion Service (NIBTS) said there had been a "breakdown in communications".

"NIBTS fully accepts and apologises for the upset and inconvenience caused to those who attended the session and were unable to donate," it said.

It said the error was caused by confusion regarding "travel criteria for donors" ,and said "lessons learnt have been disseminated across the organisation to the relevant staff".

Malaria test

The BBC has obtained a copy of an internal report and staff e-mails from the NIBTS, through a freedom of information request.

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Media captionSurendran Varma said donations were refused on the basis of ethnic background rather than exposure to a malaria-risk zone

Dr Umesh Vijayam helped to organise the event, which took place last year, and said people had travelled from as far away as Londonderry, Bangor and Newry to take part.

"Around 30 people had already arrived, with many more on their way," he said.

"One of my friends went in to donate blood, he was very enthusiastic, he was first.

"They asked had he taken a malaria test since he was from India, a malaria-risk country."

Dr Vijayam said it was then that they realised that there was a problem.

Surendran Varma was also one of the group that organised the event and said that the community "wanted to do something unique".

Mr Varma said they had been campaigning for almost 10 months to recruit Indian donors by handling out pamphlets at three or four big Indian community events.

"It was the first blood drive for the Indian community and many people were excited," he said.

'Shocking'

He said that many people had taken a half day off work to donate blood and they planned to have a celebration meal afterwards.

Mr Varma said it was "really shocking and embarrassing" when they were told they could not donate.

"Initially it was annoying, why did they not communicate with us what was needed?" he said.

"I had to call all my friends that hadn't arrived and tell them not to come.

"They didn't check our passport to see if we were an Indian citizen or a British citizen.They just looked at our face.

"They never checked if you had travelled to India, it was just a blanket 'no'."

Image caption Dr Umesh Vijayam said enthusiastic donors were turned away from the Indian community's first blood drive

The emails between the former donor services manager, Charles Kinney, and the organisations medical director, Kathryn Maguire, point out that the organisation should have anticipated the problems in advance.

A NIBTS spokesperson told the BBC all donors were assessed individually and some Malarial Antibody Tests (MAT) were taken.

They have also clarified some of the criteria for Indian people to donate blood:

  • If the donor was born in India and spent a minimum of six months in the country, a Malarial Antibody Test will be required
  • If the person has never been a resident, i.e.just a visitor, the Geographical Disease Risk Index (GDRI) will be referred to in order to assess risk

NIBTS said that for all other donors, if it had been between four and 12 months since their return from a malaria-endemic area, a validated test for malarial antibody must be performed....

References

  1. ^ many were unable to donate (www.bbc.co.uk)

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Reunion after baby umbilical cord drama in Derbyshire

baby with mum and paramedic Image caption Baby Ella is perfectly healthy a year on from her birth

A baby who nearly died when the umbilical cord became caught around her neck during birth has been reunited with the paramedics who saved her life.

Ella Barber was born when her mother Michelle went into labour at their Derbyshire home on 15 August 2016.

Ms Barber's sister Jo Lambert called 999 when they realised there was a problem with the cord and Ella was struggling to breathe.

Paramedic Amanda Bird said it was "brilliant" she was now fully fit.

Live updates from the East Midlands[1]

Image caption Amanda Bird arrived at the home within three minutes of the emergency call

Michelle Barber, from Sandiacre, suddenly went into labour at home, but there was not enough time to get her to hospital.

Her sister realised the cord was wrapped around Ella's neck while talking to the emergency call handler.

"I was really scared." she said."Michelle was screaming 'she's going to die, she's going to die.'

"I just thought I need to get her breathing and I did my best."

Joanne Shepherd took the emergency call and told Ms Lambert calmly to slide her finger under the cord and carefully pull it over the baby's head.

She said:"It was only my second baby delivery coming out of training so one I won't forget...not an easy one, but a really nice outcome."

Image copyright Michelle Barber Image caption Michelle Barber and baby Ella not long after her dramatic birth

Ms Bird arrived at the house within three minutes of the call.

She said:"She wasn't breathing, she was blue and she needed stimulation to breathe otherwise she wouldn't be here today celebrating her first birthday.

"I was thinking 'come on you little monkey, you are going to breathe' and she did, which was wonderful."

She added that it was "absolutely brilliant" that Ella was fully fit a year on.

Mum Michelle said of the reunion:"It's amazing and lovely to catch up again...people don't normally get to see [medical staff] afterwards."...

References

  1. ^ Live updates from the East Midlands (www.bbc.co.uk)

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