Riviste scientifiche

Allow lesbians to use ‘three-parent’ baby IVF to have children

New Scientist - Me, 07/03/2018 - 17:08
Mitochondrial replacement techniques should be used to help same-sex female couples have children genetically-related to both partners, says Alex Pearlman

23andMe’s breast cancer test may create false sense of security

New Scientist - Me, 07/03/2018 - 16:48
Genomics firm 23andMe is the first to receive approval for direct-to-consumer cancer gene tests in the US, but will recipients misunderstand the results?

People with Tourette’s may be better at learning without trying

New Scientist - Me, 07/03/2018 - 16:38
People with Tourette’s syndrome are better at learning tasks unconsciously – an ability that may make it easier for them to learn a second language or to drive

Puppy smart toy reveals who’ll be a good guide dog

New Scientist - Me, 07/03/2018 - 15:53
Is your dog tough enough? As 60 per cent of all guide dogs fail guide dog training, smart toys that predict which ones will can save time and money

A deadly predator could save the UK’s threatened red squirrels

New Scientist - Me, 07/03/2018 - 01:01
Britain’s native red squirrels have been retreating for decades in the face of invasive grey squirrels, but predators called pine martens could help save them

Effect and cost-effectiveness of educating mothers about childhood DPT vaccination on immunisation uptake, knowledge, and perceptions in Uttar Pradesh, India: A randomised controlled trial

PLoS Medicine - Ma, 06/03/2018 - 23:00

by Timothy Powell-Jackson, Camilla Fabbri, Varun Dutt, Sarah Tougher, Kultar Singh


To assess the effect of health information on immunisation uptake in rural India, we conducted an individually randomised controlled trial of health information messages targeting the mothers of unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated children through home visits in rural Uttar Pradesh, India.

Methods and findings

The study tested a brief intervention that provided mothers face-to-face with information on the benefits of the tetanus vaccine. Participants were 722 mothers of children aged 0–36 months who had not received 3 doses of diphtheria–pertussis–tetanus (DPT) vaccine (DPT3). Mothers were randomly assigned in a ratio of 1:1:1 to 1 of 3 study arms: mothers in the first treatment group received information framed as a gain (e.g., the child is less likely to get tetanus and more likely to be healthy if vaccinated), mothers in the second treatment group received information framed in terms of a loss (e.g., the child is more likely to get tetanus and suffer ill health if not vaccinated), and the third arm acted as a control group, with no information given to the mother. Surveys were conducted at baseline (September 2015) and after the intervention (April 2016). The primary outcome was the proportion of children who had received DPT3 measured after 7 months of follow-up. The analysis was by intention to treat. A total of 16 (2.2%) participants were lost to follow-up. The coverage of DPT3 was 28% in the control group and 43% in the pooled information groups, giving a risk difference of 15 percentage points (95% CI: 7% to 22%, p < 0.001) and a relative risk of 1.52 (95% CI: 1.2 to 1.9, p < 0.001). The information intervention increased the rate of measles vaccination by 22 percentage points (risk difference: 22%, 95% CI: 14% to 30%, p < 0.001; relative risk: 1.53, 95% CI: 1.29 to 1.80) and the rate of full immunisation by 14 percentage points (risk difference: 14%, 95% CI: 8% to 21%, p < 0.001; relative risk: 1.72, 95% CI: 1.29 to 2.29). It had a large positive effect on knowledge of the causes, symptoms, and prevention of tetanus but no effect on perceptions of vaccine efficacy. There was no difference in the proportion of children with DPT3 between the group that received information framed as a loss and the group that received information framed as a gain (risk difference: 4%, 95% CI: −5% to 13%; p = 0.352; relative risk: 1.11, 95% CI: 0.90 to 1.36). The cost per disability-adjusted life year averted of providing information was US$186, making the intervention highly cost-effective with respect to the WHO-recommended threshold of once the gross domestic product per capita (US$793 in the case of Uttar Pradesh). Key study limitations include the modest sample size for this trial, limiting power to detect small differences in the framing of information, and the potential for contamination among households.


Providing mothers of unvaccinated/incompletely vaccinated children with information on tetanus and the benefits of DPT vaccination substantially increased immunisation coverage and was highly cost-effective. The framing of the health information message did not appear to matter.

Trial registration

The trial is registered with ISRCTN, number ISRCTN84560580.

The current and potential health benefits of the National Health Service Health Check cardiovascular disease prevention programme in England: A microsimulation study

PLoS Medicine - Ma, 06/03/2018 - 23:00

by Oliver T. Mytton, Christopher Jackson, Arno Steinacher, Anna Goodman, Claudia Langenberg, Simon Griffin, Nick Wareham, James Woodcock


The National Health Service (NHS) Health Check programme was introduced in 2009 in England to systematically assess all adults in midlife for cardiovascular disease risk factors. However, its current benefit and impact on health inequalities are unknown. It is also unclear whether feasible changes in how it is delivered could result in increased benefits. It is one of the first such programmes in the world. We sought to estimate the health benefits and effect on inequalities of the current NHS Health Check programme and the impact of making feasible changes to its implementation.

Methods and findings

We developed a microsimulation model to estimate the health benefits (incident ischaemic heart disease, stroke, dementia, and lung cancer) of the NHS Health Check programme in England. We simulated a population of adults in England aged 40–45 years and followed until age 100 years, using data from the Health Survey of England (2009–2012) and the English Longitudinal Study of Aging (1998–2012), to simulate changes in risk factors for simulated individuals over time. We used recent programme data to describe uptake of NHS Health Checks and of 4 associated interventions (statin medication, antihypertensive medication, smoking cessation, and weight management). Estimates of treatment efficacy and adherence were based on trial data. We estimated the benefits of the current NHS Health Check programme compared to a healthcare system without systematic health checks. This counterfactual scenario models the detection and treatment of risk factors that occur within ‘routine’ primary care. We also explored the impact of making feasible changes to implementation of the programme concerning eligibility, uptake of NHS Health Checks, and uptake of treatments offered through the programme. We estimate that the NHS Health Check programme prevents 390 (95% credible interval 290 to 500) premature deaths before 80 years of age and results in an additional 1,370 (95% credible interval 1,100 to 1,690) people being free of disease (ischaemic heart disease, stroke, dementia, and lung cancer) at age 80 years per million people aged 40–45 years at baseline. Over the life of the cohort (i.e., followed from 40–45 years to 100 years), the changes result in an additional 10,000 (95% credible interval 8,200 to 13,000) quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) and an additional 9,000 (6,900 to 11,300) years of life. This equates to approximately 300 fewer premature deaths and 1,000 more people living free of these diseases each year in England. We estimate that the current programme is increasing QALYs by 3.8 days (95% credible interval 3.0–4.7) per head of population and increasing survival by 3.3 days (2.5–4.1) per head of population over the 60 years of follow-up. The current programme has a greater absolute impact on health for those living in the most deprived areas compared to those living in the least deprived areas (4.4 [2.7–6.5] days of additional quality-adjusted life per head of population versus 2.8 [1.7–4.0] days; 5.1 [3.4–7.1] additional days lived per head of population versus 3.3 [2.1–4.5] days). Making feasible changes to the delivery of the existing programme could result in a sizable increase in the benefit. For example, a strategy that combines extending eligibility to those with preexisting hypertension, extending the upper age of eligibility to 79 years, increasing uptake of health checks by 30%, and increasing treatment rates 2.5-fold amongst eligible patients (i.e., ‘maximum potential’ scenario) results in at least a 3-fold increase in benefits compared to the current programme (1,360 premature deaths versus 390; 5,100 people free of 1 of the 4 diseases versus 1,370; 37,000 additional QALYs versus 10,000; 33,000 additional years of life versus 9,000). Ensuring those who are assessed and eligible for statins receive statins is a particularly important strategy to increase benefits. Estimates of overall benefit are based on current incidence and management, and future declines in disease incidence or improvements in treatment could alter the actual benefits observed in the long run. We have focused on the cardiovascular element of the NHS Health Check programme. Some important noncardiovascular health outcomes (e.g., chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD] prevention from smoking cessation and cancer prevention from weight loss) and other parts of the programme (e.g., brief interventions to reduce harmful alcohol consumption) have not been modelled.


Our model indicates that the current NHS Health Check programme is contributing to improvements in health and reducing health inequalities. Feasible changes in the organisation of the programme could result in more than a 3-fold increase in health benefits.

Patterns and temporal trends of comorbidity among adult patients with incident cardiovascular disease in the UK between 2000 and 2014: A population-based cohort study

PLoS Medicine - Ma, 06/03/2018 - 23:00

by Jenny Tran, Robyn Norton, Nathalie Conrad, Fatemeh Rahimian, Dexter Canoy, Milad Nazarzadeh, Kazem Rahimi


Multimorbidity in people with cardiovascular disease (CVD) is common, but large-scale contemporary reports of patterns and trends in patients with incident CVD are limited. We investigated the burden of comorbidities in patients with incident CVD, how it changed between 2000 and 2014, and how it varied by age, sex, and socioeconomic status (SES).

Methods and findings

We used the UK Clinical Practice Research Datalink with linkage to Hospital Episode Statistics, a population-based dataset from 674 UK general practices covering approximately 7% of the current UK population. We estimated crude and age/sex-standardised (to the 2013 European Standard Population) prevalence and 95% confidence intervals for 56 major comorbidities in individuals with incident non-fatal CVD. We further assessed temporal trends and patterns by age, sex, and SES groups, between 2000 and 2014. Among a total of 4,198,039 people aged 16 to 113 years, 229,205 incident cases of non-fatal CVD, defined as first diagnosis of ischaemic heart disease, stroke, or transient ischaemic attack, were identified. Although the age/sex-standardised incidence of CVD decreased by 34% between 2000 to 2014, the proportion of CVD patients with higher numbers of comorbidities increased. The prevalence of having 5 or more comorbidities increased 4-fold, rising from 6.3% (95% CI 5.6%–17.0%) in 2000 to 24.3% (22.1%–34.8%) in 2014 in age/sex-standardised models. The most common comorbidities in age/sex-standardised models were hypertension (28.9% [95% CI 27.7%–31.4%]), depression (23.0% [21.3%–26.0%]), arthritis (20.9% [19.5%–23.5%]), asthma (17.7% [15.8%–20.8%]), and anxiety (15.0% [13.7%–17.6%]). Cardiometabolic conditions and arthritis were highly prevalent among patients aged over 40 years, and mental illnesses were highly prevalent in patients aged 30–59 years. The age-standardised prevalence of having 5 or more comorbidities was 19.1% (95% CI 17.2%–22.7%) in women and 12.5% (12.0%–13.9%) in men, and women had twice the age-standardised prevalence of depression (31.1% [28.3%–35.5%] versus 15.0% [14.3%–16.5%]) and anxiety (19.6% [17.6%–23.3%] versus 10.4% [9.8%–11.8%]). The prevalence of depression was 46% higher in the most deprived fifth of SES compared with the least deprived fifth (age/sex-standardised prevalence of 38.4% [31.2%–62.0%] versus 26.3% [23.1%–34.5%], respectively). This is a descriptive study of routine electronic health records in the UK, which might underestimate the true prevalence of diseases.


The burden of multimorbidity and comorbidity in patients with incident non-fatal CVD increased between 2000 and 2014. On average, older patients, women, and socioeconomically deprived groups had higher numbers of comorbidities, but the type of comorbidities varied by age and sex. Cardiometabolic conditions contributed substantially to the burden, but 4 out of the 10 top comorbidities were non-cardiometabolic. The current single-disease paradigm in CVD management needs to broaden and incorporate the large and increasing burden of comorbidities.

Trajectories of functional decline in older adults with neuropsychiatric and cardiovascular multimorbidity: A Swedish cohort study

PLoS Medicine - Ma, 06/03/2018 - 23:00

by Davide L. Vetrano, Debora Rizzuto, Amaia Calderón-Larrañaga, Graziano Onder, Anna-Karin Welmer, Roberto Bernabei, Alessandra Marengoni, Laura Fratiglioni


Functional decline is a strong health determinant in older adults, and chronic diseases play a major role in this age-related phenomenon. In this study, we explored possible clinical pathways underlying functional heterogeneity in older adults by quantifying the impact of cardiovascular (CV) and neuropsychiatric (NP) chronic diseases and their co-occurrence on trajectories of functional decline.

Methods and findings

We studied 2,385 people ≥60 years (range 60–101 years) participating in the Swedish National study of Aging and Care in Kungsholmen (SNAC-K). Participants underwent clinical examination at baseline (2001–2004) and every 3 or 6 years for up to 9 years. We grouped participants on the basis of 7 mutually exclusive clinical patterns of 0, 1, or more CV and NP diseases and their co-occurrence, from a group without any CV and NP disease to a group characterised by the presence of CV or NP multimorbidity, accompanied by at least 1 other CV or NP disorder. The group with no CV and/or NP diseases served as the reference group. Functional decline was estimated over 9 years of follow-up by measuring mobility (walking speed, m/s) and independence (ability to carry out six activities of daily living [ADL]). Mixed-effect linear regression models were used (1) to explore the individual-level prognostic predictivity of the different CV and NP clinical patterns at baseline and (2) to quantify the association between the clinical patterns and functional decline at the group level by entering the clinical patterns as time-varying measures. During the 9-year follow-up, participants with multiple CV and NP diseases had the steepest decline in walking speed (up to 0.7 m/s; p < 0.001) and ADL independence (up to three impairments in ADL, p < 0.001) (reference group: participants without any CV and NP disease). When the clinical patterns were analyzed as time varying, isolated CV multimorbidity impacted only walking speed (β −0.1; p < 0.001). Conversely, all the clinical patterns that included at least 1 NP disease were significantly associated with decline in both walking speed (β −0.21–−0.08; p < 0.001) and ADL independence (β −0.27–−0.06; p < 0.05). Groups with the most complex clinical patterns had 5%–20% lower functioning at follow-up than the reference group. Key limitations of the study include that we did not take into account the specific weight of single diseases and their severity and that the exclusion of participants with less than 2 assessments may have led to an underestimation of the tested associations.


In older adults, different patterns of CV and NP morbidity lead to different trajectories of functional decline over time, a finding that explains part of the heterogeneity observed in older adults’ functionality. NP diseases, alone or in association, are prevalent and major determinants of functional decline, whereas isolated CV multimorbidity is associated only with declines in mobility.

Multimorbidity and survival for patients with acute myocardial infarction in England and Wales: Latent class analysis of a nationwide population-based cohort

PLoS Medicine - Ma, 06/03/2018 - 23:00

by Marlous Hall, Tatendashe B. Dondo, Andrew T. Yan, Mamas A. Mamas, Adam D. Timmis, John E. Deanfield, Tomas Jernberg, Harry Hemingway, Keith A. A. Fox, Chris P. Gale


There is limited knowledge of the scale and impact of multimorbidity for patients who have had an acute myocardial infarction (AMI). Therefore, this study aimed to determine the extent to which multimorbidity is associated with long-term survival following AMI.

Methods and findings

This national observational study included 693,388 patients (median age 70.7 years, 452,896 [65.5%] male) from the Myocardial Ischaemia National Audit Project (England and Wales) who were admitted with AMI between 1 January 2003 and 30 June 2013. There were 412,809 (59.5%) patients with multimorbidity at the time of admission with AMI, i.e., having at least 1 of the following long-term health conditions: diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or asthma, heart failure, renal failure, cerebrovascular disease, peripheral vascular disease, or hypertension. Those with heart failure, renal failure, or cerebrovascular disease had the worst outcomes (39.5 [95% CI 39.0–40.0], 38.2 [27.7–26.8], and 26.6 [25.2–26.4] deaths per 100 person-years, respectively). Latent class analysis revealed 3 multimorbidity phenotype clusters: (1) a high multimorbidity class, with concomitant heart failure, peripheral vascular disease, and hypertension, (2) a medium multimorbidity class, with peripheral vascular disease and hypertension, and (3) a low multimorbidity class. Patients in class 1 were less likely to receive pharmacological therapies compared with class 2 and 3 patients (including aspirin, 83.8% versus 87.3% and 87.2%, respectively; β-blockers, 74.0% versus 80.9% and 81.4%; and statins, 80.6% versus 85.9% and 85.2%). Flexible parametric survival modelling indicated that patients in class 1 and class 2 had a 2.4-fold (95% CI 2.3–2.5) and 1.5-fold (95% CI 1.4–1.5) increased risk of death and a loss in life expectancy of 2.89 and 1.52 years, respectively, compared with those in class 3 over the 8.4-year follow-up period. The study was limited to all-cause mortality due to the lack of available cause-specific mortality data. However, we isolated the disease-specific association with mortality by providing the loss in life expectancy following AMI according to multimorbidity phenotype cluster compared with the general age-, sex-, and year-matched population.


Multimorbidity among patients with AMI was common, and conferred an accumulative increased risk of death. Three multimorbidity phenotype clusters that were significantly associated with loss in life expectancy were identified and should be a concomitant treatment target to improve cardiovascular outcomes.

Trial registration

ClinicalTrials.gov NCT03037255.

Drones reveal huge colonies of 1.5 million penguins on islands

New Scientist - Ma, 06/03/2018 - 18:20
Two massive colonies of Adélie penguins have been discovered on the Danger Islands off the coast of Antarctica, bringing the global population to 8 million

We could find advanced aliens by looking for their space junk

New Scientist - Ma, 06/03/2018 - 17:29
If there are alien civilisations as technologically advanced as us, we could possibly find them by looking for rings of orbiting satellites around their worlds

England needs to go on a diet, but new calorie plan won’t work

New Scientist - Ma, 06/03/2018 - 15:44
Public Health England is launching new schemes to reduce people’s calorie intake, but history suggests they won’t solve the growing obesity problem

Nice prize for Alzheimer’s work, shame about the lack of a cure

New Scientist - Ma, 06/03/2018 - 15:00
The prestigious annual Brain prize has gone to work on Alzheimer's disease. That's fine, but the failure to find new treatments is worrying, says Jacqui Wise

Doctors race to identify poison affecting former Russian spy

New Scientist - Ma, 06/03/2018 - 14:06
The substance that left Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal in intensive care in hospital was either delivered in a massive dose, or is a rapidly-acting poison

Australia’s cervical cancer vaccine might eradicate the disease

New Scientist - Ma, 06/03/2018 - 13:37
A national school-based vaccination programme has seen the number of young women with human papillomavirus (HPV) infections fall from 22.7 to 1.5 per cent

Science too must tackle the gender pay gap

New Scientist - Ma, 06/03/2018 - 10:00
It’s high time countries enforced equal pay laws, as a New Scientist/SRG survey reveals the magnitude of the gender pay gap in science and engineering

AI reconstructs whatever you see just by reading a brain scan

New Scientist - Lu, 05/03/2018 - 18:05
An algorithm can reconstruct pictures a person is looking at from brain scans, could one day be used to tell what someone is thinking

A twist in graphene lets you switch superconductivity on and off

New Scientist - Lu, 05/03/2018 - 17:00
Two atomically thin layers of graphene can be misaligned just slightly to produce a superconductive material for super-efficient energy delivery

Fossil shows a parent caring for its young 520 million years ago

New Scientist - Lu, 05/03/2018 - 15:03
Rare remains show a primitive shrimp-like creature apparently caring for four juveniles – the oldest example of parental care in the fossil record
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