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Researchers may have taken one step closer to developing a breathalyser that can detect the presence of illegal drugs. The findings could have important implications when it comes to roadside testing in the future. Read the rest of this entry »
UK residents aged 70 or over may be eligible to take advantage of a new vaccination programme which is being launched in September. The healthcare initiative is being introduced to help lower the incidence rates associated with shingles in the country.
The NHS estimates that three in every 1,000 people are affected by the condition each year, with prevalence highest in the over-50s. The infection is caused when the herpes varicella-zoster virus, which causes chicken pox, is reactivated later in life.
A vaccination called Zostavax can reduce a person's chance of contracting the condition by 50 to 70 per cent, according to the healthcare provider, although patients today will usually have to fund the jab privately.
However, the new programme will see over-70s, who are most prone to complications, routinely administered the vaccination. BBC News reports that 800,000 elderly people in England will be protected in the first year alone.
The vaccine works by introducing a weakened form of the virus into the recipient's body. This allows the immune system to generate antibodies which destroy the disease without threat of serious infection.
Memory cells retain the coding information required to produce these pathogen-fighting proteins, and are activated in the event of reinfection. This means that the immune system is more quickly equipped to fight off the virus.
It should prevent many people from suffering the symptoms, which include exhaustion, a painful rash and fever, as well as complications such as transverse myelitis (inflammation of the spinal cord) and scarring of the cornea.
Since the vaccination should help to prevent many hospitalisations, the Department of Health estimated that the programme will save the organisation £20 million per year. It is thought that the scheme will cost £25 million annually to implement.
University of Bristol's Professor Adam Finn told the BBC: "There's a cost involved in both buying and giving the vaccines but there's also enormous savings from all the disease that you prevent. Not only suffering and some deaths but also all the costs of hospitalisation, not to mention all the inconvenience, people taking time off work to look after their children and so on and so forth."
Self-care is an extremely important aspect of the treatment course in asthmatic patients, and new research indicates that the well being of children with the condition could be improved if they were simply sent a relevant text message each day.
Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology replicated conditions of a study presented at the Proceedings of the Second ACM SIGHIT International Health Informatics Symposium in order to determine whether communicating with young patients in this way was beneficial.
Investigators recruited 30 asthmatic ten to 17-year-olds who were attending a private pediatric pulmonology clinic and randomly assigned them into three different groups so that they could compare the effects of different experimental conditions.
One set of participants was sent a text message per day, which prompted them to consider their symptoms or provided them a piece of information concerning the respiratory illness. Another received this communication every other day.
The remaining subjects acted as a control group, and were not sent any messages. Researchers ensured that all children involved were able to understand the texts by checking that they had attained a certain reading level.
Investigators then analysed clinical outcomes of the youngsters by looking at healthcare records and gaining information from physicians, and cross-referenced outcomes of each group to determine whether there were any significant trends.
Findings revealed that sending one text message per day was associated with improved wellbeing. This might involve lower incidence of symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, tightness in the chest or breathlessness.
Lead author of the study Rosa Arriaga said: "It appears that text messages acted as an implicit reminder for patients to take their medicine and by the end of the study, the kids were more in tune with their illness."
Findings were presented at the ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems 2013, and could have implications in terms of treating other illnesses. Many patients could benefit from prompts which motivate them to take their medicine.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), half of people fail to take drugs correctly. This could be having a hugely detrimental impact on their quality of life.