New melanoma drug
A new drug has been shown to shrink melanomas in an international clinical trial which included some Australian patients, according to the ABC. The drug turns off the proteins that drive cancer cell growth, significantly reducing the size of the tumours, and in one case, leading to complete regression.

Flu shot death not ruled out
A Queensland coroner has ruled that a Fluvax shot may have contributed to the death of a Brisbane two-year-old in April and has sparked calls for improved testing procedures before the release of mass vaccinations, The Australian has reported. The coroner said though there was no finding to causally connect the child’s death with the flu vaccination, a link between the vaccination and the death could not be “absolutely excluded”.

Disease alert for flooded Victorians
Victorians have been warned of a potential outbreak of Ross River Virus (epidemic polyarthritis) as floodwaters recede, according to The Age. The Department of Health had warned that pools of stagnant water from the floods would be an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes, it reported.

Rural doctors push for workforce funding
The Rural Doctors Association of Australia is pushing country independents to lobby for a $400 million boost to the regional health workforce. That is on top of the $1.8 billion infrastructure boost that was part of their deal with Labor that handed Julia Gillard power, The Australian has reported. Without this, they said, the revamped hospitals would not lead to better health services.

Regional hospitals lag on critical cases
Large regional hospitals are struggling to treat emergency department patients needing urgent attention on time, the Sydney Morning Herald has reported. It said independent statistics highlighted big variations in the time in which Australian triage scale Category 3 – which includes those whose condition is deemed ”potentially life threatening” – were treated. The regional hospitals’ category 3 performance was the worst in the state.

Vitamin B supplements delay Alzheimer’s
Taking daily B vitamin supplements may delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, according to research reported in the Guardian. Some participants in the Oxford University trial saw their neurological decline reduced by as much as half after using B vitamins, according to the report.

Low vitamin D linked to schizophrenia
Babies born with low vitamin D levels may have an increased risk of developing schizophrenia later in life, according to a 3-year study testing blood samples from babies in Denmark, the ABC reported. Researchers found that having low vitamin D levels doubles the risk of developing the disorder.

Australians say no to swine flu jab
Only one in five Australian adults had taken up the offer of a free vaccination against swine flu by the end of February, the ABC has reported, and most have no intention of taking it up according to Australian Institute of Health and Welfare research. This was despite efforts by doctors to get as many people as possible vaccinated.

Statins cut rheumatoid arthritis risks
Taking statins may reduce the risk of rheumatoid arthritis, according to an Israeli study of 1.8 million patients. The BBC reported that the study found the condition was less likely to develop in those who took the cholesterol drugs. It is hoped that statins might also ease symptoms in those already diagnosed.

Japan latest to report “superbug”
Japan has reported an infection of bacteria carrying the NDM-1 (New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase-1) “superbug” gene, joining Australia, the US, Canada, Britain, parts of Europe and Pakistan as countries with confirmed occurrences of the bacteria, according to The Australian. The bacterium is thought to have originated in India and is resistant to almost all antibiotics.

Posted 13 September 2010

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