Asthma drug shows promise
MEPOLIZUMAB, a humanised monoclonal antibody against interleukin 5, is a potentially important advance in asthma treatment because it seems to be a safe and effective option for the subgroup of patients with eosinophilic asthma and might allow safe withdrawal of oral corticosteroids, according to research in The Lancet. The researchers undertook a multicentre, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial at 81 centres in 13 countries of patients aged 12–74 years with a history of recurrent severe asthma exacerbations and signs of eosinophilic inflammation. Subjects received 13 infusions of mepolizumab at 4-week intervals, or a matched placebo. Mepolizumab significantly reduced the number of asthma exacerbations in patients with severe eosinophilic asthma compared with placebo. The treatment also lowered blood and sputum eosinophil counts and was well tolerated for 12 months.

Heavy drinking consequences
PRENATAL growth restriction caused by heavy drinking in pregnancy persists until the child is 9 years old and can delay weight gain during infancy, according to research in Alcoholism: Clinical And Experimental Research. The study of 85 heavy drinking women and 63 light or non-drinking women in South Africa followed their children to 9 years of age and found the longitudinal effects of alcohol on growth were largely determined at the time of birth.

Hearing loss screening doubts
CURRENT evidence is not sufficient to recommend screening for hearing loss in asymptomatic adults aged 50 years or older according to an update of the US Preventive Services Task Force recommendation on screening for hearing impairment in older adults, published in Annals of Internal Medicine. The task force reviewed randomised, controlled trials and controlled observational studies, published between 1950 and 2010, on screening for age-related sensorineural hearing impairment in older adults without diagnosed hearing loss in the primary care setting. They found that without additional study, the relative value and likelihood of success of detecting and treating hearing loss in those who were not aware of a problem or who had not sought care for perceived hearing loss were unclear.

Blood group determines CHD risk
DATA from a meta-analysis published in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology suggest that ABO blood group is significantly associated with coronary heart disease (CHD). The researchers used data from the Nurses’ Health Study (62 073 women) and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (27 428 men), with more than 20 years of follow-up. They found a significantly elevated risk of incident CHD for participants with blood group A or B or AB, compared with those with blood group O. The highest risk was observed for blood group AB, followed by blood groups B and A. The researchers said the mechanisms underlying the associations between ABO blood group and CHD risk remained unclear. However, several lines of evidence supported its potential cardiovascular effects.

Overtraining stops learning
TOO much consecutive training, or overtraining, has detrimental effects on learning according to Australian research published in Proceedings of Royal Society B. Researchers from the University of NSW used 31 undergraduate students to test their learning of motion discrimination. They said learning was restored with the introduction of a 1-hour break. The findings showed that overtraining interfered with wakeful consolidation and that brief naps between sessions prevented perceptual deterioration and restored learning. The researchers proposed that a 1-hour break allowed the memory traces formed during training to consolidate and develop immunity to saturation from overtraining.


Cocoa lowers BP
FLAVANOL-rich chocolate and cocoa products may have a small but statistically significant effect in lowering blood pressure, according to a review of randomised controlled trails published by The Cochrane Library. The meta-analysis of 20 studies involving 856 mainly healthy participants revealed a small but statistically significant reduction in blood pressure of –2.8 mmHg systolic and –2.2 mmHg diastolic. The researchers said they were unable to identify any trials that tested the effect of long-term daily ingestion of cocoa products on blood pressure and no trials measured an effect on clinical outcomes related to hypertension such as cardiac events or strokes.

Posted 20 August 2012

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