News briefs

Cate Swannell
Med J Aust 2015; 203 (3): 126-127. || doi: 10.5694/mja15.n0803
Published online: 3 August 2015

Inhaled Ebola vaccine stops virus in monkeys

The New York Times reports that a single dose of a new, inhalable Ebola vaccine has neutralised the virus in monkeys. The study, conducted by University of Texas researchers, was published first in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. Four rhesus macaques were given one aerosol dose, four were given two aerosol doses and two were given the vaccine in liquid form. Two were not vaccinated, serving as controls. Four weeks after treatment, all the monkeys were given a dose of Ebola, 1000 times the fatal dose. A week later, the two unvaccinated monkeys died but the vaccinated animals remained healthy. The survivors were euthanised and their blood and tissues showed no sign of Ebola. The next step is for the National Institutes of Health to perform clinical trials on humans.

New CEO for Medical Deans is Carmel Tebbutt

Former New South Wales cabinet minister Carmel Tebbutt has been announced as the new chief executive officer of the Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand. She will replace incumbent Professor Judy Searle, who is retiring from the role after 2.5 years. Ms Tebbutt starts in the position on 19 October. She spent 11 years as a minister and senior member of the Cabinet in the NSW Parliament, with portfolio responsibilities across a number of areas including education and training, health, community services and the environment. “There are many challenges confronting medical education and research. I am looking forward to using my skills to forward the objectives of the Medical Deans”, Ms Tebbutt said. “One of my first tasks will be to meet with members and stakeholders to hear first-hand about the key issues for the sector.”

Tax on soft drinks: it’s working in Mexico

Health economists at the University of North Carolina in the US have studied Mexico’s 18-month-old “soda tax” and found that it is reducing consumption of sugar-heavy drinks in the country where annual consumption tops out at 163 litres per person, Wired reports. The one-peso-per-litre tax has caused a drop in consumption of an average of 6%, according to the researchers. “The decline accelerated as the year went on, reaching 12 percent by December [2014].” With plans to increase the tax to two pesos per litre, the results show that it was the poorest Mexicans who cut back on soda the most, averaging a 9% decline and peaking at 17%. Consumption of bottled water increased by 4% in the same time period. “A soda tax alone is not going to solve the entire obesity and diabetes epidemic”, the researchers concluded. Still, it might help “shift people’s mindset about these beverages. They’re not innocent”.

Non-invasive device could end finger pricking for people with diabetes

Science Daily reports on a new low-powered laser sensor that monitors blood glucose levels without penetrating the skin. Developed by a team at the University of Leeds in the UK, the device “has continuous monitoring capabilities making it ideal for development as a wearable device”. It could also be a simpler and cheaper alternative to the two current methods — finger pricking, using disposable sample strips, or invasive continuous monitors using implanted sensors that need regular replacement. “This technology opens up the potential for people with diabetes to receive continuous readings, meaning they are instantly alerted when intervention is needed. This will allow people to self-regulate and minimise emergency hospital treatment,” the researchers said.

Retracted papers cited years after withdrawal

Retraction Watch reports that disgraced American anaesthetist Scott Reuben’s retracted papers are still being cited 5 years after retraction, and only 25% of those citations correctly acknowledge the retraction, according to a new study, published in Science and Engineering Ethics. Reuben, who fabricated data, spent 6 months in prison in 2009, and has now accumulated 25 retractions. In the new paper, the authors counted 274 citations of 20 of Reuben’s papers between 2009 and 2014, 45% of them more than once. “Our paper shows that perpetuation of retracted publications is still an ongoing problem in our scientific community… In addition, we could demonstrate that, despite the overall number of citations of retracted publications decreasing over the years, the percentage of correctly labeled citations dropped even more.”

  • Cate Swannell



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