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An end to insulin injections for diabetes, why cord clamping straight after birth could harm babies and a breath of fresh air for hospital infections

People with diabetes could be spared the hassle of insulin injections if the promise of a new hormone treatment is realised. The Telegraph reports a Harvard University team has shown that giving mice the hormone betatrophin, which stimulates production of beta cells, ups the release of insulin more than 30 fold.

Dr Doug Melton, one of the researchers, said: ‘If this could be used in people it could eventually mean that instead of taking insulin injections three times a day, you might take an injection of this hormone once a week or once a month, or in the best case maybe even once a year.’

Elsewhere, the BBC says the NHS could cut the rate of hospital infections by simply opening the windows in stuffy buildings. UK researchers traced carbon dioxide released from balloons to track the airflow on traditional Nightingale wards. Using computer models they showed that keeping the windows closed ‘increased the risk of infection four fold’.

Newer hospital buildings have closed ventilation systems to manage the problem of outside air pollution, but while older hospitals are still in use, keeping their windows open could ‘dramatically’ reduce the risk of infections, the investigators say. Simple household extractor fans could be fitted to deal with the problem in winter.

Researcher Dr Cath Noakes said: ‘What we found was that when the windows are open, these wards are very good.’

However, she added: ‘People are being told to seal up their buildings to save energy. We found, if you do that without alternative ventilation systems, you could be increasing the airborne infection risk significantly.’

And over on the Guardian, research on childbirth suggests the NHS policy to clamp and cut umbilical cords straight after birth should be reviewed, because it deprives the baby of vital blood supplies from the placenta. Experts want maternity staff to wait for anything between 30 seconds and five minutes until the cord stops pulsating naturally. Clamping and cutting the cord immediately could deny babies up to a third their total blood volume, increasing the risk of anaemia – which is common in newborns.

Andrew Gallagher, consultant paediatrician at the Worcestershire royal hospital, which adopted delayed cord-clamping in 2009, said: ‘Immediate cord-clamping is a harmful practice because it denies the baby the blood from the placenta, and means that later on they are more likely to become iron-deficient. That matters because iron deficiency can cause serious problems. It affects the brain and learning capacity of toddlers … [who] are going to be slower to learn, for example to speak and to understand.’

NICE says it is currently reviewing its cord-clamping guidance, due to be published in 2014.

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