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Autism can be diagnosed in babies, IVF does not lead to higher cancer risk and why horrible bosses are even more damaging than you think

A round-up of the health news headlines on Thursday 7 November.

We start today with the BBC’s report that autism can be identified in babies as young as two months from looking at their faces for signs of diminished eye contact.

The findings, published in Nature, could have implications for earlier intervention in tackling autism, researchers from the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta concluded.

The researchers used eye-tracking technology on 59 infants who had a high risk of autism and 51 infants at low risk to measure the way babies looked and responded to social clues. Infants who were later diagnosed with autism showed a steady decline in attention to the eyes of other people from the age of two months.

Lead researcher Dr Warren Jones told the BBC: ‘It tells us for the first time that it’s possible to detect some signs of autism in the first months of life. These are the earliest signs of autism that we’ve ever observed.’

Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that UK researchers have found that babies born as a result of fertility treatment are at no higher risk of developing cancer than other children.

The study of 106,013 children born as a result of IVF between 1992 and 2008, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that 108 children had developed cancer, compared with the 110 they had expected to find based on average risks to the population as a whole.

Dr Alastair Sutcliffe, an author of the Cancer Research UK-funded study who is a consultant paediatrician at University College London Hospital, said: ‘Our findings suggest that children conceived with IVF techniques have no greater risk of childhood cancer overall than naturally conceived children.’

And finally today, a story in the Daily Mail which may or may not apply to you - that working for a difficult boss can damage employees’ immune systems.

Researchers from Ohio State University studied mice and found that chronic stress causes changes in the gene activity in immune cells. This results in the cells being primed to fight an infection that doesn’t exist, causing inflammation in the body.

When compared with studies of people living in poor areas, the researchers found their blood samples contained similarly primed immune cells.

Dr John Sheridan from Ohio State University, who is co-lead author of the study, said: ‘The cells share many of the same characteristics in terms of their response to stress.’

‘There is a stress-induced alteration in the bone marrow in both our mouse model and in chronically stressed humans that selects for a cell that’s going to be pro-inflammatory.

‘So what this suggests is that if you’re working for a really bad boss over a long period of time, that experience may play out at the level of gene expression in your immune system.’

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