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Bacterial 'alchemy', a review of urgent care and why early HIV treatment is best

A roundup of the health news headlines on Friday 18 January.

The medical director of the NHS is to open the door on a nationwide programme of A&E closures, by launching a review of the ‘fragmented’ service the network provides, The Telegraph writes this morning.

Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, medical director of the NHS in England, has announced he will lead a review of the model of urgent and emergency services. It ‘will set out proposals for the best way of organising care to meet the needs of patients’ according to the NHS Commissioning Board.

Announcing the review, Sir Bruce said current services were too ‘fragmented and complex’ and people do not know where they should be going for help.

He said: ‘We have urgent care centres, walk-in centres - 11 or 14 names for these things. It confuses me, let alone people who want to interact with the NHS.’

The Daily Mail has reported that doctors should give HIV drugs straight away after diagnosis to slow the virus down - and reduce the risk of passing it on. Patients usually only receive antiretrovirals once their immune system has been weakened by the infection, but a trial found that giving a course of treatment after diagnosis had a long-term protective effect. It meant that virus levels remained low long after early treatment finished - so lowering risk of passing it on.

Study leader Dr Sarah Fidler at Imperial College London said: ‘These results are promising and suggest that a year-long course of treatment for people recently infected with HIV may have some benefit on the immune system, as well as helping control the virus. The treatment also reduces the amount of virus in the body for some time after the patient has stopped taking the medication. This could be very important for helping reduce the risk of passing on the virus to a sexual partner.’

Meanwhile on the BBC, Scottish scientists have caught infectious bacteria performing ‘biological alchemy’ to transform parts of a host body into those more suited to their purposes. The study, in the journal Cell, showed leprosy-causing bacteria turning nerves into stem cells and muscle.

The authors said the ‘clever and sophisticated’ technique could further therapies and stem-cell research. One of the researchers, Professor Anura Rambukkana, said: ‘Our body’s cells can be manipulated and why would a bacterium not take advantage of that?’

 

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