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Independents' Day

Daily Digest 25 September 2009

By Umia Kukathasan

Today's roundup of the GP and other health stories making the headlines - including a breakthrough in the search for an HIV vaccine and signs that swine flu is starting its second wave.

The elusive HIV vaccine has moved a step closer to reality with results from a trial conducted by the US army and the Thai ministry of public health. A combination of the two drugs Alvac and AidsVac provided a 31% protection against HIV infection. With 16,000 male and female HIV negative volunteers, it is the biggest Aids vaccine trial to date. Of the 8,000 that received the vaccine 51 became HIV positive, compared to 74 in the placebo cohort. This modest success gives researchers some hope after over two decades of work. The Guardian offers an interesting Q&A on the topic.

Swine Flu cases in England almost doubled last week from 5,200 to 9,000, with at least 66 schools reporting outbreaks and currently 25 people in intensive care in England. The BBC reports that the Scottish Health Ministry is considering setting up a specialist swine flu treatment unit.

Alcohol hand gel intended to combat swine flu is posing its own hazards. Reports earlier in the year from hospitals raised concerns about theft of gel dispensers by substance abusers. Now the gel has been removed from prisoners at HMP The Verne, in Portland, Dorset, after inmates showed signs of intoxication. The Daily Mail helpfully explains the production process to make the gel drinkable.

GBL, a legal drug similar to the banned ‘date rape drug' GBH is becoming increasingly problematic according to the Sun, the Mail, the Mirror and the Telegraph. The drug which can be bought easily can even be extracted from some high street products and is an ingredient in some beauty products. The Government this week launched a £200,000 publicity campaign about the dangers of GBL aimed at university students.

Obesity may become the leading cause of cancer in women within the next decade reports the Daily Telegraph, which features research claiming obesity accounted for 54% of new cases across Europe, with almost double the number of obesity related cancers reported last year, compared to 2002.

Pregnant women taking two or more kinds of SSRI may quadruple their risk of having a baby with heart defects reports the Telegraph According to the RCGP it is a ‘rare but serious' risk of persistent pulmonary hypertension in the newborn baby if taken after the 20th week of pregnancy. If an SSRI is needed, they recommend Fluoxetine as the safest.

The Telegraph also reports on a pregnant woman in Arkansas who went in for an ultrasound only to find a second child inside. It transpired that she had conceived for the second time whilst a few weeks pregnant. Superfoetation is so rare, there have apparently only been 10 reported cases.

The Sun claims that chicken sold in the UK ‘is worse for you than red meat'. It transpires that the chickens have bad diets and just aren't getting enough exercise.

The Sun also explains how Britain's sperm donation shortage could be eased by Danish fertility clinics offering sperm to British women. How else to refer to these donors but as the Sun does: 'Viking dads'.

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