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‘Hormone-free Pill patch’; ‘Test predicts Alzheimer’s’; ‘Cleaning causes asthma’

Your guide to the health stories in the national papers that patients might ask you about

Your guide to the health stories in the national papers that patients might ask you about

‘Hormone-free Pill patch'

The story

A ‘genetic' non-hormonal contraceptive patch could free millions of women from the side effects of traditional hormone-based pills, report the Times, Independent, Sun, Guardian, Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph.

The source

A technique called RNA interference has been tested in female mice. RNA is used to deactivate a gene that produces the ZP3 protein, which is essential if the sperm is to bind to the ovary. The research, presented at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine conference in Washington by a team from the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, shows when worn as a skin patch the drug could theoretically be 90% effective in humans.

Expert view

Dr Ali Kubba, honorary senior lecturer in sexual and reproductive health care at Guy's, King's and St Thomas' School of Medicine, London, said: ‘This is promising, but the research is 10 years away from something we could test in women. Avoiding side-effects is an attractive idea, but it's important not to overstate the side-effects of hormonal pills. They are extremely small, and for many women hormonal contraception has benefits in terms of reducing heavy bleeding and protecting against cancer.'

‘Test predicts Alzheimer's'

The story

Scientists have developed a blood test that can detect Alzheimer's disease with 90% accuracy up to six years before it develops, report the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail.

The source

Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine in California identified 18 signalling proteins in blood plasma that predicted Alzheimer's disease with 90% accuracy. The test also distinguished between Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. It is thought a test could be available in five years.

Expert view

Dr Susanne Sorensen, head of research at the Alzheimer's Society, said the test now needed to be subjected to rigorous prospective trials. ‘There has to be a trial to see if it actually does predict Alzheimer's. That will take three years, then it may take another one or two years to become commercially available.'

‘Cleaning causes asthma'

The story

Use of cleaning sprays and air fresheners could account for up to one in seven cases of asthma in adults, report the Times, Daily Mail and Independent.

The source

A study of 3,503 people aged 20 to 44 who used cleaning and air freshener sprays was carried out in 10 European countries. Analysis revealed that using the sprays at least once a week, as 42% of the study group did, increased the risk of asthma symptoms by 30-50%.

The results were published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Expert view

Professor Neil Barnes, spokesperson for the British Lung Foundation, said: ‘We already know cleaning products such as air fresheners can trigger symptoms in people who already have asthma. We would advise anyone with a respiratory condition to work in a well-ventilated area, and to stop using them immediately if they experience symptoms.'

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