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'Hygiene hypothesis' discredited, hospital trust chief executive paid full salary a year after resigning, and do three-parent babies represent 'Frankenscience'?

Time to get out your vaccum! The ‘hygiene hypothesis’ - which says that lack of exposure to common allergens means children’s immune systems do not develop as they should, causing asthma and allergies - may not be evidence-based, the Telegraph reports.

Researchers at Southampton University found that a child’s risk of developing asthma is more than halved if their contact with common allergens is minimised in the first year of life.

They assessed the records of 120 people who were born 23 years ago and have had their health followed throughout their lives, and found that breastfed children who avoided dairy products, eggs, soya, fish and nuts, and whose parents used vinyl mattress covers and pesticides to kill dust mites, had a lower risk of developing asthma than those whose parents were less meticulous.

At 18, 27% of the children naturally exposed to potential allergens had developed asthma, compared to only 11% in the ‘prevention’ group.

Allergy consultant Professor Hasan Arshad said: ‘By introducing a combined dietary and environmental avoidance strategy during the first year of life, we believe the onset of asthma can be prevented in the early years and throughout childhood up to the age of 18.’

‘Our finding of a significant reduction in asthma using the dual intervention of dust mite avoidance and diet modification is unique in terms of the comprehensive nature of the regime, the length of follow-up and the size of the effect observed.’

The BBC reports that the former boss of a scandal-hit hospital was paid his full £150,000 salary a year after he resigned, in a deal in which he was sworn to secrecy.

Tony Halsall stepped down as chief executive of the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust in February 2012. A police investigation into deaths at the baby unit at Furness General Hospital has been ongoing since 2011.

A confidentiality agreement was signed meaning that Mr Halsall’s severance pay would not be revealed, but national pressure on the trust over such ‘gagging clauses’ has meant it has now released details of his leaving package.

As well as his salary, the package included a lease car, career management advice, and six months’ pay in lieu of notice, the trust confirmed.

The trust told the BBC Mr Halsall had been transferred to the NHS Confederation, in a move which ‘avoided the potential for a long drawn-out dispute, that would have been both expensive and time consuming’.

The trust’s new chairman, John Cowdall, added that Mr Halsall received no more than his contractual entitlement and that notice periods of six months are common as they enable employers to advertise for a successor.

Commenting on the confidentiality issue, Mr Cowdall added: ‘I am aware that this clause has caused a great deal of disquiet in the minds of many individuals, including representatives of the media.’

‘I can confirm that any compromise agreements that are entered into from now will not be the subject of any confidentiality provisions or so-called ‘gagging’ clauses, which may prevent disclosure of matters which are in the public interest.’

However the Labour MP for Barrow and Furness, John Woodcock, described the pay-out as ‘shameful’.

And finally the Daily Mail brings us news of three-parent IVF babies, born using a technique which takes two eggs to stop the transfer of genetic diseases to a child.

Britain could be the first country to sanction three-parent babies, after a consultation run by the fertility regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), found there was ‘general support’ from the public for allowing IVF clinics to use the technique.

Scientists told the HFEA that there was nothing to suggest the technique was unsafe, although until a child is born no one can be certain.

However some have dubbed the technique ‘Frankenscience’ and say such genetic engineering crosses an ethical line and could lead to parents creating perfect, made-to-order babies with specific eye and hair colour.

Babies have been born using the technique in the US though it is not officially sanctioned. The HFEA document will be passed to the Government which will decide whether to try to amend the law.

Spotted a story we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments, and we’ll update the digest throughout the day…

Readers' comments (1)

  • The "Frankenscience" stuff is utter rubbish, of course. This is not about eugenics or creating "the perfect baby". It is merely about replacing the mitochondria (the "third parent" for people who have heritable mitochondrial diseases.

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