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Smoking bans cut risks of premature births, bowel disease breakthrough and development in autism diagnosis

A round-up of the morning’s health news headlines on Friday 28 March.

The Guardian reports on a study in the Lancet medical journal which has found that smoking bans has cut the risk of premature birth.

It found that while the impact of anti-smoking laws varied between countries, the overall effect on child health around the world had been positive.

‘Our research shows that smoking bans are an effective way to protect the health of our children,’ said Jasper Been of the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Population Health Sciences, who led the study.

The research in the Lancet analysed data on more than 2.5 million births and almost 250,000 hospital attendances for asthma attacks. It was the first comprehensive study to look at how anti-smoking laws affect children’s health.

With results from five North American studies of local bans and six European studies on national bans, it found rates of both pre-term births and hospital attendance for asthma fell by 10% within a year of smoke-free laws coming into effect.

The BBC reports on a new stool test ‘accurate for diagnosing bowel diseases’.

UK scientists say they have found a way of diagnosing different types of bowel disease by testing the smells given off by patients’ stools.

The test analyses the chemical compounds emitted and recognises the profile of different diseases.

In a study of 182 stool samples from patients with inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome, the results were 76% accurate.

The University of the West of England study, published in the Journal of Breath Research, used a testing system they built combining a gas chromatograph and a metal oxide sensor to recognise patterns specific to known diseases.

These patterns are created by volatile organic compounds emitted from stool samples, which are a good indicator of the conditions in the patient’s gastrointestinal tract.

Finally the Daily Mail reports on an autism study which shows that early development of the brain in the womb is disrupted in children with the condition.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and the Allen Institute for Brain Science analysed 25 genes in the brain tissue of dead children.

Some of these had autism, and others did not.

They looked at genes that serve as biomarkers for brain cell types in different layers of the cortex, genes implicated in autism and several control genes.

The study found that in the brains of children with autism, key genetic markers were absent in brain cells in multiple layers.

The research is published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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