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Genetic testing could pave the way for effective asthma drug, TV watching may cause cancer and why your patients should avoid buying condoms in corner shops

Routine and inexpensive genetic testing could save a significant number of children from being given drugs that fail to help their asthma and may even make it worse, writes The Guardian this morning.

The paper quotes researchers in Brighton and Dundee who found that among children whose asthma is poorly controlled the drugs could, in some cases, be the problem.

The scientists found that a drug called salmeterol, commonly given for the long-term control of asthma, works poorly in children with a particular genetic variant, with as many as 150,000 children in the UK possibly affected.

Drug companies are now exploring the possibilities for personalised medicines: drugs targeted to an individual’s genetic makeup, which will therefore be much more effective.

Professor Somnath Mukhopadhyay, from Brighton and Sussex medical school, called for new advice to be given to GPs and parents on what to do if a child fails to respond well to the drug. He suggested genetic testing should be considered for children needing these asthma drugs.

‘It is a common disease affecting 1 million children in this country,’ he said.

‘The basic guidance should be that if the medicine is not working, the mother should contact the GP. You should not change anything until you have seen your GP. But I think the time has come to move a step further.’

Meanwhile, the World Cancer Research Fund has warned parents not to allow their children to veg in front of the TV. Doctors have warned that the lack of time spent in active pursuits was causing untold damage on the country’s young, whose growing obesity is causing a range of untold health problems, writes The Telegraph.

In a fresh warning, the World Cancer Research Fund urged parents to restrict their children’s viewing habits to less than two hours a day - from a current average of 5.9.

They also urged youngsters to get outdoors more, because the health risks were also being seen in relatively active children.

‘People often assume sedentary behaviour is the same as physical inactivity,’ said Kate Mendoza, the charity’s head of health information.

‘But someone can do the recommended amount of daily physical activity and still be sedentary.’

‘Children may well get plenty of physical activity at school through sports or playing but if they spend a lot of time sitting down at home they might develop habits which could increase their risk of diseases like cancer, heart disease and diabetes in the future.’

She added to the Daily Mirror: ‘By reducing their sedentary time children will lessen their chances of becoming obese.’

Meanwhile, adults were facing a health problem that may come as a shock to some, as soaring numbers of counterfeit condoms are apparently being smuggled into the UK.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulation Agency claims that millions of the fakes have been illegally imported in the last 18 month, writes The Daily Mail.

The bogus condoms use cheaper materials and could increase the risk of users passing on STIs or lead to unwanted pregnancies, warn family planning experts.

Senior investigator Danny Lee-Frost says: ‘These products are made in the Far East for pennies and then sold over here for pounds. They will cut corners. They will cut costs. They will use cheaper ingredients and materials.’

He said people shold buy their condoms from well-known retailers and pharmacies to minimise risk, as most of the counterfeit condoms were found to be sold in corner shops.

Finally, concerned about the Government’s dementia challenge? The Telegraph cites research by US scientists that found betablockers may lower the risk of the disease.

Findings of a new study were presented at the American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting in San Diego. Researchers examined the brains of 774 men after they had died, 610 of whom had been treated for high blood pressure.

Around one in seven of those had been given only beta blockers, 18 per cent had received beta blockers and another drug and the others had been given different drugs.

It was found that the men who had received beta blockers as their only blood pressure medication had fewer abnormalities in their brains compared to those who had not been treated for their hypertension, or who had received other blood pressure medications.

Earlier research has shown that high blood pressure in middle age is a strong risk factor for dementia.





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