Chemical giants Bayer & Monsanto merge

It was announced on 14th September 2016 that Bayer & Monsanto have agreed to a $66 billion merger to create one of the world’s largest agrochemical companies. The deal is still subject to regulatory approval in Germany and the US, but this announcement takes the companies one step closer.

Worryingly this will mean there will be just four global companies in this sector rather than the previous half dozen. Syngenta AG, Dow Chemical Co and DuPont Co have all made their own deals in recent months.

To Opt Out of Screening or Not?

Public Health England have published new guidance about opting out of screening. The guidance points out that its your choice whether or not to have screening, and includes bowel cancer screening, cervical screening, breast screening, diabetic eye screening and abdominal aortic aneurysm screening. An editorial comment in The Lancet points out that, “This guidance is a tacit acknowledgment that screening in the UK faces serious challenges in how it is perceived and used by the public.The Lancet highlights that there seems to be a shift in decision making to the individual, but warns that this could result in choices being taken without proper medical advice outlining the benefits and risks.

Antibiotic resistance is a growing concern

A new study has shown that an increase in medication-resistant bacteria is making it more difficult to treat Pyelonephritis, a common but severe kidney infection. The study led by UCLA found that almost 12 percent of people diagnosed with the infection had a strain resistant to the standard antibiotic treatment, which is up from 4 percent a decade ago. This is more worrying evidence that antibiotic resistant is becoming of increasingly more serious concern.

Hundreds protest against harmful spraying in Miami

Hundreds of Miami Beach citizens packed a Miami Beach City Commission meeting in the US last Wednesday. The group were demanding an end to the aerial spraying of the insecticide Naled, which is neurologically toxic. Plans to spray the hazardous chemical by plane come as a direct result of the fight against the controversial Zika virus. Some residents believe the mild illness that Zika could cause in most people does not warrant the use of such dangerous insecticides, whilst others such as Sadie Kaplan explained, “I don’t want to be sprayed with pesticides for what I believe is a hoax”.

Embryos created without the need for sperm

The journal Nature Communications has published a study reporting that a team at Bath University have created embryos without fertilisation (parthogenotes), which are later injected with sperm in order for them to undergo full-term development.

Eggs can be ‘tricked’ into developing into embryo’s without being fertilised, however they die after a few days because key processes requiring sperm don’t occur. The scientists at Bath University have developed a method to inject the parthenogenotes with sperm, which allows the embryo’s to develop into seemingly healthy baby mice. Their success rate is currently 24%.

This discovery clearly has ethical implications in the use of embryonic human stem cells from parthogenotes as they have previously been considered unviable.

Higher red meat intake associated with increase mortality risks

A recent study published in JAMA looked into how an individual’s choice of protein source can affect their mortality risk.

The study looked at data for 131,342 participants. After adjusting for major lifestyle and dietary risk factors, animal protein intake was weakly associated with a higher mortality risk, whereas plant protein was associated with lower mortality. The conclusions do not differentiate between types of animal protein i.e. organic grass fed meat vs processed meats or cooking methods, some of which create carcinogenic byproducts e.g. BBQ’ing and blackening. It is also worth remembering that there are many plant based food products that are equally as poor from a nutritional point of view as processed meats.