Fat soluble vitamins to counter antibiotic-resistance

Cystic fibrosis patients are at an increased risk of suffering from chest infections. Due to the regular use of antibiotics in these patients, antibiotic-resistance is a very real problem. Recent research, published in the international journal mBio, suggests that the administration of fat-soluble vitamins (particularly vitamin E) could increase the effectiveness of the antibiotics used to treat lung infections in cystic fibrosis patients. Lipocalins are proteins produced by bacteria that increase antibiotic resistance by attaching to the antibiotics themselves. However, the researchers found that the lipocalins attach themselves more strongly to fat-soluble vitamins than to the antibiotics. Therefore, fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin E could help to improve antibiotic treatment and allow them to reach the target bacteria. Antibiotic resistance is now a major issue worldwide that is threatening our ability to treat even minor infections.

Smart tricks to increase vaccine sales

A new US study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine has suggested that using a simple behavioural economics technique, known as "active choice", may be able to help boost the amount of flu vaccinations given. If a patient visiting their doctor was eligible to receive the flu vaccine their doctor, on accessing their record, would receive an alert requesting the doctor "accept" or "cancel" an order for the flu vaccine. If the patient agreed and the order was accepted, the vaccine would be administered there and then. The researchers found that this method increases orders for the flu vaccine by approx 37%. More and more research (particularly in the US) is focused on ways to overcome patient resistance to vaccination. The US is known for being the trial ground for the drug companies, so it may not be long before we see similar ‘smart tricks’ being rolled out in other countries.

EU Governments vote against introduction of new GMO crops

The majority of EU Member States have voted against the introduction of new GMO crops (specifically two strains of GMO maize) to Europe, however the vote was not considered decisive and now goes to the European Commission for a final decision. Whilst many countries across the world already grow GMO crops this remains a contentious issue in Europe with EU member states being able to invoke the precautionary principle built within the 'safeguard clause' and avoid cultivating GM crops in their territories if they determine cultivation would present a serious risk to health. That might be a situation that is changing given a recent European Court ruling, but, as our lead piece this week demonstrates, today's European Parliament block on the European Commission's proposal to authorise 21 GM crop varieties is a reminder that the public disdain for GM crops has far from been dispelled.

Argentina votes to legalise medicinal cannabis use

The Argentinian Federal Government has given final approval to a bill legalising the use of cannabis oil for medicinal use and permitting the Government to grow marijuana for research and therapeutic purposes. Chile, Colombia, Brazil and Uruguay all have pro-cannabis legislation already. There has been a global resurgence in the use of cannabis for medicinal use in recent years. Calls for the legalisation of medicinal cannabis are being made in the UK, yet the UK’s medicines regulator, the Medicinal and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is intending to class cannabidiol (CBD) as a medicine. Further information is available from CLEAR, the organisation opposing the MHRA’s intention to make medicinal cannabis a drug, thereby requiring a full drugs licence prior to sale.

Vitamin D and cancer

A new study has reported a 30% reduction in the risk of cancer in women aged over 55 following supplementation with 2,000 IU per day of vitamin D3 and 1,500 mg per day of calcium for 4 years. Initially the results were not considered to be statistically significant in relation to placebo. However, further analysis published in Jama, showed a statistically significant reduction in risk of 35% after adjusting for cancer diagnosed in the first year of the study. This study supports previous research showing that high levels of circulating vitamin D results in a reduction of all cancers, as reported by ANH-Intl last year.

HPV vaccine for gay men

In 2015, the Welsh Assembly approved the use of the HPV vaccine for men who have sex with other men (MSM) following a review by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). The vaccination has been delivered in a targeted programme for MSM aged 16-40 attending Genito-urinary Medicine (GUM) and HIV clinics, prisoners and transgender women. The minutes of the JCVI meeting also indicate that the vaccine could be offered to MSM over 45, sex workers, HIV+ve women and HIV+ve men (who are not MSM) and women above the cut off age for receiving the HPV vaccine through GUM and HIV clinics massively widening those eligible to receive the HPV vaccine above and beyond girls aged 12-13, who were the original target group with regards to preventing cervical cancer. In June 2016, the UK Government announced the use of HPV vaccination for MSM in the UK following the implementation of this programme in both Wales and Scotland. As part of a health programme supported by the Centers for Disease Control, MSM in the US are also being offered the HPV vaccination. Watch this space for more a deeper insight into this move to widen the HPV vaccination spread.

Milk interferes with absorption of synthetic thyroid hormone

A preliminary study presented at the Endocrine Society’s 2017 annual conference this weekend, found that just one glass of cow’s milk can interfere with the absorption of the oral thyroid hormone, levothyroxine, in an adult. This was a small study on 10 people without thyroid disease or sensitivity to cow's milk, who then took levothyroxine to see the effect of drinking milk at the same time. Researchers measured absorption of the levothyroxine as the concentration of total T4 in the blood plotted against time after drug administration. After consumption, participants, who had drunk milk at the same time as taking the medication, had a significantly lower total T4 absorption than when taking the drug without milk. “These findings support previous research showing that calcium supplements can interfere with levothyroxine absorption” said principal investigator Deborah Chon, MD.

Links between early life antibiotic use and adult gut problems

A new mouse study published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology has shown that early life use of antibiotics changes the way our gut microbiome develops and may contribute to inflammatory bowel disease and other inflammatory diseases such as asthma and multiple sclerosis. Two groups of mice were used, one an untreated control group, the other which included pregnant mice. The pregnant mice were treated with broad spectrum antibiotics during pregnancy and subsequently the pups were treated for their first 3 weeks of life. The treated pups were found to have reduced levels of gut bacteria. Immune cells (CD T4) from both groups of pups were examined at 8 weeks of age to find out what ability they had to induce irritable bowel disease. The cells taken from the treated pups were found to induce a more rapid onset of disease than those from the control group.

Amazon launches own supplement range

Amazon has quietly launched its own range of vitamin and mineral supplements under its private label range 'Amazon Elements'. The initial range includes Vitamin D2, Turmeric Root Extract, Calcium Complex and Vitamin K2, being chosen due to Amazon shopper's 'insights and feedback'. The products are being branded as "premium" and of "transparent origin", claiming to have been tested by both the manufacturer and ISO accredited third party laboratories, as a counter to reports of contaminated products on the market. This comes with the change to requirements for selling dietary/food supplements through Amazon requiring sellers to show the ingredients and nutritional information on their product listings. Retail analytics firm One Click Retail, predict the new range will be heavily promoted potentially posing a threat to other sellers already using the Amazon platform.