Health & WellnessS

Bad Guys

Patients die as Sicilian mafia buys into the hospital service

A wave of deaths in Sicilian hospitals has highlighted a crisis in the island's health service, linked by a senior politician to the draining of public funds by the mafia.

Three suspicious deaths of patients in three days over Christmas have raised alarm. A 78-year-old woman died of a heart attack in a Palermo emergency ward on December 28 after waiting four hours to be seen. The ward has no triage, or system for prioritising patients.


Scientists find way to slash cost of drugs

Indian-backed approach could aid poor nations and cut NHS bills

Two UK-based academics have devised a way to invent new medicines and get them to market at a fraction of the cost charged by big drug companies, enabling millions in poor countries to be cured of infectious diseases and potentially slashing the NHS drugs bill.


Why I gave vegetarianism the chop after 17 years

Handsome sides of dry-cured bacon hang, crystalline, all along one wall; there are pork pies and black and white puddings; faggots and blocks of lard are piled high and appealing in the long display cabinet below.

The shelves are crammed with pickles and relishes, mustards and accompaniments; the wipe-clean boards offer lists of more exotic game - pigeon, rabbit, venison, snipe and woodcock - alongside the everyday cuts and joints on show.

A well-worn beech chopping block and various saws, cleavers and gigantic knives are to hand.

The tiny subterranean shop is stuffed to the beams.


Meat, milk from cloned animals safe to eat, U.S. officials say

Food from cloned cattle, pigs and goats does not pose any health risks, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said in a draft ruling Thursday.

"No unique risks for human food consumption were identified in cattle, swine or goat clones," the FDA said in a statement.

The FDA will accept public comments before it makes a final ruling in the new year on whether food from cloned animals may be made available for sale.


Weight May Be Linked to Type of Bacteria

Washington - The size of your gut may be partly shaped by which microbes call it home, according to new research linking obesity to types of digestive bacteria.

Both obese mice - and people - had more of one type of bacteria and less of another kind, according to two studies published Thursday in the journal Nature.

A "microbial component'' appears to contribute to obesity, said study lead author Jeffrey Gordon, director of Washington University's Center for Genome Sciences.

Obese humans and mice had a lower percentage of a family of bacteria called Bacteroidetes and more of a type of bacteria called Firmicutes, Gordon and his colleagues found.


Protein key to parasite potency

Scientists are closer to understanding why a common parasite is harmless to most people, while causing severe illness in others.Toxoplasma is carried by cats and rats in the UK, and a large proportion of humans are also thought to carry the parasite, without any ill effects.

But it can cause toxoplasmosis, which can lead to brain damage or even death.


Study: Gene tied to long life wards off dementia

A gene that helps people live to age 90 and beyond might also help ward off Alzheimer's, a study suggests Tuesday.

People with this "supergene" have a much higher chance of living to the century mark without developing dementia, the confused thinking and memory loss that so often plagues the oldest of the old, says Nir Barzilai, director of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.


Psychological treatments reduce back pain: review

Psychological treatments may help lower the intensity of chronic low back pain, a review suggests.

Researchers evaluated 22 randomized trials published between 1982 and 2003 to evaluate the effects of psychological interventions on pain.

The approaches improve outcomes such as depression and health-related quality of life as well as patients' experience of pain, the team concluded in the January issue of the journal Health Psychology.

Eye 1

Head-butt by horse restores man's sight

A second World War veteran who was blinded in his right eye when he was hit by shrapnel can see again after being head-butted by a pedigree racehorse.

Doctors tried in vain for 64 years to restore Don Karkos's sight, until My Buddy Chimo stepped in.

Hours after the horse smacked the 82-year-old paddock security guard in exactly the same spot as the shrapnel gashed his forehead in combat in 1942, he realised his vision was returning.

"I was putting a collar around his chest, and he whacked me real hard with his head," Mr Karkos told the New York Daily News.


Controlling Confusion: Researchers Make Insight Into Memory, Forgetting

Why do we forget? Do memories decay on their own, or are they harmed by interference from similar memories? Using a technique called "transcranial magnetic stimulation" (TMS), brain researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison may have found the answer.