25 – 31 October 2018

New research led by LSHTM, Durham University, Medical Detection Dogs and the Medical Research Council Unit The Gambia at LSHTM has found that trained dogs are able to detect the scent of the malaria parasite in samples of socks worn by infected children. The study is the first to show that dogs can detect parasite infections and could lead to the first rapid, non-invasive test for malaria. James Logan is quoted in The Times: “Our progress on the control of malaria has stalled in recent years. We desperately need new tools. Our results show that sniffer dogs could be a serious way of making diagnoses.”

The findings were also reported by BBC, Evening Standard, Guardian, Telegraph, Wired, Express, Mirror, Huffpost and Smithsonian. Overall the research was picked up by over 500 outlets worldwide. BBC and Sky News also filmed with Chelci Squires in the LSHTM insectaries.

A new LSHTM-led study has found that Body Mass Index (BMI) is linked to risk of death from every major cause except transport accidents. Lead author Krishnan Bhaskaran is quoted by BBC: “For most causes of death, the bigger the weight difference, the bigger the association we observed with mortality risk. So a weight difference of half a stone would make a relatively small but real difference; we could detect these small effects because this was a very large study.”

The study is also covered in CNN, Daily Express, Newsweek, The Sun  and Press Association newswire. Krishnan was interviewed by BBC Radio 4’s Today programme (1hr 25m in), BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC Breakfast and lunchtime news programmes.

Serge Mostowy provides expert comment on a new study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, reporting a phase 2 trial on a new antibiotic has shown it to be effective against complicated UTI infections that are caused by multidrug resistant bacteria. Serge said: “Infections from enterobacteria, such as pathogenic E. coli, are becoming harder and harder to treat. This important study offers hope for a new antibiotic that could potentially be an alternative to treating them, but we are not there yet.”

Serge’s comments were covered in outlets including BBC, The Times (£) and the Independent. Serge also spoke to BBC World Service about the study findings.

Heidi Larson and Paul Fine are interviewed on BBC’s More or Less for a programme focusing on vaccines, the importance of herd immunity and how social media plays a role in people’s confidence in vaccines.

Heidi said: “The countries that this year have had more than a 1000 cases of measles were all countries that in our 2016 study had high levels of vaccine scepticism or low levels of confidence in safety.”

Paul said: “We use the term herd immunity to describe the level of immunity in a population expressed typically in terms of the proportion of a population who are immune and no longer susceptible to an infection.”

Stephen Evans comments in The Times (£) on a new study published in the BMJ, which shows certain blood pressure drugs may be linked to an increased risk of lung cancer. Stephen said: “Heavy smoking can lead to a twentyfold increase in lung cancer risk, and this study finds a tiny risk in comparison. Not all those recorded as non-smokers are non-smokers, so small errors in smoking status could have large effects on estimates of risk.”

Elizabeth Brickley speaks to the Washington Post about efforts to control a Zika outbreak in India, which has currently infected more than 130 people in the city of Jaipur. Elizabeth said: “Any act of transmission for us is a concern, especially in urbanized centres with a large population.”

Liam Smeeth talks to the Daily Express about the safety of statins and whether they are beneficial for health, after recent research suggested they may be linked to type 2 diabetes. Liam said: “Statins reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from cardiovascular disease by around one third. This benefit has been shown time and time again in some of the best trials undertaken.”

Brian Greenwood is quoted in Knowable Magazine on how drug resistance is threatening recent successes in the battle against malaria and efforts to develop an effective vaccine against the disease. Brian said: “Malaria, with its complex life cycle and propensity to change the look of infected cells, makes vaccine design much trickier than with something like a simple virus.”

On social media

This week’s social media highlight comes from the LSHTM Twitter page, sharing results from new LSHTM and partner research showing that dogs can detect the scent of the malaria parasite in samples of socks worn by infected children.

Comments are closed.