12 – 18 September 2015

Matt Silver speaks to BBC News Magazine about his research at the MRC Unit in The Gambia which shows that a mother’s diet at the time of conception may affect her child’s lifelong health. The research is featured in the new BBC Series, Countdown to Life: The Extraordinary Making of You, presented by Michael Mosley: “Variation in methylation state in this gene could affect your ability to fight viral infections and it may also affect your chances of survival from cancers such as leukaemia and lung cancer.”

Presenter Michael Mosley discusses these epigenetic findings during interviews about the series on BBC Radio 4 Today (at 2h50m) and BBC Radio 4 Saturday Live (at 15m): “They discovered that the season you’re born in has a massive impact on your life expectancy, whether you’re born in the rainy season or the dry season, and then it turns out that’s to do with the food they’re eating, and that has led to some really exciting research into the impact of the foods you eat at the moment of conception. How long you’ll live, how well your body will fight infection, whether you’ll get cancer 30, 40 years later.”

Martin McKee co-authors a BMJ Analysis that questions the robustness of a recent PHE report claiming that e-cigarettes cause 95% less harm than normal cigarettes. The Guardian quotes the editorial: “A fundamental principle of public health is that policies should be based on evidence of effectiveness… There is a lack of hard evidence for the harms of most products on most of the criteria. However, none of these links or limitations are discussed in the PHE report.” The story is reported by outlets including The Telegraph, Daily Mail, Mirror, Sun (£), The Grocer, ITV and Yorkshire Post. Press Association report the story, leading to coverage in the Daily Mail, and in more than 90 regional UK outlets including Bedford Today, Derbyshire Times and Blackpool Gazette.

Andrew Bastawrous and Hillary Rono speak about the smartphone-based eye care adaptor, Peek Retina, on BBC World Service Outlook (at 13m): “The adaptor clips and sits snugly over the phone’s camera… It’s got a special light source, and filters and lenses, and it puts a light source into the eye, so rather than getting a standard photo back when you point it at the eye you get to see inside the eye, you see the retina.”

Peter Piot, co-chairman of the Longitude Prize committee, speaks to the Financial Times about the first set of entries. The prize is a £10 million challenge is to help solve the problem of global antibiotic resistance: “In the first place I’m pleased that we got several serious submissions so early in the process, which I had been a bit sceptical about. Although they were bold, innovative and, in the most part, useful, none met the extremely difficult criteria we set to win the prize.”

Katherine Fielding is quoted in South China Morning Post on her research demonstrating that giving electronic reminders to tuberculosis (TB) patients in China can reduce the amount of medication doses they miss by half: “[Using an electronic medication monitor could] improve tuberculosis treatment for thousands of people across China.” The story is reported by global outlets including Doctors Lounge, Shanghai Daily, US News and World Report and Infection Control Today.

The Evening Standard name Peter Piot and Vikram Patel among the most influential thinkers in London in their annual Progress 1000 list of London’s most influential people. They write about Peter Piot:As one of the scientists who co-discovered the Ebola virus — in 1976 in Zaire — Peter Piot’s expertise has been vital in tackling the outbreak in West Africa that has killed thousands. On Vikram Patel: “Dubbed a “wellbeing warrior”, he is driven by the “simple yet profound idea of mental health for all”. His research focuses on how to bring better mental health care to the world’s poorest communities.

Reuters write about a new film released by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) that aims to raise youth awareness about human trafficking. The article comments on earlier research by the School and IOM revealing the terrible conditions faced by men trafficked into working on fishing boats, and leads to coverage in the Daily Mail.

Liz Corbett is quoted in the Wellcome Trust blog’s Research Round-up discussing her recent research showing that HIV self-testing in Malawi is safe, accurate and acceptable: “Continued high uptake in the second year suggests that scaling up HIV self-testing could have a sustained impact on the coverage of HIV testing and care in Africa, especially for men and adolescents.”

Associated Press write about trafficked fishermen, in an article that mentions earlier research by the School showing the devastating health consequences of human trafficking and slavery at sea. This leads to global coverage in outlets including Huffington Post Canada, Kuwait Times, Bangkok Post, Idaho Statesman and New Zealand Herald.

Andy Haines is quoted in an announcement by the Wellcome Trust, to launch “Our Planet, Our Health”, a new £75m to investigate the connections between environment and health: “Among the challenges that must be overcome in order to safeguard human health during the anthropocene epoch is lack of knowledge. There are major gaps in our understanding of the mechanisms linking health and environmental changes, and the potential to enhance resilience, protect the environment and avert serious threats to health.” Projects led by Alan Dangour and Paul Wilkinson are among those funded.

School experts are involved in Global Burden of Disease research showing that while life expectancy in the UK has increased, there is still a north-south divide. This is reported in outlets including front pages of The Independent, Telegraph and Mirror.

Experts at the School contribute to research showing the health risks of drinking alcohol, reported in outlets including The Guardian, The Hindu, Wall Street Journal’s India Real Time blog and The Daily Mail.

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