10 – 16 January 2019

New LSHTM-led research, looking at readiness for first sex among young people, finds that many were not ready for first sexual activity and lose their virginity under circumstances that are incompatible with positive sexual health. Melissa Palmer said: “Examining the circumstances around first heterosexual intercourse is important for planning and targeting public health interventions to improve the conditions of first sex for young people.”

The research is widely covered in over 70 outlets including BBC News, The Independent, The Guardian, i News and the Metro. Kaye Wellings, senior author was interviewed for BBC Radio 5 Live (1hr 46 mins in), BBC London Drivetime (22min 40 seconds in) and BBC Woman’s Hour (20 mins in).

Martin Goodier provides expert comment to CNN on the safety of the yellow fever vaccination after an eminent oncologist died after having the vaccine. Martin said: “The yellow fever vaccine is extremely effective in protection against this infection and has been used worldwide for many years. Because of the widespread use of the vaccine we can say with certainty that such adverse events are rare. The benefits to health of vaccination far outweigh any potential risk.”

Ron Behrens also spoke to New Scientist about yellow fever vaccination and safety. Ron said: “About one person in 55,000 experiences a severe allergic reaction to a vaccine component and one person in 125,000 experiences severe nervous system reaction. So overall the risk of serious side effects is very low, but still higher than other vaccines, where the risk is typically one in several million.”

Martin Mckee is quoted by the New York Times about the findings of a new study showing that Coca Cola has worked to shape and influence obesity policies in China. Martin said: “These groups support and publicise scientific studies whose results sometimes muddy the waters on contentious issues like smoking or alcohol and soda consumption. They often cherry pick data in ways that mislead while portraying these issues as so terribly complex that nothing can be done.”

Martin provided comment after he wrote an accompanying editorial for the BMJ paper.

Steve Cummins is interviewed by The Guardian about his experience of taking A-levels and going to university, after proposals are leaked about students being prevented from going to university if they get fewer than three D’s at A-level. Steve said: “There are always people who, for whatever reason, don’t achieve their potential at the age of 18. I think that writing them off at that age and not giving them the opportunity to experience the transformative power of higher education is a huge mistake.”

Heidi Larson’s work on vaccine hesitancy and Rachel Lowe’s work on dengue are both featured in a Telegraph summary of the WHO’s global health threats.

Rachel said: “Several factors, including climate change and human movement, have allowed dengue to spread outside of the tropics to more temperature zones, including countries with limited capacity to respond.”

Heidi said: “In terms of antibiotic resistance we need confidence in vaccines more than ever, especially as our over-relied on antibiotics are not always working.”

Val Curtis speaks to NPR about why consumers are generally disgusted by eating edible insects for a piece on how moving towards eating insects would be more environmentally friendly than eating meat. Val said: “We have an innate response to things that might make us sick by feeling disgusted and, therefore, don’t want to consume them.”

Sally Bloomfield is quoted in a New Scientist article (£) which details bacteria commonly found in public places, such as the tube and offices. Sally said: “We’re constantly shedding stuff into our environment, but these organisms are mostly harmless.”

On social media

This week’s social media highlight comes from the LSHTM Instagram account sharing a picture of what Alexander Flemming called ‘mold juice’ – the symmetrical beads produced by penicillin. Stephanie Nofal captured the image in an LSHTM lab after a bottle of the jelly-like substance, agar, became contaminated.

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