Dermatitis and acne top list of high-burden skin diseases

Dermatitis and acne cause the greatest disease burden of all forms of skin disease globally, according to international research, which includes Australians. The study, published in JAMA Dermatology, found that skin diseases are the fourth largest cause of disability worldwide, when excluding mortality. The Global Burden of Disease 2013 study looked at data for 306 diseases and injuries, and found that skin diseases accounted for 1.79% of the global burden of disease, as measured in disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), with one DALY equivalent to one year of healthy life lost. Skin and subcutaneous diseases were responsible for 41.6 million DALYs lost that year. Dermatitis topped the list with 9.3 million DALYs globally, while acne caused 7.2 million DALYs. Also among the list of skin conditions causing a significant disease burden were urticaria or hives (4.7 million DALYs), psoriasis, viral skin diseases (such as viral warts), fungal skin diseases, scabies and melanoma. Data for the report were drawn from more than 4000 sources, including medical literature, population-based disease registries, hospital data, studies and autopsy data. Skin diseases, ranked in decreasing order by DALYs, were: dermatitis (9.3 million), acne vulgaris (7.2 million), urticaria (hives, 4.7 million), psoriasis (4.7 million), viral skin diseases (such as viral warts, 4 million), fungal skin diseases (3.8 million), scabies (1.7 million), melanoma (1.6 million), pyoderma and cellulitis (bacterial skin diseases, 1.1 million), keratinocyte carcinoma (such as basal and squamous cell cancers, 820 000), decubitus ulcer (bedsores, 660 000) and alopecia areata (290 000).

Women less likely to have heart health checked

Women attending GPs in Australia are less likely than men to have their heart disease risk factors measured and recorded so that their absolute cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk can be assessed, according to research published in Heart. The study of more than 53 000 patients across 60 sites in Australia, conducted by the George Institute for Global Health and the University of Sydney, found that men were significantly more likely to have their heart disease risk factors measured by their GP. Women were 12% less likely to be appropriately screened. The study also found that the odds of being treated with the appropriate preventive medicines – such as blood pressure drugs, statins and antiplatelet drugs – were 37% lower for younger women (aged 35–54 years) at high risk of CVD than men. By contrast, older women (aged over 65 years) were 34% more likely than older men to have appropriate medications prescribed. Risk factors for CVD include raised cholesterol and blood pressure levels and smoking. Female smokers are known to have a 25% greater risk of CVD than male smokers. While the report highlighted sex disparity, it also revealed that just 43.3% of all patients had all their necessary risk factors recorded, while only 47.5% of patients at high risk of CVD were prescribed preventive medicines. Associate Professor Redfern from the George Institute said: “Unfortunately there is still the perception that heart disease is a man’s disease. This is not the case here in Australia, the UK or the US and we fear that one of the reasons more women are dying from heart disease is because they are not being treated correctly, including not even being asked basic questions about their health”.

Software helps “molecular scissors” snip out DNA

New software will help scientists use a tool to snip out sections of non-coding or “dark matter” DNA for quick and easy deletion of DNA in living cells. Based on CRISPR-Cas9, which only focuses on the protein-coding genes (the key role of our genome), the new tool – DECKO – can be used to delete any desired piece of non-coding DNA. These non-coding sections make up 99% of our genome and are considered crucial for understanding human biology, including disease and evolution. While DECKO is extremely precise, the researchers say that without their new software, CRISPETa, designing new molecular scissors for each experiment was time-consuming and difficult. The authors, from the Barcelona Institute for Science and Technology in Spain, think that their new software will help more scientists employ CRISPR in their research. They showed that CRISPETa designs efficiently delete their desired targets in human cells. Most importantly, in those regions that give rise to RNA molecules, the researchers showed that the RNA molecules also carry the deletion. CRISPETa is designed for use by non-experts so that it can be useful for scientific researchers from even the most modest experimental laboratory. These users may, for example, delete a suspected functional region of non-coding DNA and test the outcome on cellular or molecular activity. This software will also be potentially valuable for groups aiming to use CRISPR deletion for therapeutic purposes by, for example, deleting a region of non-coding DNA that is suspected to cause a disease state. The study was published in PLOS Computational Biology.

Early periods may predict gestational diabetes

Girls who have their first period before age 11 years are 50% more likely to develop gestational diabetes than those who have their first period at age 13 years, according to research analysing data from more than 4700 women from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (ALSWH), published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. ALSWH director Professor Gita Mishra, from the University of Queensland, said that early puberty in girls had now been shown to be a significant marker for several adverse health outcomes, including gestational diabetes. “Research into this topic is of particular public health importance due to the global trends of girls starting their menstrual cycles at a younger age,” Professor Mishra said. Researcher Danielle Schoenaker said the significant association with gestational diabetes risk remained after researchers took into account body mass index and childhood, reproductive and lifestyle factors. “A large proportion of women who develop diabetes during pregnancy are overweight or obese, and encouraging those with an early start of puberty to control their weight before pregnancy may help to lower their risk of gestational diabetes,” she said. “While a healthy weight is important, it is also plausible that the higher risk is explained by hormonal changes, and the research calls for more studies to investigate the mechanisms behind this.”


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Treat illicit drug use as a health and social problem, not as a crime
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One thought on “Research news in brief

  1. Robyn Seth-Purdie says:

    The benefits of doing so include: reduction of mortality and morbidity through accidental overdose or contamination of illicit drugs; improvement in health, well-being and social and economic participation of addicts by giving them access to drugs of known potency and purity and relieving them of the economic pressure to commit crime in order to support their habits; reduction of incentives for involvement of organised crime in illicit drug production and distribution and for corruption of law enforcement officials; the opportunity cost of a counter-productive prohibition strategy – resources could be re-directed to much more productive use in health and social welfare portfolios. Further – mindless prohibition has stifled research on, and utilisation of, drugs that could potentially assist social functioning of individuals who experience conditions such as social alienation, chronic depression, chronic pain – to name just a few. There is no rationale for tolerating drugs known to cause a wide range of health and social harms – alcohol and tobacco – whilst prohibiting use of and research on drugs that may be more beneficial and less harmful eg Cannabis with a high CBD to THC ratio, and other drugs that can have therapeutic benefits in controlled settings eg ecstasy, psychotropics, such as Psilocybin and Salvia Divinorum. In short – prohibition seems like the ultimate in counter-productive policy, being both harm-producing and help-inhibiting!

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