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Checkup Medical Column for Aug 19

AAP logoAAP 19/08/2016 Sarah Wiedersehn

A weekly round-up of news affecting your health.


Researchers have found clues on how the Norovirus, responsible for severe diarrhoea and vomiting, gets inside cells, leading to hope of a vaccine.

Norovirus is infamous for causing outbreaks of diarrhoea, vomiting and stomach cramps on cruise ships but scientists still know little about how it infects people.

However, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have identified the protein that norovirus uses to invade cells.

The discovery, found in mice, provides new ways to study a virus notoriously hard to work with and may lead to treatments or a vaccine, says the study's senior author Professor Herbert Virgin.

"Our inability to grow the virus in the lab has limited our ability to develop anti-viral agents. If you can't get the virus to multiply in human cells, how are you going to find compounds that inhibit multiplication?" said Professor Virgin, from the Department of Pathology and Immunology.

"This discovery provides a good basis for our mouse model, which we can then use to understand noroviral pathogenesis and search for treatments in people."

The research is published in the journal Science.


The season and region in which a child is born influences their risk of developing coeliac disease before the age of 15, a large Swedish study has found.

The researchers studied patterns of coeliac disease in two million children over an 18-year period and found that those born in spring, summer or autumn were 10 per cent more likely to be diagnosed with the illness than those born in winter.

The scientists also found children born in the warmer south of the country were more likely to develop the disease than those born in the colder north.

Circulating viral infections may help explain the temporal and geographical patterns associated with the risk of developing childhood coeliac disease, conclude Swedish researchers in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

The role of vitamin D during pregnancy may also have a part to play, they suggest.


Calls to a poisons hotline has revealed the risks ant and cockroach baits pose for toddlers.

Research has found the peak of calls made to the Queensland Poisons Information Centre relate to insecticide poisonings.

Ant and cOCKROACH baits account for almost 40 per cent of enquiries.

The researchers say normal toddler behaviour, including the tendency of kids this age to put things in their mouths, explains their findings.

"Children in the one-year age group were at greatest risk as they're at that stage where they spend a lot of the time on the floor and put things in their mouth," study author Karin English said.

Bug sprays containing harmful chemicals pyrethroids, pyrethrins, piperonyl butoxide accounted for almost 26 per cent of calls.

English says the study, published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, highlights the need for more comprehensive regulation of insecticides in Australia, and for improvements in child-proof packaging of pest control products.


Walking longer from home to the nearest tobacco shop to buy cigarettes makes a smoker more likely to kick the habit, suggests Finnish research.

The scientists used data from two studies combining more than 20,000 smokers and former smokers to see if there was a link for a person's smoking behaviour and the distance between a tobacco shop and home.

They saw that for each 500-metre increase in distance, the person's likelihood of quitting rose by about 20 to 60 per cent.

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