Open Reading Frame brings together a selection of recent publication highlights from elsewhere in the open access ecosystem. This week we take a look at the past few weeks in medicine.
Why has Ebola spread to West Africa?
The current Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the world’s most deadly to date, and has been declared an international health emergency by the World Health Organization. Of the five Ebolavirus species, the Zaire subtype is thought to be responsible for the current outbreak. However, Zaire ebolavirus has only been found in central African countries in the past. In an editorial, Daniel Bausch and Lara Schwarz ask why Zaire ebolavirus has spread to Guinea – far away from its usual haunts – where no Ebola virus has been detected before. The authors explore two possibilities; has the virus always been present in the region, but without causing any infection, or has it been introduced recently? The biological and socioeconomical factors that could drive emergence of the virus are discussed, and Bausch and Schwarz recommend a thorough examination of these factors to predict which regions and populations are at risk of infection in the future, and to inform long-term prevention and control strategies.
Bausch and Schwarz. PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases
Reducing bleeding in coronary surgery
Bleeding is a major concern in patients undergoing surgical treatment for heart disease, and the anticoagulant bivalirudin is known to reduce bleeding in patients at high risk. Now, research has been carried out to assess whether bivalirudin is also beneficial in those at lower risk for bleeding. The study analyzed the records of over 58,000 patients undergoing percutaneous coronary intervention, showing that bivalirudin is associated with a lower risk of bleeding than heparin when used in combination with a device for access closure. From this analysis of clinical data, the authors conclude that a combination strategy of bivalirudin and a closure device should be used to prevent bleeding in patients undergoing coronary intervention.
Dobies et al. Open Heart
Smoking linked to breast cancer mortality
Smoking is a well-known cause of many types of cancer, but the link between lifetime smoke exposure and breast cancer mortality is less well established. To investigate this link, a large study of over 300,000 Norwegian women with 30 years of follow-up has been carried out. Breast cancer mortality was found to be higher in current and former smokers compared with those who have never smoked, although no dose-response relationship was found. These findings suggest that in addition to its many known harms, smoking elevates the risk of breast cancer mortality, further emphasizing the need for effective smoking cessation strategies.
Bjerkaas et al. Cancer Medicine
Can testosterone lower the risk of depression?
Levels of testosterone decline in older men, and some studies have suggested that low testosterone could be linked to increased incidence of depression. A study has now been carried out to assess the cognitive effects of treating older men with hypogonadism – a condition where the body does not produce enough sex hormones – with testosterone supplementation. The results reveal a small decrease in depressive symptoms in those treated with testosterone, but major cognitive improvements were not seen. These findings highlight that testosterone therapy does not have a major impact on cognition, and emphasize the importance of taking all potential benefits and harms into account when considering testosterone therapy.
Borst et al. Clinical Interventions in Aging
HPV-linked cancers in men: time to consider universal vaccination?
A new study suggests that the incidence of non-cervical cancers associated with human papillomavirus (HPV) is increasing. The authors analyzed a Canadian cancer registry, finding that HPV-associated cancers of the anus and oropharynx are increasing in both men and women. HPV vaccination programs are currently targeted towards women; in light of these findings, the authors suggest that HPV prevention strategies should also be considered in men to help reduce the incidence of cancer.
Shack et al. CMAJ Open
Targeting potassium channels in disorders of pregnancy
Abnormal uterine activity in pregnancy is linked to a number of disorders such as preterm birth and post-partum hemorrhage. Now, a genome-wide screen of potassium channels in tissue samples from women undergoing cesarean section, coupled with electrophysiological analysis of tissue excitability, has identified the potassium channel Kir7.1 as a regulator of uterine excitability during pregnancy. Knockdown of the Kir7.1 gene caused an increase in uterine contractile force, whereas overexpression of Kir7.1 inhibited contractility. These results reveal Kir7.1 as a regulator of uterine contractions during pregnancy, suggesting that this potassium channel could be a potential therapeutic target for disorders of pregnancy.
McCloskey et al. EMBO Molecular Medicine
Written by Claire Barnard, Senior Editor for BMC Medicine.