Coronavirus antibodies last at least 9 months after infection – dpa international

Outside a Dublin hospital (Simon Roighneen)

DUBLIN — Coronavirus antibodies last “at least” nine months after infection, according to Imperial College London and the University of Padua. Antibody levels “remain high” whether or not the infected person developed symptoms of Covid-19, the disease sometimes caused by the virus, the researchers found, after testing patients in northern Italy, one of the hardest hit regions at the outset of the pandemic. “The great majority of SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus) infections, irrespective of symptom onset, develop antibodies,” according to the research, which was published on Monday in the journal Nature Communications.

Germ resistance to antibiotics driven partly by money – dpa international

Waiting area inside the traditional Chinese medicine section of Tung Shin Hospital in Kuala Lumpur (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Antimicrobial or antibiotic resistance could prove “the death knell for modern medicine” and lead to an “antibiotic apocalypse,” according to England’s former chief medical officer. Ahead of this week’s European Congress on Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases, speaker Sally Davies warned of scant progress in curbing bacterial resistance to antibiotics, a growing danger that has been widely flagged in recent years. “Compared to 8 billion dollars of profit for cancer drugs, the 100 million loss for antimicrobials means that our medicine cabinets are becoming emptier – because of bankruptcies, not lack of scientific brainpower,” Davies said.

Littering makes smoking a drag on the environment- dpa international

Cigarette butts discarded on a Dublin street (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — The world’s 1.3 billion smokers “improperly dispose of” an estimated 4.5 trillion cigarettes each year, making the butts “the most littered item on the planet,” according to STOP, an anti-tobacco organization. But even that deluge is “only a portion of the environmental harm caused by the tobacco industry,” STOP said, as tobacco is not only “grown on deforested lands” but its production “degrades soil and pollutes air, land and water.” Billions of trees are chopped down each year to make cigarettes, accounting for 5 per cent of global deforestation, according to STOP, which said cigarette butts make up around 20 per cent of debris gathered during ocean clean-ups.

Singapore aiming to live with flu-like ‘endemic’ Covid-19 – dpa international

DUBLIN — Singapore’s government on Thursday said it should be possible “to live normally” with Covid-19, which it expects to become “endemic” like influenza.  The three ministers responsible for the government’s coronavirus response announced “a broad plan” to “turn the pandemic into something much less threatening.” Pointing to the example of influenza, Trade Minister Gan Kim Yong, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong and Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said that “we can work towards a similar outcome for Covid-19.” 

Coffee in moderation lowers likelihood of deadly liver disease – dpa international

DUBLIN — Coffee not only takes bleary out of bleary-eyed, according to British scientists, but lowers the likelihood of liver disease so long as it’s no more than three or four cups a day. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Southampton looked at health data for almost half a million people and concluded that “drinking any type of coffee was associated with a reduced risk of developing and dying from chronic liver disease compared to not drinking coffee.” According to Oliver Kennedy, the lead author of the study, which was published by BioMedCentral, a Springer Nature journal, coffee “could offer a potential preventative treatment for chronic liver disease.”

Listening to Mozart could curb epilepsy, Czech neurologists say

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DUBLIN — Listening to Mozart could prevent epileptic seizures, according to research being presented over the weekend to the European Academy of Neurology. A Czech-led team, from St. Anne’s University Hospital and Masaryk University in Brno, found a 32 per cent reduction in seizure-inducing epileptiform discharges (EDs) among patients who listened to Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos K448. Exposure to Mozart “may be a possible treatment to prevent epileptic seizures,” the team suggested, after using “intracerebral electrodes” that were “implanted in the brains of epilepsy patients prior to surgery” to measure the effects of music.

‘Pervasive’ privacy breaches found on mobile phone health apps – dpa international

Jogger in Dublin's Phoenix Park in early June 2021 (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Thousands of health-related mobile phone applications have “serious problems with privacy,” according to analysis by Macquarie University in Australia. Published by the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the Sydney-based team’s research into more than 20,000 apps found “collection of personal user information” to be “pervasive.” Of the almost 5 million apps available on platforms operated by Apple and Google, around 100,000 are health-related, including increasingly-popular fitness monitors. However “inadequate privacy disclosures” often hinder users “from making informed choices,” said the Macquarie researchers, who compared 15,000 health apps with a sample of 8,000 others. While the health apps gathered less user data the others examined, around two-thirds of them still “could collect advert identifiers or cookies” and a quarter could “identify the mobile phone tower to which a user’s device is connected.”

Getting more sun could help against opioid “scourge,” US medics say – dpa international

Vitamin D has been touted as beneficial in curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN –A lack of Vitamin D “strongly exaggerates the craving for and effects of opioids,” according to researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital. The vitamin, which has been touted for potentially reducing the effects of coronavirus, is produced naturally in the human body after exposure to sunlight. So not getting outdoors enough means “potentially increasing the risk for [opioid] dependence and addiction,” according to the research, which was published on Friday by the journal Science Advances. For those living in cloudier regions, Vitamin D supplements could help address “the ongoing scourge of opioid addiction.”

Pandemic and lockdowns drive food prices up but send diet quality down – dpa international

DUBLIN — The coronavirus pandemic and related restrictions have jacked up food prices around the world and spurred a surge in unhealthy eating, according to a set of papers published on Monday by the American Society for Nutrition. According to author Caroline Um of the American Cancer Society, the researchers found a “decrease in the consumption of many food groups, particularly healthy foods such as vegetables and whole grains, compared to before the pandemic.” “We saw panic buying, problems in the food supply chain, increases in food prices and rising unemployment rates,” Um said. Researchers at Tufts University said food prices went up across 133 countries as pandemic-related curbs were introduced. “More stringent restrictions were linked with a higher price of food and a higher ratio of food prices to prices across all consumer goods,” they said.

Murders an ‘exception’ as city crime drops by a third during lockdowns – dpa international

Pandemic restrictions have left city landmarks, such as this mall in Kuala Lumpur seen during Malaysia's first lockdown last year, mostly empty (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Pandemic lockdowns coincided with “significant” falls in crime rates in 27 cities across 23 countries, according to academics from the University of Cambridge and the University of Utrecht. The research, which was published on Wednesday in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, suggested that rates of “most types of crime” dropped “significantly” in the wake of an “unparalleled sudden change in daily life.” However, homicides fell by a relatively low 14 per cent overall in what the team said was “a key exception” to their findings. With people in many cities forced to mostly stay at home by pandemic-related curbs, Amy Nivette of the University of Utrecht, in the Netherlands, said “restrictions on urban mobility may have little effect on domestic murders.”