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HEALTH TRENDS

Published:Wednesday | July 30, 2014 | 7:00 AM

Fist bumps less germy than handshakes - study

According to a new study, the familiar knocking of knuckles spreads only one-twentieth the amount of bacteria that a handshake does. And fist bumping is also better than a high-five, which still passes along less than half the amount as a handshake.

The researchers realised that while a lot of research focused on hands getting germy from touching doorknobs and other surfaces, only a few studies had looked at handshakes.

"And there are alternatives to handshakes. You see them on telly all the time - the fist bump and high-five and all that," noted researcher David Whitworth of Aberystwyth University in Wales, United Kingdom.

He and a student, Sara Mela, shook hands, fist-bumped and high-fived each other dozens of times for the research. One wore a glove covered in bacteria, while the other had a clean sterilised glove. After each greeting, they measured how much bacteria had been transferred.

What makes the fist bump more sanitary? Mostly, it's the smaller amount of surface area in contact between the two hands, one analysis suggests. The researchers did practise runs with paint to measure how much surface area each form of greeting involved.

Their results were published online Monday in the American Journal of Infection Control.

Healthy lifestyle reduces risk of childhood cancer survivors developing metabolic syndrome

PractiSing a healthy lifestyle reduces childhood cancer survivors' risk of developing metabolic syndrome, a new study reveals.

Led by Kristen Ness, PT, PhD, of St Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, United States, the study examined whether lifestyle habits affect cancer survivor's risk of developing the metabolic syndrome. They found that children with cancer and adults who had cancer when they were children should be provided information on how their lifestyle influences their health in the long term.

They looked at 1,598 childhood cancer survivors who were cancer free for at least 10 years. The researchers used questionnaires and tests to check whether participants adhered to a healthy lifestyle that is recommended by the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research.

The participants who met at least four of seven recommendations were considered as meeting the recommendation.

Metabolic syndrome was present in nearly 31.8 per cent of the participants and 27.0 per cent of the participants followed the healthy lifestyle guidelines. Those females who did not follow the guidelines were 2.4 times more prone to metabolic syndrome, and men were 2.2 times more likely to have metabolic syndrome.

Adults who had cancer as children were at an increased risk for metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors that increases the likelihood of developing heart disease and other health problems like diabetes and stroke. Those with metabolic syndrome had a combination of factors that included high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol and glucose levels and increased body fat.

"These findings are important because they indicate that adults who were treated for cancer as children have the opportunity to influence their own health outcomes," said Dr Ness.

Health ministry implementing $50m pilot project for electronic patient administration system

The Ministry of Health is implementing a pilot project that will see the establishment of the Electronic Patient Administration System (ePAS) in eight facilities. Minister of Health Dr Fenton Ferguson said these include the four centres of excellence and four regional hospitals.

"The pilot project is funded through the National Health Fund to the tune of $50 million. This is a part of the National Health Information System Strengthening and E-Health Strategic Plan 2014-2018, for which we are receiving support from GNU Solidario. This will be a game changer and will bring greater efficiencies in our health-care system while establishing that platform to advance, the local and international health agendas," Dr Ferguson said.

The ePAS is among the priority technology solutions which will be implemented on a phased basis, starting with the pilot phase. This is being done through a two-year memorandum of understanding signed in September 2013 with GNU Solidario, the lead for the community of developers for the GNU Health software. This is a free and open source software (FOSS), which has been selected, following a review of existing systems, to form the basis of the national ePAS.

Babies begin learning much sooner before they are born

A recent study has debunked the belief that children start learning only after birth. The study has showed that children actually start processing and understanding information long before they are born.

Published in the journal Infant Behavior and Development, the study has claimed that the 24th week of pregnancy brings the ability to grasp new concepts for foetuses. Researchers at the University of Florida College of Nursing in the United States conducted the study, which showed developing foetuses use the mother's voice as a major source of sensory stimulation.

"This research highlights just how sophisticated the third trimester foetus really is, and suggests that a mother's voice is involved in the development of early learning and memory capabilities. This could potentially affect how we approach the care and stimulation of the preterm infant," noted Charlene Krueger, nursing researcher and associate professor in the University of Florida's College of Nursing.

The study recruited 32 pregnant women, who were instructed to recite a 15-second rhyme three times, two times a day between 28th week of pregnancy and the 34th. They then tried to identify any signs of learning during the 28th, 32th, 33rd, and 43rd weeks of pregnancy. They measured the baby's heart rate while the babies listened to a recording of the rhyme recited by a female stranger.

It was found by the researchers that the heart rate of the babies who listened to the same rhyme as their mother was slower than the ones in the control group. Also, a deeper and more sustained slowing heart rate was noticed in the foetuses that heard the same rhyme that was recited by a female stranger by the 38th week of pregnancy.

Google seeks human guinea pigs for health project

Google has launched a new health project called Baseline Study, aimed at creating a crowd-sourced picture of human health by collecting anonymous genetic and molecular information from users.

The project will start off by collecting data from 175 people, but Google hopes to expand that sample size to thousands more. The researchers hope the project can help move medicine towards preventing over treatment by giving scientists a more accurate picture of what a healthy body looks like, which can help them detect ailments like heart disease and cancer much quicker.

The lead researcher, Dr Andrew Conrad, said that part of detecting disease is getting a clear picture of how a healthy body works. "We are just asking the question: If we really wanted to be proactive, what would we need to know? You need to know what the fixed, well-running thing should look like," he stated.

The project will collect hundreds of samples and then find 'biomarkers', or patterns, within the data. Scientists hope these biomarkers will help them detect diseases much sooner, or tell them which kinds of biological conditions make someone a likely candidate for high cholesterol.

Google said that the information from Baseline would be both private and anonymous, would be used only for medical purposes and wouldn't be shared with insurance companies.

Institutional review boards from Duke University and Stanford University will monitor the study to make sure the data isn't being misused, Google said, and will only have access to the samples once they've already been stripped of identifying data, like names and social security numbers. The samples will be collected by independent testing companies.

But Google wants to collect a staggering amount of information about each of its anonymous human guinea pigs. They're mapping each person's entire genome, and their parents', not to mention looking at how they metabolise food, and how their hearts beat, and their oxygen levels. Participants will even wear special smart contact lenses so Google can monitor their glucose levels.