Riviste scientifiche

Blood cell and bacteria stuck together to deliver cancer drugs

New Scientist - Me, 25/04/2018 - 21:00
A red blood cell stuck to a swimming E. coli bacterium can be steered using magnetism and induced to release drugs on demand – perhaps avoiding side effects

To help heal the Korean peninsula try scientific cooperation too

New Scientist - Me, 25/04/2018 - 20:00
Research exchanges could help open up North Korea and reduce long-standing tensions with South Korea and its allies -if politicians will allow it, says Mark Zastrow.

Austerity has put UK forensic labs in crisis and justice at risk

New Scientist - Me, 25/04/2018 - 20:00
Thousands of criminal cases are under review, forensic labs are failing to meet basis standards and some are just going bust. Where did it all go wrong?

Why growing human brain tissue in a dish is an ethical minefield

New Scientist - Me, 25/04/2018 - 20:00
The increasing ability to create mini human brains in labs or integrate human cells into animal brains is rightly provoking worries about their use, says Alex Pearlman

Why the US is wrong to say burning wood is carbon neutral

New Scientist - Me, 25/04/2018 - 18:04
The US’s decision to regard wood as carbon neutral flies in the face of the evidence and will lead to increased emissions

What to expect from the controversial new choice as NASA boss

New Scientist - Me, 25/04/2018 - 17:24
Republican politician Jim Bridenstine has taken the reins at NASA after a long battle. What will his appointment mean for the space agency, asks Samantha Murphy

Russia cuts off Google and Amazon by trying to ban Telegram app

New Scientist - Me, 25/04/2018 - 17:15
Russia has unintentionally knocked out several major cloud services in ongoing efforts to cut access to secure messaging app Telegram

G-spot surgery given to three women to boost sexual pleasure

New Scientist - Me, 25/04/2018 - 16:33
The “G-spotplasty” is intended to improve G-spot sensitivity, but some worry it will make women who don’t orgasm vaginally think they have a medical problem

Biggest ever 3D map of the galaxy pinpoints 1.7 billion stars

New Scientist - Me, 25/04/2018 - 16:31
The Gaia satellite has been scouring the sky for years. Over 22 months, it has located billions of stars and thousands of galaxies. Here’s what it found

Ancient Swedish massacre hints at chaos after the fall of Rome

New Scientist - Me, 25/04/2018 - 14:00
The inhabitants of Sandby borg in southern Sweden were violently killed 1500 years ago, just decades after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire

How an Amazonian people convey their entire language by drumbeat

New Scientist - Me, 25/04/2018 - 02:01
The Bora people can encode complex messages into drumbeats that mimic human speech, and even include a “ringtone” to announce the start of a message

Attacks on medical workers in Syria: Implications for conflict research

PLoS Medicine - Ma, 24/04/2018 - 23:00

by Michael Spagat

In a Perspective linked to the Research Article by Haar and colleagues, Michael Spagat discusses the challenges and importance of conducting research on mortality in regions affected by violent conflicts.

Determining the scope of attacks on health in four governorates of Syria in 2016: Results of a field surveillance program

PLoS Medicine - Ma, 24/04/2018 - 23:00

by Rohini J. Haar, Casey B. Risko, Sonal Singh, Diana Rayes, Ahmad Albaik, Mohammed Alnajar, Mazen Kewara, Emily Clouse, Elise Baker, Leonard S. Rubenstein

Background

Violent attacks on and interferences with hospitals, ambulances, health workers, and patients during conflict destroy vital health services during a time when they are most needed and undermine the long-term capacity of the health system. In Syria, such attacks have been frequent and intense and represent grave violations of the Geneva Conventions, but the number reported has varied considerably. A systematic mechanism to document these attacks could assist in designing more protection strategies and play a critical role in influencing policy, promoting justice, and addressing the health needs of the population.

Methods and findings

We developed a mobile data collection questionnaire to collect data on incidents of attacks on healthcare directly from the field. Data collectors from the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), using the tool or a text messaging system, recorded information on incidents across four of Syria’s northern governorates (Aleppo, Idleb, Hama, and Homs) from January 1, 2016, to December 31, 2016. SAMS recorded a total of 200 attacks on healthcare in 2016, 102 of them using the mobile data collection tool. Direct attacks on health facilities comprised the majority of attacks recorded (88.0%; n = 176). One hundred and twelve healthcare staff and 185 patients were killed in these incidents. Thirty-five percent of the facilities were attacked more than once over the data collection period; hospitals were significantly more likely to be attacked more than once compared to clinics and other types of healthcare facilities. Aerial bombs were used in the overwhelming majority of cases (91.5%). We also compared the SAMS data to a separate database developed by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) based on media reports and matched the incidents to compare the results from the two methods (this analysis was limited to incidents at health facilities). Among 90 relevant incidents verified by PHR and 177 by SAMS, there were 60 that could be matched to each other, highlighting the differences in results from the two methods. This study is limited by the complexities of data collection in a conflict setting, only partial use of the standardized reporting tool, and the fact that limited accessibility of some health facilities and workers and may be biased towards the reporting of attacks on larger or more visible health facilities.

Conclusions

The use of field data collectors and use of consistent definitions can play an important role in the tracking incidents of attacks on health services. A mobile systematic data collection tool can complement other methods for tracking incidents of attacks on healthcare and ensure the collection of detailed information about each attack that may assist in better advocacy, programs, and accountability but can be practically challenging. Comparing attacks between SAMS and PHR suggests that there may have been significantly more attacks than previously captured by any one methodology. This scale of attacks suggests that targeting of healthcare in Syria is systematic and highlights the failure of condemnation by the international community and medical groups working in Syria of such attacks to stop them.

Maternal age and offspring developmental vulnerability at age five: A population-based cohort study of Australian children

PLoS Medicine - Ma, 24/04/2018 - 23:00

by Kathleen Falster, Mark Hanly, Emily Banks, John Lynch, Georgina Chambers, Marni Brownell, Sandra Eades, Louisa Jorm

Background

In recent decades, there has been a shift to later childbearing in high-income countries. There is limited large-scale evidence of the relationship between maternal age and child outcomes beyond the perinatal period. The objective of this study is to quantify a child’s risk of developmental vulnerability at age five, according to their mother’s age at childbirth.

Methods and findings

Linkage of population-level perinatal, hospital, and birth registration datasets to data from the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) and school enrolments in Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales (NSW), enabled us to follow a cohort of 99,530 children from birth to their first year of school in 2009 or 2012. The study outcome was teacher-reported child development on five domains measured by the AEDC, including physical health and well-being, emotional maturity, social competence, language and cognitive skills, and communication skills and general knowledge. Developmental vulnerability was defined as domain scores below the 2009 AEDC 10th percentile cut point.The mean maternal age at childbirth was 29.6 years (standard deviation [SD], 5.7), with 4,382 children (4.4%) born to mothers aged <20 years and 20,026 children (20.1%) born to mothers aged ≥35 years. The proportion vulnerable on ≥1 domains was 21% overall and followed a reverse J-shaped distribution according to maternal age: it was highest in children born to mothers aged ≤15 years, at 40% (95% CI, 32–49), and was lowest in children born to mothers aged between 30 years and ≤35 years, at 17%–18%. For maternal ages 36 years to ≥45 years, the proportion vulnerable on ≥1 domains increased to 17%–24%. Adjustment for sociodemographic characteristics significantly attenuated vulnerability risk in children born to younger mothers, while adjustment for potentially modifiable factors, such as antenatal visits, had little additional impact across all ages. Although the multi-agency linkage yielded a broad range of sociodemographic, perinatal, health, and developmental variables at the child’s birth and school entry, the study was necessarily limited to variables available in the source data, which were mostly recorded for administrative purposes.

Conclusions

Increasing maternal age was associated with a lesser risk of developmental vulnerability for children born to mothers aged 15 years to about 30 years. In contrast, increasing maternal age beyond 35 years was generally associated with increasing vulnerability, broadly equivalent to the risk for children born to mothers in their early twenties, which is highly relevant in the international context of later childbearing. That socioeconomic disadvantage explained approximately half of the increased risk of developmental vulnerability associated with younger motherhood suggests there may be scope to improve population-level child development through policies and programs that support disadvantaged mothers and children.

From surviving to thriving: What evidence is needed to move early child-development interventions to scale?

PLoS Medicine - Ma, 24/04/2018 - 23:00

by Mark Tomlinson

In a Perspective, Mark Tomlinson discusses research on early interventions to support child development in developing countries.

Impacts 2 years after a scalable early childhood development intervention to increase psychosocial stimulation in the home: A follow-up of a cluster randomised controlled trial in Colombia

PLoS Medicine - Ma, 24/04/2018 - 23:00

by Alison Andrew, Orazio Attanasio, Emla Fitzsimons, Sally Grantham-McGregor, Costas Meghir, Marta Rubio-Codina

Background

Poor early childhood development (ECD) in low- and middle-income countries is a major concern. There are calls to universalise access to ECD interventions through integrating them into existing government services but little evidence on the medium- or long-term effects of such scalable models. We previously showed that a psychosocial stimulation (PS) intervention integrated into a cash transfer programme improved Colombian children’s cognition, receptive language, and home stimulation. In this follow-up study, we assessed the medium-term impacts of the intervention, 2 years after it ended, on children’s cognition, language, school readiness, executive function, and behaviour.

Methods and findings

Study participants were 1,419 children aged 12–24 months at baseline from beneficiary households of the cash transfer programme, living in 96 Colombian towns. The original cluster randomised controlled trial (2009–2011) randomly allocated the towns to control (N = 24, n = 349), PS (N = 24, n = 357), multiple micronutrient (MN) supplementation (N = 24, n = 354), and combined PS and MN (N = 24, n = 359). Interventions lasted 18 months. In this study (26 September 2013 to 11 January 2014), we assessed impacts on cognition, language, school readiness, executive function, and behaviour 2 years after intervention, at ages 4.5–5.5 years. Testers, but not participants, were blinded to treatment allocation. Analysis was on an intent-to-treat basis. We reassessed 88.5% of the children in the original study (n = 1,256). Factor analysis of test scores yielded 2 factors: cognitive (cognition, language, school readiness, executive function) and behavioural. We found no effect of the interventions after 2 years on the cognitive factor (PS: −0.031 SD, 95% CI −0.229–0.167; MN: −0.042 SD, 95% CI −0.249–0.164; PS and MN: −0.111 SD, 95% CI −0.311–0.089), the behavioural factor (PS: 0.013 SD, 95% CI −0.172–0.198; MN: 0.071 SD, 95% CI −0.115–0.258; PS and MN: 0.062 SD, 95% CI −0.115–0.239), or home stimulation. Study limitations include that behavioural development was measured through maternal report and that very small effects may have been missed, despite the large sample size.

Conclusions

We found no evidence that a scalable PS intervention benefited children’s development 2 years after it ended. It is possible that the initial effects on child development were too small to be sustained or that the lack of continued impact on home stimulation contributed to fade out. Both are likely related to compromises in implementation when going to scale and suggest one should not extrapolate from medium-term effects of small efficacy trials to scalable interventions. Understanding the salient differences between small efficacy trials and scaled-up versions will be key to making ECD interventions effective tools for policymakers.

Trial registration

ISRCTN18991160

Two-year impact of community-based health screening and parenting groups on child development in Zambia: Follow-up to a cluster-randomized controlled trial

PLoS Medicine - Ma, 24/04/2018 - 23:00

by Peter C. Rockers, Arianna Zanolini, Bowen Banda, Mwaba Moono Chipili, Robert C. Hughes, Davidson H. Hamer, Günther Fink

Background

Early childhood interventions have potential to offset the negative impact of early adversity. We evaluated the impact of a community-based parenting group intervention on child development in Zambia.

Methods and findings

We conducted a non-masked cluster-randomized controlled trial in Southern Province, Zambia. Thirty clusters of villages were matched based on population density and distance from the nearest health center, and randomly assigned to intervention (15 clusters, 268 caregiver–child dyads) or control (15 clusters, 258 caregiver–child dyads). Caregivers were eligible if they had a child 6 to 12 months old at baseline. In intervention clusters, caregivers were visited twice per month during the first year of the study by child development agents (CDAs) and were invited to attend fortnightly parenting group meetings. Parenting groups selected “head mothers” from their communities who were trained by CDAs to facilitate meetings and deliver a diverse parenting curriculum. The parenting group intervention, originally designed to run for 1 year, was extended, and households were visited for a follow-up assessment at the end of year 2. The control group did not receive any intervention. Intention-to-treat analysis was performed for primary outcomes measured at the year 2 follow-up: stunting and 5 domains of neurocognitive development measured using the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development–Third Edition (BSID-III). In order to show Cohen’s d estimates, BSID-III composite scores were converted to z-scores by standardizing within the study population. In all, 195/268 children (73%) in the intervention group and 182/258 children (71%) in the control group were assessed at endline after 2 years. The intervention significantly reduced stunting (56/195 versus 72/182; adjusted odds ratio 0.45, 95% CI 0.22 to 0.92; p = 0.028) and had a significant positive impact on language (β 0.14, 95% CI 0.01 to 0.27; p = 0.039). The intervention did not significantly impact cognition (β 0.11, 95% CI −0.06 to 0.29; p = 0.196), motor skills (β −0.01, 95% CI −0.25 to 0.24; p = 0.964), adaptive behavior (β 0.21, 95% CI −0.03 to 0.44; p = 0.088), or social-emotional development (β 0.20, 95% CI −0.04 to 0.44; p = 0.098). Observed impacts may have been due in part to home visits by CDAs during the first year of the intervention.

Conclusions

The results of this trial suggest that parenting groups hold promise for improving child development, particularly physical growth, in low-resource settings like Zambia.

Trial registration

ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02234726

Stoner app lets cannabis users keep track of how high they are

New Scientist - Ma, 24/04/2018 - 22:30
A series of smartphone tests that score memory and reaction are intended to make cannabis use safer and lead to a better understanding of the drug

Gamma rays from the sun are acting weird and nobody knows why

New Scientist - Ma, 24/04/2018 - 20:30
A survey of the sun’s radiation turned up two surprises: a dip in low-energy gamma rays, and far more high-energy gamma rays than predicted. And nobody knows why

Amazing GIF shows dust and cosmic rays raining down on comet 67P

New Scientist - Ma, 24/04/2018 - 17:43
Cosmic rays, dust and stars swirl above a rocky cliff on the comet 67P. The images that make up this cool GIF were taken in 2016 by ESA's Rosetta spacecraft
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