SciBites: Week of Oct 21st

SciBites: Week of Oct 21st

Hospital infections place big burden on Europe

More than 2.5 million cases of healthcare-associated infections are estimated to occur in the European Union and European Economic Area (EU/EEA) per year, resulting in approximately 2.5 million years lost due to illness, disability or early death, according to a new study. The combined burden for Europe of six types of healthcare-associated infections was estimated to be higher than that of other major contagious diseases, including influenza, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. While the findings are limited by the accuracy of some of the estimates, the authors were able to adjust the analysis according to the severity of the underlying condition that prompted initial hospitalization.

Tool production heated up in the Middle Stone Age

Humans living in South Africa in the Middle Stone Age may have used advanced heating techniques to produce blades made of a type of naturally cemented rock known as silcrete. According to a new study by researchers from the University of France-Bordeaux, silcrete heat treatment at the Klipdrift Shelter archaeological site may provide the first direct evidence of the intentional and extensive use of fire to produce stone tools.

Hearing loss genes identified

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, and Kaiser Permanente Northern California have identified two gene variants linked to age-related hearing impairment (ARHI) in adults. The scientists conducted a genome-wide association study using 6,527 hearing impairment cases and 45,882 controls among white participants among white participants in a large genetics study. They discovered two gene variants that contribute to the disorder: a novel variant near the ISG20 gene, and a second variant within TRIOBP, a gene previously associated with another type of hearing loss. The findings also suggest that large studies using genomic data and electronic health records may be useful for revealing the underlying genetic basis of ARHI and other disorders.

Simulations suggest new cancer treatment schedules

A new treatment plan that sequentially combines several drugs for chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) could reduce patients’ chance of relapse and increase their life expectancy, according to a new study. The researchers combined several mathematical models to predict how CML cells with different mutations would respond to the drugs imatinib, nilotinib, or dasatinib. They then analyzed different treatment schedules to determine combination strategies that would maximize time until disease progression for hypothetical patients. The analysis suggests that, under a wide range of scenarios, an optimal combination schedule may be more effective at controlling CML than any of the three drugs alone. However, these findings will require experimental validation before they can be used to inform clinical decisions.

“We have discovered that designing optimal anti-cancer therapies based on cellular parameters can lead to significant improvement in patient survival,” says senior author Kevin Leder. “This has the potential to help in the search for personalized medicine.”

Image Credit: Hearing Aid by Steve Johnson via Flickr


Jen is the Editorial Media Manager at PLOS. Before her time at PLOS, she's worked in broadcast news, radio and online media.

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