Friday, January 26, 2007

Traffic fumes and lung damage

The Daily Mirror and the Guardian (and no doubt other newspapers) today are reporting a study in the Lancet that found that children living within 500 metres of a motorway had "pronounced deficits" in lung development. The study was undertaken in California and is an "article in press" on the Lancet website - doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(07)60037-3

Read more in the Guardian

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Robert Burns

Burns' Night is tonight, although I suppose that if you are in Australasia and other places, it was yesterday.

The National Library of Scotland have a site about Burns, who was born on this day in 1759.

At you will find a searchable archive of Burns' poetry.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Patron saint of librarians

I did not know this until today, but the patron saint of librarians (and archaeologists, archivists, Bible translators and school children, among other groups) is apparently Saint Jerome. Wikipedia has an article about him. He translated the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate translation). There also appears to be a story about him removing a thorn from the paw of a lion, which explains the lion that appears in some paintings of him.

Later note: a correspondent to this blog comments that St. Lawrence is the patron saint of librarians. Wikipedia certainly lists him as such, as well, along with him being the patron saint of students and chefs, among others. Thanks to my correspondent for alerting me to St. Lawrence. Another correspondent (living in the same house as me, and a theologian, to boot) points out that Jerome had some rather difficult views about women. Discussion of this is beyond the scope of this blog, but I did want to mention it in case I appear to be supporting everything he ever wrote. I am not a theologian, so I will stop there before I appear to be more knowledgeable than I actually am.

So, librarians have two patron saints! St. Lawrence was a deacon of Rome, martyred (on a gridiron, hence the chefs) during a persecution by Emperor Valerian in 258. My home town (Ipswich, Suffolk, UK) has a church dedicated to him.

New open access infection journal

The Journal of Infection in Developing Countries is a new open access journal, aimed at providing researchers from developing countries with a place to publish their research. There is more information at, and a link on the home page of the Open Learning on Enteric Pathogens site.

Information about the journal was emailed to the HIF-NET email discussion list.

New influenza articles

I have an alert running in Web of Science, and here are some things from the latest alert:

An abstract on quality assessment of laboratories in Germany - how good were they at detecting influenza virus in samples:

Zeichhardt, H; Schweiger, B; Lindig, V; Grunert, HP. First national external quality assessment scheme for avian influenza A virus (H5N1). JOURNAL OF CLINICAL VIROLOGY 36: S13-S14 Suppl. 3 AUG 2006

Using prediction mechanisms (like the markets do) to predict influenza activity, using clinical data supplied by health care workers:

Polgreen, PM; Nelson, FD; Neumann, GR. Use of prediction markets to forecast infectious disease activity. CLINICAL INFECTIOUS DISEASES 44 (2): 272-279 JAN 15 2007

A useful looking general article, interestingly published in Biochemical Society Transactions:

Schuklenk, U; Gartland, KMA. Confronting an influenza pandemic: ethical and scientific issues.

Lastly, a news piece in Science about "participatory epidemiology", which uses information from local people to know where outbreaks are happening:

Normile D. Indonesia taps village wisdom to fight bird flu - Participatory epidemiology is Indonesia's first step on a long road to controlling avian influenza. SCIENCE 315 (5808): 30-33 JAN 5 2007

Thursday, January 18, 2007

New drugs for MRSA?

Several of yesterday's papers were reporting this: identifying drugs that targeted specific proteins has led scientists at Newcastle upon Tyne to identify existing drugs that may kill MRSA. This is the Guardian's report. I will blog other reports as I discover them.

Interestingly, a quick Google search reveals at least two previous stories on the same topic, one from December 2006 about a cream that attacks MRSA in the nose, and another from May 2006 about platensimycin, a new antibiotic.

Efficiency of aid to Africa

CMAJ also has a piece on a report by the aid agency CARE, which argues that if international aid was spent differently, it could go a lot further. Money needs to be spent on longer term projects which help prevent the emergency arising again, the report says.

Read more in CMAJ

Macrolide resistance

The Canadian Medical Association Journal reports a study in Clinical Infectious Diseases, that finds increased incidence of resistance to macrolide antibiotics, used to treat pneumonia. The study was conducted in Toronto.

Read more in CMAJ

Muslims and health care

Last week's BMJ has two pieces arguing for (one piece) and against (the other piece) faith based health services for Muslims. There is quite a bit of debate through the Rapid Responses, as well.

The pieces are at and

The most recent Journal of Advanced Nursing has a paper looking at a small Muslim community in Canada, and how things changed after 9/11. It reports that the community passed from "cultural safety" to "cultural risk" - from a situation of social integration and invisibility to one of visibility as a minority and being in a media spotlight.

PLoS One

I am grateful to Alan Cann (, among other places, and a member of staff at Leicester) for pointing me to a piece in Nature about this Public Library of Science initiative. The piece is at

PLoS One publishes reports from all areas of science. Before publication, reports are reviewed but only with an eye for their methodology. Anything published is made available for open peer review, that is, anyone can make comments, and the paper can be rated. Papers are viewed as the start of the discussion, as the Nature piece quotes a PLoS person saying, and not as the end. Papers are published on payment of a fee, on the same model as used with other PLoS journals, and journals from other publishers, so that they are then open access.

The Nature piece does articulate the view that this is PLoS' way to make money (it has not been making much, thus far). It also argues that new journals often struggle to attract papers until the journal has an impact factor, and seems to suggest that this new journal may not be able to get an IF, as it "accepts everything". We shall see.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Protection of sex workers

Not, I guess, strictly within the remit of this blog, but as a native of Ipswich (Suffolk, UK, that is), my eye was caught by this editorial in the BMJ, arguing that sex work needs to be decriminalised so that workers get more protection. There are already some rapid responses to carry on the debate.

UK PubMed Central

This is now live, as reported in many places.

UKPMC mirrors the journal archive content of PubMed Central but will contain manuscripts submitted by people mandated to do so by the conditions of their grant. Several grant awarding bodies, among them the MRC and the Wellcome Trust, are mandating people who they fund to place the final manuscript of their work into UKPMC.

Go to
UKPMC itself.

Read more from the
Wellcome Trust or from JISC.

Directly observed tuberculosis therapy

A paper in the latest Journal of Advanced Nursing looks at these questions:

'What does qualitative research tell us about the facilitators and barriers to accessing and complying with tuberculosis treatment?"

"What does qualitative research tell us about the diverse results and effect sizes of the randomized controlled trials included in the Cochrane review?"

A Cochrane review apparently did not find anything to distinguish directly observed treatment with people treating themselves.

The abstract is at and the bibliographical details are:

Jane Noyes, Jennie Popay (2007). Directly observed therapy and tuberculosis: how can a systematic review of qualitative research contribute to improving services? A qualitative meta-synthesis. Journal of Advanced Nursing 57 (3), 227–243.

Death toll in Iraq - posting revised again

This study, published in the Lancet, made the headlines on the 10 o'clock news on BBC1 on 11th October, and the headline in the Guardian on the 12th October. It is interesting (as a teacher of critical appraisal) to see how it is being treated.

The BBC found the head of a policy institute to criticise the figures, and, judging by a comment by one of their correspondents in the studio afterwards, that institute is a staunch supporter of George Bush (who also disputes the figures). This makes it clear that you should always ask who has produced the publication or website that you are looking at.

They also stated that the publisher supported the research, and backed this up by producing the editor of the Lancet (who wrote an article in the Guardian on the 12th).

The Guardian headlines the story "One in 40 Iraqis "killed since invasion"". Not sure where that quote comes from, but I want to read the paper to see if that is really what it is saying. 1 in 40 may well be so, but I thought the paper was talking about excess deaths from all causes, not just people killed. (Reading the paper: most of the deaths are attributable to violence).

The paper has now appeared in the Lancet, as Lancet 2006; 368: 1421–28. You can also find it by going to and pasting this DOI:


into the search box.

Science (20th October 2006, p.396) reports a debate that has now started over the methods of this paper, and whether the sampling method and extrapolation is valid. The Guardian, certainly, has picked up on this debate as well.

The Lancet of 13-19 January 2007 includes several letters in response to the original article.


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Antibiotic resistant organism targets

A Department of Health memo, leaked to the Health Service Journal, is being reported this morning. It was on the Today programme this morning, and it is in the Guardian as well, and elsewhere too, no doubt.

The memo reports that targets for the reduction of MRSA are not being met (although MRSA incidence is falling), and also reports concern over Clostridium difficile.

The Guardian's discussion is at,,1987602,00.html.

This Library has a short list of resources about Clostridium difficile, downloadable from our website (scroll down, past the lovely picture, to find it). The site also enables you to run a PubMed search for the latest articles.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Two instances of governments in less developed parts of the world trying to enforce their rights under TRIPS (Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property) are detailed in the Lancet. One involves India, and their decision not to grant a patent to a cancer drug (the patent was rejected under the terms of TRIPS), and the other involves Thailand and the Thai government's authorisation of local manufacture of an anti-HIV drug (a right that the government has under TRIPS).

Read more in the Lancet (link via DOI).


I didn't know about Libworm before, but my rather narcissistic Google Alert has brought it to my attention because it includes entries from this very blog.

Libworm collects RSS feeds from 1400 blogs, and has medical librarianship as a category. You can also search it.

It looks very useful (and I am not just saying that because it includes me, although thanks to them for that!).

There is also Medworm, which does the same thing with medical topics. (There is a mention of this in the Libworm FAQs)

Monday, January 08, 2007

Mortality in a global influenza pandemic

The same Web of Science alert brought this to my attention.

The Lancet for 23rd December publishes a paper by researchers from Harvard, Queensland and Johns Hopkins, which uses mortality data from the 1918-1920 influenza pandemic to estimate a figure for deaths for any pandemic now, and which parts of the world are likely to be most affected.

Link to article: doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(06)69895-4

Preparing for an influenza pandemic

Just discovered (via a search alert from Web of Science) this supplement to the Medical Journal of Australia. It includes articles on antivirals, vaccines, ethics, and research, among other things. Presumably it has an Australian bias (you would hope so!), but it may well be useful to people in other places to as a current summary of the issues.

Details are: Medical Journal of Australia, 2006, 185(10), s25-s80

This is part of issue 10, and is online at

Friday, January 05, 2007


With a child in primary school, this is a subject that is never far away... I have taught critical appraisal classes using a study which compared "bug busting" (wet combing) and insecticides as treatments for headlice. This study concluded that insecticides were more effective.

The December Archives of Dermatology includes a "research commentary" on a paper in the BMJ from 2005, which also compares the two treatments and concludes the opposite, that is, that bug busting is best. But the commentary goes on to talk about the study design, and points out a number of places where the study design may have influenced the results.

Makes me think that headlice is indeed a good subject for critical appraisal classes.

The Archives of Dermatology commentary is Archives of Dermatology, 2006, 142, 1635-7, available to University of Leicester members from, with password available from me. There is a reply from the authors of the BMJ study, also, on p. 1651.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Two new Nature titles available online

The University subscription to Nature titles now includes Nature Methods and Nature Materials. You can access them (as all other online journals) through Leicester e-link.

Methods in Enzymology now online

This is now available online, through Science Direct, to University of Leicester members. Full text access appears to go back to 2000.

Errors in scientific papers, caused by software

Science (22 December 2006) reports the scientific breakthroughs of the year, which makes interesting reading, but also has this news item, reporting the retraction of several crystallography papers, which contained errors caused by the data analysis software flipping two columns of data. This resulted in structures being inverted. One paper, published in 2001, has been cited over 300 times.

This caught my eye as I have a long interest in scientific publishing, and in retractions and related areas. But it is also interesting because the things that were being analysed were proteins from E. coli, Vibrio cholera and S. typhimurium.

The full news piece is at: and has more detail about how the error was discovered.

Guidelines: management of patients with influenza like illness

Thorax vol. 62, suppl. 1, January 2007, is:

Pandemic flu: clinical management of patients with an influenza-like illness during an influenza pandemic, Provisional guidelines from the British Infection Society, British Thoracic Society and Health Protection Agency in collaboration with the Department of Health

Read it at

Priorities for respiratory research in the UK

A recent meeting of respiratory researchers and research organisations is reported in January's Thorax - the meeting discussed the priority areas that research needs to address, and how capacity in those areas might be built.

Read the report at (you will need to login with Athens if you are off campus, and of course University of Leicester members can contact me if this causes problems).

New Year's Resolution

One I hope to keep is the one to keep this blog up to date!

I aim to use this blog to record things of interest (to me or to "my" academic departments) from the literature, as well as more general library and information related things.