Sunday, August 27, 2006

Allergy mystery: "The number of children with allergies rose worldwide in the 1990s, but scientists have little idea why. A study involving 56 countries, including Australia, shows rates of asthma, eczema and hay fever increased between 1991 and 2003. The findings were published in the latest issue of British-based medical journal The Lancet. Australian allergies expert Guy Marks, from Sydney's Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, said there was a profound increase in the prevalence of asthma among Australian children during the 1980s and the mid-1990s. But the increase stopped in the late 1990s and may now even be decreasing. "It's a fascinating observation, but it's frustrating (because) we really can't say why," Dr Marks said.

Avian flu vaccine? "An Australian company has successfully completed laboratory development of two avian influenza (H5N1 strain) vaccines for chickens, and is about to run trials on live chickens to see whether it protects them from avian influenza. Imugene managing director Dr Warwick Lamb said the development of an effective vaccine could be used to protect the world's poultry industry from further avian influenza outbreaks and halt the spread towards Australia. Dr Lamb said to control outbreaks, a viable vaccine must be safe, effective and able to be quickly and easily administered on a large scale. He said the vaccines used technology that allowed authorities to differentiate between infected and vaccinated birds. It delivers only a portion of the flu genetic material. "The vaccine candidates are specific to the H5N1 strain of avian influenza, but can be easily and quickly adapted to protect against other strains," Dr Lamb said."

Another stupid straight-line projection: "More than 12m adults and one million children will be obese by 2010 if no action is taken, a report by the Department of Health is predicting. The Health Survey for England also warns 19% of boys and 22% of girls aged two to 15 will be obese. The figures would mean the government would fail to meet its target to halt the rise in childhood obesity... The report warns that, based on current trends, 33% of men and 28% of women will be obese by 2010. The government says it is the "most accurate estimate so far" of future obesity rates. The data is published just days after a "minister for fitness" was appointed."

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