Last updated September 7, 2017 at 9:36 am
The Check Up is a weekly feature highlighting some of the best, most fascinating, most important, or simply unmissable health, medical, and human stories from around the web.
Mixed News on Herpes Vaccine
Let’s start with good news/bad news. Good news first: there’s a promising herpes vaccine at the human trial stage. There should really be far less stigma about herpes – it’s generally manageable, it isn’t life threatening, and it’s common (one out of eight sexually active Australian adults has genital herpes). But the effects can be severe, and the mental impact of contracting it can be even worse. So progress in this area is fantastic. Bad news: These trials seem as dodgy as anything. They’re being held in the Caribbean to skirt American Federal Drug Administration laws, and if the name Peter Thiel rings a bell, his involvement probably raises the same red flags I’m seeing.
A Possible End to the Opioid Crisis
Staying with vaccines, this story sits in the ‘promising news’ category. Scientists in the USA are working on a vaccine that would immunise the brain against opioids. We could be looking at a heroin addiction-free future! Opioid drug molecules are so small that our immune systems can’t recognise them and they can sneak right into our brains. This vaccine would be made of drug-mimicking molecules with a built-in an immune binding site. This should train the immune system to see real drug molecules and attach antibodies that would stop them at the blood-brain barrier.
Kids Hate Phones
Relevant news for the parents, grandparents, aunties, and uncles out there – science says put down your phone. The latest research suggests that technology is indeed negatively impacting children, but not for the obvious reason. More harmful than youngsters’ own device use is that of the adults around them. Children are smart – they recognise the double standard of being denied phone access while their parents are glued to theirs. Combined with capturing less attention from their parents, and it’s a serious issue. But hope is not lost – practise what you preach and work those self-control muscles.
We’re All at Risk for Heart Attacks
The award for Story That Terrified Me The Most this week goes to this one about healthy young people getting heart attacks out of nowhere. Remembering that stress is a risk factor did not help! Between 2006 and 2014 the rate of otherwise healthy Australians rose from 11 per cent to 27 per cent of all heart attack patients. And we don’t know why. Scientists have begun a huge study to try and figure it out. It’s immensely frustrating to think you could do all the ‘right’ things, like exercise, eat well and not smoke, and still have a heart attack. But don’t give up! Even if you’re unlucky enough to suffer a health incident you don’t ‘deserve’, being fit and strong will increase your chances of a healthy recovery immeasurably and may still save your life.
The Power of Poop
And finally, the collective obsession with poo continues. This is one of the most informative yet casual reports on faecal microbial transplants I have ever seen – there are some epic characters in this piece!