November in a Nutshell

Here is our round-up of five newsworthy stories that were published in November 2017. Please click on the arrows on each side to navigate. Enjoy!



Premature Baldness May be a Higher Risk Factor for Heart Disease than Obesity

A study conducted by the European Society of Cardiology on more than 2000 young men in India found that those with heart disease were more likely to have male pattern baldness or premature greying compared to healthy controls. The authors also correlated the levels of male pattern baldness with the severity of heart disease. The associated risk was higher than that of obesity.

The authors proposed that hair changes may reflect biological ageing, which may be faster in certain patients. Ageing may exert its effects through DNA damage.

A study in Japan back in 2013 found a similar link between male baldness and heart disease.

Other scientists were more sceptical of these conclusions, and cautioned that other modifiable lifestyle and risk factors – such as high cholesterol and blood pressure – are more important in heart disease prevention.

Scarlet Fever Cases Hit 50-year High in England

A joint investigation by public health authorities across England and Wales reported 19,206 of cases in 2016, the highest level since 1967. The majority of the outbreaks were in England.

Scarlet fever is most common among children under 10 and is caused by group A streptococcus. It is spread through close contact with people carrying the organism.

Symptoms include a sore throat, headache and fever, accompanied by a red rash that feels 'like sandpaper', a swollen and red tongue, as well as swollen neck glands.
Currently, there is no vaccine against the disease.

Viagra Can Be Sold Over the Counter

UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have announced that Viagra will now be available over the counter at pharmacies. Manufacturer Pfizer hopes to get stocks of Viagra Connect (sildenafil 50mg) into UK pharmacies by spring 2018.

Besides improving access to the drug for those who have difficulty visiting local GPs, this move will halt the purchase of unregulated counterfeit medicines which have potentially serious side-effects.

It will be up to pharmacists to judge whether men over the age of 18 can safely be given the drug. Pharmacists will have to decide whether treatment is appropriate and can offer advice on erectile dysfunction, usage of the medicine, potential side-effects and whether further consultation with a general practitioner is required.

3rd Cranial Nerve Palsy in Chikungunya Virus Infection

In this case report, Benzekri et al. describe a 62-year-old patient who developed palsy of the left 3rd cranial nerve as a result of an acute chikungunya infection. This was an interesting finding because the eyes are seldom affected in chikungunya fever. They discuss the possible mechanisms underlying this uncommon observation.

Monoclonal Antibodies to Prevent Migraine Attacks

A study was recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine highlighting two potential antibodies that may be used in migraine treatment. They were shown to reduce the monthly frequency of migraine attacks.

Previous research pointed to a specific chemical in the brain as being highly associated with migraine: calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP). CGRP is known to be related to pain and light- and sound-sensitivity, which contribute to migraine attacks. Several antibodies that target CGRP are currently being evaluated for their therapeutic potential.

The antibodies, erenumab and fremanezumab managed to reduce the number of migraine days per month in some patients. Their side effects are still being studied.