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Kate Bingham: UK isn’t prepared for the next pandemic, says ex-vaccine chief

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The UK government has missed chances to maximise vaccine manufacturing capacity and has no strategic plan for research that could help prevent another pandemic, Kate Bingham, the former head of the UK’s Vaccine Taskforce has warned



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14 October 2022

Kate Bingham led the UK’s Vaccine Taskforce

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The UK has missed key opportunities to prepare for the next pandemic says Kate Bingham, the former head of the country’s Vaccine Taskforce.

The government is no longer steering vaccine research and development to prioritise new technologies that could be strategically vital and has missed chances to maximise manufacturing capacity in the UK, Bingham tells New Scientist.

“We definitely have more capacity now than we used to,” says Bingham. But she still brands the current facilities “inadequate”.

The former “vaccine tsar” makes …

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migrantes muertos en Mundial están “entre 400 y 500”

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DOHA — Un alto funcionario qatarí involucrado en la organización de la Copa del Mundo del país situó por primera vez la cifra de migrantes muertos en los preparativos del torneo en “entre 400 y 500″, un dato drásticamente superior a cualquiera ofrecido antes por Doha.

El comentario de Hassan al-Thawadi, secretario general del Comité Supremo para la Organización y el Legado de Qatar, pareció surgir de improviso durante una entrevista con el periodista británico Piers Morgan.

Además, amenaza con renovar las críticas de los grupos de derechos humanos al costo de la celebración del primer Mundial en Oriente Medio entre la mano de obra migrante que ha construido los estadios, las líneas de metro y las nuevas infraestructuras necesarias para el torneo, valoradas en más de 200,000 millones de dólares.

En la entrevista, de la cual Morgan ha publicado fragmentos en internet, el periodista le pregunta a al-Thawadi: “¿Cuál cree que es el total honesto y realista de trabajadores migrantes que murieron como resultado del trabajo que están haciendo para el Mundial en total?”

“La estimación es de unos 400, entre 400 y 500″, respondió al-Thawadi. “No tengo la cifra exacta. Es algo que hemos discutido”.

Pero esa cifra no se había hecho pública oficialmente antes. Los reportes del Comité Supremo que van desde 2014 a finales de 2021 solo incluyen el número de trabajadores fallecidos en la construcción y remodelación de los estadios que ahora están albergando los partidos.

Esos datos contemplaban un total de 40 muertos. De ellos, 37 eran lo que los qataríes describen como incidentes no laborales, como ataques cardíacos, y tres fueron accidentes laborales. Un reporte también recoge por separado una muerte por coronavirus durante la pandemia.

Al-Thawadi hizo referencia a esas cifras al hablar sobre las obras solo en estadios durante la entrevista, justo antes de ofrecer la estimación de “entre 400 y 500″ para toda la infraestructura del torneo.

En un comunicado más tarde, el Comité Supremo dijo que al-Thawadi hizo referencia a las “estadísticas nacionales para el periodo entre 2014 y 2020 para todos los decesos laborales (414) en todo el país, que cubren todos los sectores y nacionalidades”.

Desde que la FIFA le concedió el torneo a Qatar en 2010, el país ha tomado algunas medidas para reformar su legislación laboral. Esto incluye eliminar el llamado sistema de contratación kafala, que ataba a los trabajadores a sus empleadores, que tenían poder de decisión sobre si podían dejar sus puestos o incluso el país.

Qatar ha adaptado también un salario mínimo mensual de 1.000 riyales qataríes (275 dólares) para trabajadores y exige suplementos para alimentación y alojamiento para los empleados que no reciben esos beneficios directamente. También ha actualizado sus normas de seguridad para evitar muertes.

“Una muerte es ya una muerte de más. Así de sencillo”, apuntó al-Thawadi en la entrevista.

Los activistas han instado al gobierno qatarí a hacer más, especialmente para garantizar que los trabajadores reciben sus salarios a tiempo y están protegidos de los empleadores abusivos.

La afirmación de Al-Thawadi renueva también las dudas sobre la veracidad de los reportes, tanto gubernamentales como privados, sobre trabajadores muertos y heridos en todos los estados del Golfo Pérsico, cuyos rascacielos han sido levantados por migrantes de naciones asiáticas como India, Pakistán y Sri Lanka.

“Este es solo el último ejemplo de la inexcusable falta de transparencia de Qatar acerca de la muerte de trabajadores”, indicó Nicholas McGeehan, de Fairsquare, un grupo con sede en Londres que defiende a trabajadores migrantes en Oriente Medio. “Necesitamos datos e investigaciones, no cifras vagas anunciadas en entrevistas con medios”.

“La FIFA y Qatar siguen teniendo muchas preguntas que responder, sobre todo dónde, cuándo y cómo murieron estos hombres y si sus familias recibieron indemnizaciones”, agregó.

Mustafa Qadri, director ejecutivo de Equidem Research, una consultora laboral que ha publicado reportes acerca de la mortalidad de los migrantes que trabajan en construcción, se mostró sorprendido por las palabras d Al-Thawadi.

“Que ahora diga que son cientos, es sorprendente”, dijo a The Associated Press. “No tienen idea de lo que está ocurriendo”.

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Belfast doctor Michael Watt misdiagnosed 45% of cases, review into deaths finds | Northern Ireland

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A review of the clinical records of 44 patients who died under the care of the disgraced former neurologist Michael Watt has found a misdiagnosis rate of 45%.

In 2018, more than 2,500 of Watt’s neurology patients in Northern Ireland, including children, were recalled for a case review.

An independent inquiry launched in 2018 found there were numerous failures, that opportunities were missed by the Belfast Health Trust to identify problems with the neurologist’s practice and that earlier intervention by the trust would have “made a difference”.

In October last year, Watt was removed from the medical register after he made a voluntary application – meaning allegations about his work could not be heard in a tribunal by the General Medical Council (GMC).

Now, a review of 44 deceased cases, conducted by the Royal College of Physicians at the request of the regulator, the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA), has highlighted concerns over clinical decision-making, prescribing and diagnostics, the BBC reported.

It reveals a misdiagnosis rate of 45% among the group of 44 patients.

In several cases, a review of death certification, or referral to a medical examiner or coroner, was recommended, meaning coroners could be asked to reopen inquests.

That could mean the reopening of some cases by the coroner if he is approached by families to do so.

In a preface to the latest review, the RQIA’s chair, Christine Collins, said: “Family accounts starkly illustrate how failings by the individual practitioner, and by the system, led to deep human impacts and resulting harm, both to the deceased patients and to their bereaved families.”

In the wake of the 2018 recall, the Belfast health and social care trust set up special clinics so that the patients concerned – some as young as 14 – could have their condition reassessed as soon as possible.

The patients were being treated by Watt for conditions such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and motor neurone disease.

The trust apologised for the “significant anxiety” felt by the affected patients but said the move was necessary to ascertain if they were receiving the right treatment.

About one in five patients had to have their diagnoses changed.

The recall followed separate reviews into the notes detailing the care he provided to some people, which were undertaken by the trust and the Royal College of Physicians.

Watt ceased medical practice – through the trust or privately – in June 2017.

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Brain mapping in mice may explain why pain makes us lose our appetite

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Researchers have identified different pathways that lower a mouse’s desire to eat when it’s in pain – and a similar brain circuit could also occur in humans



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29 November 2022

People who experience chronic pain often report being less hungry

Mariusz Szczawinski / Alamy Stock Photo

The link between chronic pain and a loss of appetite may finally be understood – in mice at least.

Zhi Zhang at the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei and his colleagues injected mice with bacteria that provoke chronic pain. Ten days later, these mice were eating less frequently and for shorter periods of time compared with control mice that had been injected with saline. When the first group of mice were later given pain medication, they ate normally, the researchers wrote in a paper published in Nature Metabolism.

To better understand the neuronal activity responsible for this change in behaviour, the researchers analysed the brains of the first group of mice while the animals were in chronic pain. They found substantial neuron signalling in the mice’s anterior cingulate cortex, a pain-processing region of the brain in the prefrontal cortex.

To determine whether that signalling was related to appetite loss, the researchers provoked chronic pain in another group of mice, with these animals going on to eat less. The team then administered a chemical that prevents neuronal signalling in the anterior cingulate cortex and the mice’s appetites improved.

The prefrontal cortex isn’t generally associated with appetite control. To better understand how neurons in the anterior cingulate cortex may influence appetite, the team injected various traceable substances into these neurons in a third group of mice that were similarly made to feel pain.

They found that these neurons’ signals led to the lateral hypothalamic area, the brain’s “feeding centre”.

Examinations using microscopes confirmed that these neurons were active in the mice with chronic pain. When the researchers used chemicals to stop the neuronal activity in this cortex, the mice’s appetites improved.

Similarly, when the researchers used chemicals to activate these neurons in mice that weren’t in pain, the animals ate less, even if they had been deprived of food before the experiment.

This is the first time that researchers have traced the brain mechanisms behind pain-related appetite loss, the researchers wrote.

The mechanisms have only been identified in mice to date, however, Samantha Brooks at Liverpool John Moores University, UK, expects a similar brain circuit to be at play in humans, who also often eat less and lose weight if they have chronic pain.

“I would confidently predict that this circuit in the mouse could be the same in humans,” she says.

With further research, these results could also assist the development of more efficient pain medication, says Brooks.

“This is a really nice piece of science [with] exceptional, detailed mapping of the pathway,” says Simon Luckman at the University of Manchester in the UK.

However, the results aren’t particularly surprising, he says. The first step of the identified pathway is in a brain region that is already well-known for pain processing, while the other steps are in regions known for their roles in food intake. “The increase in basic knowledge is the important thing,” says Luckman.

Journal reference: Nature Metabolism, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s42255-022-00688-5

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