Journal round up: Ant-ibiotics, off-label scripts & cancer

3 minute read

Here's the medical research that caught our attention over the past fortnight


What’s new in medical research? Here are TMR’s picks…

Off-label scripts a concern

Off-label prescribing of antidepressants, while commonplace, is poorly supported by evidence and often relies on extrapolating evidence from one situation to another, a study has found.

Researchers analysed data from an electronic prescribing system to track more than 100,000 antidepressant prescriptions written by primary care physicians for more than Canadian 20,000 adults between 2003 and 2015.

They found 29% of antidepressant prescriptions were written for an off-label indication, but only 16% of those prescriptions was supported by strong evidence backing the drug’s use for the indication.

For 40% of the off-label scripts there was strong evidence for using a drug in the same class (but not that drug), and for the remaining 44%, neither the prescribed drug, nor any others in the class, had firm evidence for the indication.

BMJ; online 21 February

Antibiotics from ants

A Kenyan ant has yielded previously unidentified bacteria that are active against antibiotic-resistant MRSA, a study has found.

The new antibiotic molecules, called formicamycins, inhibit the growth of methicillin resistant MRSA and Vancomycin-resistant enterococci.

The bacteria, Streptomyces formicae, was isolated from an African ant species that lives symbiotically in acacia trees.

“We have been exploring the chemical ecology of protective symbioses formed between antibiotic-producing bacteria and fungus-growing insects to better understand how these associations are formed and explore them as a new source of anti-infective drugs,” the authors wrote.

Chemical Science 2017, 13 February

New weight-cancer links

Obesity is already a risk factor for many cancers, but now esophageal adenocarcinoma and gastric cardia adenocarcinoma have been added to the list.

Adults that progressed from being overweight to obese between the ages of 20 and 50 had triple the risk of esophageal and stomach cancer compared with individuals with a normal weight, a US study has reported.

Individuals who were overweight at age 20 had a 60 to 70% increased risk of both cancers in later life.

“The results indicate that continued increases in excess weight across the life course, particularly when exposure begins by early adulthood, is associated with increased risk,” the authors said.

British Journal of Cancer 2017, 14 February

Dementia and sleep

People who sleep for nine hours or longer a night are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease within 10 years than those who sleep for less time, an observational study shows.

Researchers looked at the sleeping habits of more than 5000 men and women aged between 30 and 62 in the US town of Framingham from 1948, as part of a larger study aimed at identifying cardiovascular disease risks.

The researchers said the longer sleep times were more probably a symptom, rather than a cause, of the neuronal changes that come with dementia.

Neurology; online 23 February

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