Journal round up: Coffee, black death and ageing in babies

3 minute read

TMR has rounded up the most curious research published in the top medical journals over the past two weeks


TMR has rounded up the most curious research published in the top medical journals over the past two weeks.

Good news for coffee fans

Contrary to popular belief, caffeine may not increase the risk of arrhythmia in heart-failure patients, research from Brazil suggests.

A randomised control trial of 51 patients with heart failure found no link between caffeine ingestion and episodes of arrhythmia, even during treadmill tests performed an hour after either coffee or a placebo was consumed.

Those ingesting caffeine drank a total of 500mg of caffeine at hourly intervals over five hours, the equivalent of five typical cups of coffee.

The study authors noted that around half the patients were habitual coffee drinkers, which could make them less prone to effects of caffeine.

JAMA Internal Medicine; 17 October 

New vaccines for plague

Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch are developing three new vaccines against “Black Death” following a disturbing re-emergence of the disease in the US, Peru and parts of Africa.

The disease, also known as pneumonic plague and bubonic plague, was responsible for killing as many as 50 million people in 14th century Europe. Currently up to 2000 cases are reported to the WHO each year.

The researchers have been modifying genes of the Yersinia pestis bacteria to create a weaker strain for use in vaccines specifically for pneumonic plague, which is spread through airborne transmission and is the most deadly form of the disease.

NPJ Vaccines; 17 October

Weight burden on baby

Babies born to overweight or obese mothers may be biologically older than other newborns, a study shows.

Researchers found that overweight mothers had babies with telomeres (biomarkers of biological age) around 2.5% shorter than mothers with a healthy BMI.

The telomeres of babies born to obese mothers were 5.5% smaller.

“In normal ageing, it takes 5 to 10 years to experience a shortening of 5.5%,” study author Tim Nawrot, from Hasselt University in Belgium, said.

Babies with degraded telomeres might have shorter life expectancies and be at greater risk for chronic disease, the authors said.

BMC Medicine 2016, online 18 October

Migraines and gut

The gut bacteria in people with migraine could be responsible for the way certain foods appear to trigger the headaches, a new study has found.

The researchers took 172 oral samples and almost 2000 faecal samples from individuals who had filled out a survey indicating whether they suffered migraines.

There were significantly more microbes with the ability to encode nitrate, nitrite and nitric oxide-related enzymes in migraineurs, they found.

One potential mechanism behind the link between foods and migraines could be explained by migraineurs breaking down nitrates in foods more efficiently, causing blood vessels in the brain and scalp to dilate, the authors suggested.

mSystems 2016; online 18 October 

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