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Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.


London, United Kingdom




Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.




Measles outbreak threat due to Covid

Global measles deaths were already at a 23 year high in 2019 after several years of inadequate immunisation levels in a number of countries around the world. The coronavirus pandemic looks set to make matters worse. The World Health Organisation is worried that disruptions to measles vaccination programmes this year in Africa have substantially raised the risk of large outbreaks in many countries. Immunisation coverage needs to be maintained at 95% or more to keep measles suppressed. Too...


Covid vaccine ‘90% effective’

Health Check examines the excitement around the preliminary announcement of 90% effectiveness of BioNTech and Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine in its phase 3 clinical trial. Claudia Hammond talks to Professor Gregory Poland, head of vaccine research at the Mayo Clinic in the United States about what we do and don’t know about the vaccine at this stage, and how the vaccine may be approved and deployed in the coming months. She consults Kalipso Chalkidou, Professor of Global Health Practice at...


Covid-19 vaccines: Unknowns and dilemmas

Some of the first large scale trials of Covid-19 vaccines may report results to regulators in the next few weeks. These first results will reveal how effective these vaccines are at preventing mild Covid illness but they’re unlikely to tell us how good they are at preventing serious disease and death. Should governments permit wide scale vaccination of populations based on that level of data when this may compromise learning more about their efficacy? And might widespread deployment of first...


Covid-19 plasma therapy trial results ‘disappointing’

For months now, many people hospitalised with Covid-19 have been given convalescent plasma – donated blood serum from people who’ve already had the illness. The hope has been that transfusing donated antibodies against the coronavirus will help to prevent deaths and serious illness. Convalescent plasma therapy received a high profile boost in the USA in August when the Trump administration announced emergency use authorisation for the treatment, despite the lack of robust evidence for its...


Do the Covid-19 drugs work?

What’s the evidence behind the drugs used to treat President Trump? The results of a World Health Organisation trial following patient outcomes in 204 countries are in. Remdesivir and hydroxychloroquine fail to reduce mortality over a 28 day period. Interferon and lopinavir are also shown to be ineffective. Is this the end of the road for using these drugs to treat Covid-19? Some good news from another global health survey. Before the pandemic, our track record on treating other infectious...


Have you ever hugged your doctor?

This week Claudia Hammond looks at the role of touch in health care, revealing some of the results of the Touch Test, an online study commissioned by Wellcome Collection in collaboration with the BBC. Doctors often need to physically examine patients – but many consultations are now online. Family doctors Margaret McCartney and Ann Robinson explain how important touch is in the consulting room. One of the experts behind the Touch Test, Greenwich University’s Dr Natalie Bowling explains how...


Touch Test results

In these days of Covid-19 and social distancing, one thing that many of us are missing is being able to touch other human beings. Claudia Hammond reveals the results of the world's largest study on the topic of touch - the Touch Test. 40,000 people from a hundred and twelve countries took part. Professor Michael Banissy of Goldsmiths, University of London, led the analysis of the Touch Test and he explains the findings on who likes touch and who doesn't, and who feels they don't get enough...


How long should Covid quarantine last?

This week Belgium is shortening the quarantine period for people who’ve been in contact with someone who’s tested positive for Covid-19 to a week – to see if it helps everyone stick to the rules. Fourteen days is recommended by the World Health Organization but Professor Steven van Gucht who is head virologist at the National Institute of Public Health in Belgium says the risk of missing a few positive cases is relatively low. Evidence indicates that if a test is done after a week, 88% of...


The latest on global Coronavirus cases

This week as cases of Covid-19 continue to rise in the Americas and Europe we have some better news about how countries are signing up to help vaccinate everyone in the world once a vaccine is found to be safe and effective. Covid-19 is a respiratory virus – which seemed to chiefly damage the lungs of the worst-affected patients. We hear how doctors treating them were astonished at how sticky their blood became, sometimes creating blood clots all over their bodies. Treating them with...


Have we reached the peak of Wellness?

Claudia Hammond continues her look at Wellness with its complex relationship with the medical profession. It can be hard to tell if scientific-sounding claims about supplements or mindfulness classes are supported by evidence. So the Berkeley Wellness Letter – aimed at helping to prevent disease and promote health since Dale Ogar and colleagues started back in 1984 – sifts through some of those claims. Doctors like paediatrician Paul Offit say adopting some of the 'touchy-feely' elements of...


What is Wellness and does it make you healthy?

The idea of Wellness – of being 'better than well' - fuels tens of millions of Instagram posts, supporting the careers of Influencers in a $4 trillion industry. The Oxford English Dictionary traces the word Wellness back to the 1650s and it was included in the World Health Organization’s mission statement. But who’s really benefitting from the increasing appetite for spa days and turmeric lattes? In 1979 the CBS Sixty Minutes television programme featured the benefits claimed by visitors to...


Covid-19 sniffer dogs being trained

Doctors and patients say they have noticed a distinctive smell when someone is infected with Covid-19. And now scientists in the UK are asking people who are being tested for the virus to wear a t-shirt, mask and socks - and then send them back in the post to help train special sniffer dogs. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine hope that dogs can learn to spot Covid-19 – as well as conditions like Parkinson’s Disease and some cancers. In our weekly Covid roundup: India has...


Newborn deaths in US

In the US, black newborn babies appear to be three times more likely to die in hospital than white newborns. A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences looked at the doctors in charge of newborns’ care. From census data for the twenty three years running up to 2015 they found that if a black doctor cares for a black baby the risk of death was halved. Claudia Hammond explores what might be going on here with the authors of the paper, Rachel Hardeman, Blue...


Covid immunity clues from a fishing boat in the Pacific

A Covid outbreak on board a trawler in the Pacific appears to have provided the first direct evidence that certain antibodies can provide protection from re-infection with the virus. American scientists tested for antibodies in 122 fishermen before and after their two week voyage. The three who had 'neutralising' antibodies did not get Covid-19, but three others who had produced general antibodies were infected. We hear from the World Health Organisation about how cases are rising in India...


Women’s reproductive rights threatened by Covid

The Covid-19 pandemic is threatening to undermine 20 years of progress in improving women’s reproductive health and rights around the world, according to the Guttmacher Institute in New York. The Institute’s president Herminia Palacio explains the threats to Claudia Hammond, and also the benefits to female and child health of expanding the provision of modern contraception methods to the millions of women whose needs are currently not met. The BBC News Global Health Correspondent Naomi...


Choirs and Covid

Choirs have been at the centre of several outbreaks of coronavirus, in Berlin and Washington for example. After the Amsterdam Mixed Choir in the Netherlands performed Bach's St John Passion in March, 102 out of the 130 choristers became ill, several needed intensive care and one died. We tend to assume it's the singing itself that's the problem, but do we know that for sure? Margaret McCartney explores that question with Professor Jackie Cassell, a specialist in sexually transmitted...


Covid testing cuts Apache death rate

It’s six months since the World Health Organisation declared the Covid-19 outbreak to be a public health emergency of international concern. There are now a quarter of a million new confirmed cases every day and the total now stands at more than 16.5 million. We hear from the WHO’s Dr Margaret Harris about how cases are still rising fast in the United States, Brazil and India – and that even where there has been a drop in cases, testing and tracing should still continue in case of a spike in...


What’s behind a drop in premature births during lockdown?

Early results from potential vaccines against Covid-19 have shown that they do trigger an immune response. Astra Zeneca’s vaccine created by Oxford University and the Ad5 vaccine from China both adapt a harmless virus with a coronavirus “spike protein” which they hope will train the body’s immune system. The Moderna and Pfizer/BioNtech vaccines both inject the coronavirus’s genetic code. The scientists in Oxford hope further trials in Brazil and the US where there are still high levels of...


Incredible tale of Covid family survival in Spain

We hear how three generations of one Spanish family all survived Covid infections - including a 96 year old grandmother. 27-year-old Pau from Barcelona fell ill 3 months ago and he, his mother, father and grandmother all ended up in hospital - with only the cat left at home. The experience has had a huge impact on all of them and their recovery is slow. People are admitted to hospital with Covid mainly because they have difficulty breathing – and oxygen can help. But in many hospitals in low...


Cancer deaths rise predicted after Covid-19

The fear of spreading Covid-19 infections has led many countries to enforce lockdowns – restricting people’s movement. Medical appointments and screening clinics to detect any early signs of cancer have been cancelled. New British research suggests that between 7,000 and 35,000 extra cancer deaths could result from the lack of diagnosis and treatment which patients would normally receive. Professor Richard Sullivan from Kings College London has been monitoring the global impact of lockdown...