Riviste scientifiche

Opioid peptide signal in the brain makes mice hungrier for reward

Nature - Mer, 13/10/2021 - 00:00

Nature, Published online: 13 October 2021; doi:10.1038/d41586-021-02723-z

Release of opioid peptide in the brain leads food-deprived mice to eat more sugar than do mice that are well fed. This opioid signalling mechanism fine-tunes the reward value of food according to the animal’s state.

Electroacupuncture activates neurons to switch off inflammation

Nature - Mer, 13/10/2021 - 00:00

Nature, Published online: 13 October 2021; doi:10.1038/d41586-021-02714-0

Neurons that express a specific molecular marker are activated by ‘electroacupuncture’ stimulation. They can then mediate the treatment’s anti-inflammatory effects in a mouse model of the inflammatory condition sepsis.

Nobel-winning ‘natural experiments’ approach made economics more robust

Nature - Mer, 13/10/2021 - 00:00

Nature, Published online: 13 October 2021; doi:10.1038/d41586-021-02799-7

Joshua Angrist, Guido Imbens and David Card share the prize for finding a way to identify cause and effect in social science.

The cost of changes in energy use in a warming world

Nature - Mer, 13/10/2021 - 00:00

Nature, Published online: 13 October 2021; doi:10.1038/d41586-021-02721-1

How will global energy usage change as Earth warms? Modelling now suggests that there will be a modest net decrease in energy consumption — but probably at the expense of human well-being in many regions.

COVID scientists in the public eye need protection from threats

Nature - Mer, 13/10/2021 - 00:00

Nature, Published online: 13 October 2021; doi:10.1038/d41586-021-02757-3

Researchers are facing harassment for speaking out during the pandemic. Their institutions must do more to support them.

Spies may be storing data to decrypt with a future quantum computer

New Scientist - Mar, 12/10/2021 - 18:24
Quantum computers may one day break encryption, and security researchers say intelligence agencies may already be storing encrypted data with a plan to crack it in future

COP26: Which countries are doing best at tackling climate change?

New Scientist - Mar, 12/10/2021 - 18:00
Ahead of the COP26 climate summit, New Scientist has assessed which countries are ahead when it comes to cutting carbon emissions

Toxic oak moth threatens UK trees after failure to control its spread

New Scientist - Mar, 12/10/2021 - 16:00
The oak processionary moth, a native of southern Europe that damages oak trees, is invasive in the UK and is now spreading more rapidly there – despite efforts to control it

Transmission of community- and hospital-acquired SARS-CoV-2 in hospital settings in the UK: A cohort study

PLoS Medicine - Mar, 12/10/2021 - 16:00

by Yin Mo, David W. Eyre, Sheila F. Lumley, Timothy M. Walker, Robert H. Shaw, Denise O’Donnell, Lisa Butcher, Katie Jeffery, Christl A. Donnelly, Oxford COVID infection review team , Ben S. Cooper


Nosocomial spread of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has been widely reported, but the transmission pathways among patients and healthcare workers (HCWs) are unclear. Identifying the risk factors and drivers for these nosocomial transmissions is critical for infection prevention and control interventions. The main aim of our study was to quantify the relative importance of different transmission pathways of SARS-CoV-2 in the hospital setting.

Methods and findings

This is an observational cohort study using data from 4 teaching hospitals in Oxfordshire, United Kingdom, from January to October 2020. Associations between infectious SARS-CoV-2 individuals and infection risk were quantified using logistic, generalised additive and linear mixed models. Cases were classified as community- or hospital-acquired using likely incubation periods of 3 to 7 days. Of 66,184 patients who were hospitalised during the study period, 920 had a positive SARS-CoV-2 PCR test within the same period (1.4%). The mean age was 67.9 (±20.7) years, 49.2% were females, and 68.5% were from the white ethnic group. Out of these, 571 patients had their first positive PCR tests while hospitalised (62.1%), and 97 of these occurred at least 7 days after admission (10.5%). Among the 5,596 HCWs, 615 (11.0%) tested positive during the study period using PCR or serological tests. The mean age was 39.5 (±11.1) years, 78.9% were females, and 49.8% were nurses. For susceptible patients, 1 day in the same ward with another patient with hospital-acquired SARS-CoV-2 was associated with an additional 7.5 infections per 1,000 susceptible patients (95% credible interval (CrI) 5.5 to 9.5/1,000 susceptible patients/day) per day. Exposure to an infectious patient with community-acquired Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) or to an infectious HCW was associated with substantially lower infection risks (2.0/1,000 susceptible patients/day, 95% CrI 1.6 to 2.2). As for HCW infections, exposure to an infectious patient with hospital-acquired SARS-CoV-2 or to an infectious HCW were both associated with an additional 0.8 infection per 1,000 susceptible HCWs per day (95% CrI 0.3 to 1.6 and 0.6 to 1.0, respectively). Exposure to an infectious patient with community-acquired SARS-CoV-2 was associated with less than half this risk (0.2/1,000 susceptible HCWs/day, 95% CrI 0.2 to 0.2). These assumptions were tested in sensitivity analysis, which showed broadly similar results. The main limitations were that the symptom onset dates and HCW absence days were not available.


In this study, we observed that exposure to patients with hospital-acquired SARS-CoV-2 is associated with a substantial infection risk to both HCWs and other hospitalised patients. Infection control measures to limit nosocomial transmission must be optimised to protect both staff and patients from SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Cancer Special Issue: Early detection and minimal residual disease

PLoS Medicine - Mar, 12/10/2021 - 16:00

by Beryne Odeny

Beryne Odeny discusses PLOS Medicine’s Special Issue on early cancer detection and minimal residual disease.

Cesarean section: More than a maternal health issue

PLoS Medicine - Mar, 12/10/2021 - 16:00

by Marleen Temmerman, Abdu Mohiddin

A cesarean section (CS) can be a lifesaving intervention when medically indicated, but it may also lead to adverse short- and long-term health effects for women and children.

Associations between cesarean delivery and child mortality: A national record linkage longitudinal study of 17.8 million births in Brazil

PLoS Medicine - Mar, 12/10/2021 - 16:00

by Enny S. Paixao, Christian Bottomley, Julia M. Pescarini, Kerry L. M. Wong, Luciana L. Cardim, Rita de Cássia Ribeiro Silva, Elizabeth B. Brickley, Laura C. Rodrigues, Flavia Jôse Oliveira Alves, Maria do Carmo Leal, Maria da Conceicao N. Costa, Maria Gloria Teixeira, Maria Yury Ichihara, Liam Smeeth, Mauricio L. Barreto, Oona M. R. Campbell


There is an increasing use of cesarean delivery (CD) based on preference rather than on medical indication. However, the extent to which nonmedically indicated CD benefits or harms child survival remains unclear. Our hypothesis was that in groups with a low indication for CD, this procedure would be associated with higher child mortality and in groups with a clear medical indication CD would be associated with improved child survival chances.

Methods and findings

We conducted a population-based cohort study in Brazil by linking routine data on live births between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2018 and assessing mortality up to 5 years of age. Women with a live birth who contributed records during this period were classified into one of 10 Robson groups based on their pregnancy and delivery characteristics. We used propensity scores to match CD with vaginal deliveries (1:1) and prelabor CD with unscheduled CD (1:1) and estimated associations with child mortality using Cox regressions. A total of 17,838,115 live births were analyzed. After propensity score matching (PSM), we found that live births to women in groups with low expected frequencies of CD (Robson groups 1 to 4) had a higher death rate up to age 5 years if they were born via CD compared with vaginal deliveries (HR = 1.25, 95% CI: 1.22 to 1.28; p < 0.001). The relative rate was greatest in the neonatal period (HR = 1.39, 95% CI: 1.34 to 1.45; p < 0.001). There was no difference in mortality rate when comparing offspring born by a prelabor CD to those born by unscheduled CD. For the live births to women with a CD in a prior pregnancy (Robson group 5), the relative rates for child mortality were similar for those born by CD compared with vaginal deliveries (HR = 1.05, 95% CI: 1.00 to 1.10; p = 0.024). In contrast, for live births to women in groups with high expected rates of CD (Robson groups 6 to 10), the child mortality rate was lower for CD than for vaginal deliveries (HR = 0.90, 95% CI: 0.89 to 0.91; p < 0.001), particularly in the neonatal period (HR = 0.84, 95% CI: 0.83 to 0.85; p < 0.001). Our results should be interpreted with caution in clinical practice, since relevant clinical data on CD indication were not available.


In this study, we observed that in Robson groups with low expected frequencies of CD, this procedure was associated with a 25% increase in child mortality. However, in groups with high expected frequencies of CD, the findings suggest that clinically indicated CD is associated with a reduction in child mortality.

Characterising the nationwide burden and predictors of unkept outpatient appointments in the National Health Service in England: A cohort study using a machine learning approach

PLoS Medicine - Mar, 12/10/2021 - 16:00

by Sion Philpott-Morgan, Dixa B. Thakrar, Joshua Symons, Daniel Ray, Hutan Ashrafian, Ara Darzi


Unkept outpatient hospital appointments cost the National Health Service £1 billion each year. Given the associated costs and morbidity of unkept appointments, this is an issue requiring urgent attention. We aimed to determine rates of unkept outpatient clinic appointments across hospital trusts in the England. In addition, we aimed to examine the predictors of unkept outpatient clinic appointments across specialties at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust (ICHT). Our final aim was to train machine learning models to determine the effectiveness of a potential intervention in reducing unkept appointments.

Methods and findings

UK Hospital Episode Statistics outpatient data from 2016 to 2018 were used for this study. Machine learning models were trained to determine predictors of unkept appointments and their relative importance. These models were gradient boosting machines. In 2017–2018 there were approximately 85 million outpatient appointments, with an unkept appointment rate of 5.7%. Within ICHT, there were almost 1 million appointments, with an unkept appointment rate of 11.2%. Hepatology had the highest rate of unkept appointments (17%), and medical oncology had the lowest (6%). The most important predictors of unkept appointments included the recency (25%) and frequency (13%) of previous unkept appointments and age at appointment (10%). A sensitivity of 0.287 was calculated overall for specialties with at least 10,000 appointments in 2016–2017 (after data cleaning). This suggests that 28.7% of patients who do miss their appointment would be successfully targeted if the top 10% least likely to attend received an intervention. As a result, an intervention targeting the top 10% of likely non-attenders, in the full population of patients, would be able to capture 28.7% of unkept appointments if successful. Study limitations include that some unkept appointments may have been missed from the analysis because recording of unkept appointments is not mandatory in England. Furthermore, results here are based on a single trust in England, hence may not be generalisable to other locations.


Unkept appointments remain an ongoing concern for healthcare systems internationally. Using machine learning, we can identify those most likely to miss their appointment and implement more targeted interventions to reduce unkept appointment rates.

Association of accelerometer-derived sleep measures with lifetime psychiatric diagnoses: A cross-sectional study of 89,205 participants from the UK Biobank

PLoS Medicine - Mar, 12/10/2021 - 16:00

by Michael Wainberg, Samuel E. Jones, Lindsay Melhuish Beaupre, Sean L. Hill, Daniel Felsky, Manuel A. Rivas, Andrew S. P. Lim, Hanna M. Ollila, Shreejoy J. Tripathy


Sleep problems are both symptoms of and modifiable risk factors for many psychiatric disorders. Wrist-worn accelerometers enable objective measurement of sleep at scale. Here, we aimed to examine the association of accelerometer-derived sleep measures with psychiatric diagnoses and polygenic risk scores in a large community-based cohort.

Methods and findings

In this post hoc cross-sectional analysis of the UK Biobank cohort, 10 interpretable sleep measures—bedtime, wake-up time, sleep duration, wake after sleep onset, sleep efficiency, number of awakenings, duration of longest sleep bout, number of naps, and variability in bedtime and sleep duration—were derived from 7-day accelerometry recordings across 89,205 participants (aged 43 to 79, 56% female, 97% self-reported white) taken between 2013 and 2015. These measures were examined for association with lifetime inpatient diagnoses of major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder/mania, and schizophrenia spectrum disorders from any time before the date of accelerometry, as well as polygenic risk scores for major depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. Covariates consisted of age and season at the time of the accelerometry recording, sex, Townsend deprivation index (an indicator of socioeconomic status), and the top 10 genotype principal components. We found that sleep pattern differences were ubiquitous across diagnoses: each diagnosis was associated with a median of 8.5 of the 10 accelerometer-derived sleep measures, with measures of sleep quality (for instance, sleep efficiency) generally more affected than mere sleep duration. Effect sizes were generally small: for instance, the largest magnitude effect size across the 4 diagnoses was β = −0.11 (95% confidence interval −0.13 to −0.10, p = 3 × 10−56, FDR = 6 × 10−55) for the association between lifetime inpatient major depressive disorder diagnosis and sleep efficiency. Associations largely replicated across ancestries and sexes, and accelerometry-derived measures were concordant with self-reported sleep properties. Limitations include the use of accelerometer-based sleep measurement and the time lag between psychiatric diagnoses and accelerometry.


In this study, we observed that sleep pattern differences are a transdiagnostic feature of individuals with lifetime mental illness, suggesting that they should be considered regardless of diagnosis. Accelerometry provides a scalable way to objectively measure sleep properties in psychiatric clinical research and practice, even across tens of thousands of individuals.

Behavioural activation to prevent depression and loneliness among socially isolated older people with long-term conditions: The BASIL COVID-19 pilot randomised controlled trial

PLoS Medicine - Mar, 12/10/2021 - 16:00

by Simon Gilbody, Elizabeth Littlewood, Dean McMillan, Carolyn A. Chew-Graham, Della Bailey, Samantha Gascoyne, Claire Sloan, Lauren Burke, Peter Coventry, Suzanne Crosland, Caroline Fairhurst, Andrew Henry, Catherine Hewitt, Kalpita Joshi, Eloise Ryde, Leanne Shearsmith, Gemma Traviss-Turner, Rebecca Woodhouse, Andrew Clegg, Tom Gentry, Andrew J. Hill, Karina Lovell, Sarah Dexter Smith, Judith Webster, David Ekers


Older adults, including those with long-term conditions (LTCs), are vulnerable to social isolation. They are likely to have become more socially isolated during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, often due to advice to “shield” to protect them from infection. This places them at particular risk of depression and loneliness. There is a need for brief scalable psychosocial interventions to mitigate the psychological impacts of social isolation. Behavioural activation (BA) is a credible candidate intervention, but a trial is needed.

Methods and findings

We undertook an external pilot parallel randomised trial (ISRCTN94091479) designed to test recruitment, retention and engagement with, and the acceptability and preliminary effects of the intervention. Participants aged ≥65 years with 2 or more LTCs were recruited in primary care and randomised by computer and with concealed allocation between June and October 2020. BA was offered to intervention participants (n = 47), and control participants received usual primary care (n = 49). Assessment of outcome was made blind to treatment allocation. The primary outcome was depression severity (measured using the Patient Health Questionnaire 9 (PHQ-9)). We also measured health-related quality of life (measured by the Short Form (SF)-12v2 mental component scale (MCS) and physical component scale (PCS)), anxiety (measured by the Generalised Anxiety Disorder 7 (GAD-7)), perceived social and emotional loneliness (measured by the De Jong Gierveld Scale: 11-item loneliness scale). Outcome was measured at 1 and 3 months. The mean age of participants was aged 74 years (standard deviation (SD) 5.5) and they were mostly White (n = 92, 95.8%), and approximately two-thirds of the sample were female (n = 59, 61.5%). Remote recruitment was possible, and 45/47 (95.7%) randomised to the intervention completed 1 or more sessions (median 6 sessions) out of 8. A total of 90 (93.8%) completed the 1-month follow-up, and 86 (89.6%) completed the 3-month follow-up, with similar rates for control (1 month: 45/49 and 3 months 44/49) and intervention (1 month: 45/47and 3 months: 42/47) follow-up. Between-group comparisons were made using a confidence interval (CI) approach, and by adjusting for the covariate of interest at baseline. At 1 month (the primary clinical outcome point), the median number of completed sessions for people receiving the BA intervention was 3, and almost all participants were still receiving the BA intervention. The between-group comparison for the primary clinical outcome at 1 month was an adjusted between-group mean difference of −0.50 PHQ-9 points (95% CI −2.01 to 1.01), but only a small number of participants had completed the intervention at this point. At 3 months, the PHQ-9 adjusted mean difference (AMD) was 0.19 (95% CI −1.36 to 1.75). When we examined loneliness, the adjusted between-group difference in the De Jong Gierveld Loneliness Scale at 1 month was 0.28 (95% CI −0.51 to 1.06) and at 3 months −0.87 (95% CI −1.56 to −0.18), suggesting evidence of benefit of the intervention at this time point. For anxiety, the GAD adjusted between-group difference at 1 month was 0.20 (−1.33, 1.73) and at 3 months 0.31 (−1.08, 1.70). For the SF-12 (physical component score), the adjusted between-group difference at 1 month was 0.34 (−4.17, 4.85) and at 3 months 0.11 (−4.46, 4.67). For the SF-12 (mental component score), the adjusted between-group difference at 1 month was 1.91 (−2.64, 5.15) and at 3 months 1.26 (−2.64, 5.15). Participants who withdrew had minimal depressive symptoms at entry. There were no adverse events. The Behavioural Activation in Social Isolation (BASIL) study had 2 main limitations. First, we found that the intervention was still being delivered at the prespecified primary outcome point, and this fed into the design of the main trial where a primary outcome of 3 months is now collected. Second, this was a pilot trial and was not designed to test between-group differences with high levels of statistical power. Type 2 errors are likely to have occurred, and a larger trial is now underway to test for robust effects and replicate signals of effectiveness in important secondary outcomes such as loneliness.


In this study, we observed that BA is a credible intervention to mitigate the psychological impacts of COVID-19 isolation for older adults. We demonstrated that it is feasible to undertake a trial of BA. The intervention can be delivered remotely and at scale, but should be reserved for older adults with evidence of depressive symptoms. The significant reduction in loneliness is unlikely to be a chance finding, and replication will be explored in a fully powered randomised controlled trial (RCT).

Trial registration


ctDNA: An emerging neoadjuvant biomarker in resectable solid tumors

PLoS Medicine - Mar, 12/10/2021 - 16:00

by Christopher Abbosh, Charles Swanton

Christopher Abbosh and Charles Swanton discuss circulating tumor DNA as a potential biomarker for neoadjuvant treatment response in solid tumors.

Covid-19 news: Study finds vaccines prevent over 84% of severe cases

New Scientist - Mar, 12/10/2021 - 13:33
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic

Something strange is sending radio waves from the centre of the galaxy

New Scientist - Mar, 12/10/2021 - 13:00
A source of radio waves, nicknamed "Andy's object", coming from the direction of the centre of the galaxy has left astronomers puzzled

Living sensors in our guts could provide early warnings of cancer

New Scientist - Mar, 12/10/2021 - 12:00
Gut bacteria engineered to produce a signal when they eat chunks of DNA from cancer cells could form an early warning test for the disease, tests in mice suggest

Breadfruit could be the food of the future as the climate warms

New Scientist - Mar, 12/10/2021 - 10:00
Breadfruit – which is a bit like a potato that grows on trees – is projected to grow well throughout this century, even as staples like rice are hit by rising temperatures