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BMJ. 2007 October 27; 335(7625): 892.
PMCID: PMC2043468

Minerva

A reminder to authors worried about publication in time for the UK Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) 2008 deadline of 31 December 2007. An Online First research article on bmj.com is not a “preprint”: it represents the full publication of that article. The bibliographic information is forwarded immediately to PubMed and other indexing agencies, so the article can be searched for and found on bibliographical databases and can be cited as published. The citation format appears at the top of the online article.

Protocols in human studies of raw honey used in surgical wound healing vary from applying it twice daily to every hour. A review of the medicinal value of honey in the International Journal of Clinical Practice (2007;61:1705-7 doi: 10.1111/j.1742-1241.2007.01417.x) says that honey is especially indicated when wounds become infected or fail to close. It may be indicated even more for the wounds left by laparoscopic surgery to remove cancer. Manuka seems to be the honey of choice.

Much has been written about the effect of giving the results of a positive HIV test to people, but the effect it has on the giver of the news has come in for less discussion. The discomfort experienced by the giver may have adverse effects in the interaction and may carry over into subsequent interactions with the client. In an analysis of interview data from 24 doctors and counsellors providing HIV test results, a few indicated little or no impact from delivering the positive test results because these days it's “not the end of the world.” Most, though, said they did find it difficult, and that anticipating the distress of the recipient was the worst part (AIDS Care 2007;19:1013-9 doi: 10.1080/095401207012944260).

When a British local authority said they planned to cremate three bodies at a time, one newspaper's headline was “Bodies to be cremated in threes to save cash.” The Cremation Society of Great Britain said another reason behind the practice of not cremating bodies immediately is the need sometimes to transfer the coffins of obese people to crematoriums where the equipment is bigger. Bodies will be cremated in batches of three, but one at a time, to ensure that the different ashes are kept separate. Consultations took place with representatives of most religious groups in the UK, and also with non-religious representatives. No objections were raised (Pharos International 2007;(Autumn):31 www.cremation.org.uk).

The Royal College of Obstetricians is hosting an exhibition of mixed media fabric panels from communities around the world titled “Stories of Mothers Lost.” Each panel tells the story of a death in childbirth in under-resourced countries, and the statistics worldwide show that a woman dies each minute from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. The exhibition is on in London until 14 December 2007 and will then tour to Japan, Washington DC, Africa, and Asia in 2008 (www.rcog.org.uk).

Serpins—serine protease inhibitors—are the acute phase reactants and regulators of the process by which proteins are broken down and are important in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease. A study in Neurology (2007;69:1569-79 doi: 10.1212/01.wnl.0000271077.82508.a0) measured plasma and cerebrospinal fluid levels in controls and patients with dementia. Higher concentrations of neuroserpin and α1-antichymotrypsin in cerebrospinal fluid were associated with the clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease and helped distinguish patients with Alzheimer's disease from controls, but serpin concentrations in cerebrospinal fluid didn't distinguish Alzheimer's disease from dementia with Lewy bodies.

Some behaviour in male and female mice can be put down to their chromosomes, not their sex hormones, according to Nature Neuroscience (published online 21 October 2007 doi: 10.1038/nn1994). A comparison of mutant mice with XY (male) chromosomes and ovaries, mutant mice with XX (female) chromosomes and testes, and normal male and female mice found that the XX mice learnt a habit reinforced by food faster than the XY mice, regardless whether or not they had testes or ovaries. Addictive drug habits form faster in women than men, and these mice may shed some light on the mechanism involved.

Garlic eaters enjoy a boost to their levels of hydrogen sulfide (H2S), a cell messenger processed by red blood cells, which relaxes blood vessels and increases blood flow. At high concentrations H2S is poisonous, but it's critical for cellular signalling at lower levels. When scientists extracted juice from supermarket garlic and added tiny amounts to human red blood cells, the cells started to emit H2S. They say that monitoring H2S production in red blood cells could be one way to standardise dietary garlic supplements to optimise their benefits (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA published online 19 October 2007 www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.0705710104).

GPs are encouraged to prescribe fewer antibiotics in order to reduce the risk of antibiotic resistance—but does this policy make any difference? More than 164 000 coliform isolates from urine samples that were collected from 240 Welsh practices over seven years showed a significant decrease overall. Ampicillin resistance decreased 1.03% for each 50 fewer amoxicillin items dispensed per 1000 patients per year, and trimethoprim resistance decreased 1.08% per 20 fewer trimethoprim items dispensed (British Journal of General Practice 2007;57:785-92 www.rcgp.org.uk).


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