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1.  Strengths and Limitations of Evidence-Based Dermatology 
Indian Journal of Dermatology  2014;59(2):127-133.
The need for understanding and reflecting on evidence-based dermatology (EBD) has never been greater given the exponential growth of new external evidence to inform clinical practice. Like any other branch of medicine, dermatologists need to acquire new skills in constructing answerable questions, efficiently searching electronic bibliographic databases, and critically appraising different types of studies. Secondary summaries of evidence in the form of systematic reviews (SR), that is, reviews that are conducted in a systematic, unbiased and explicit manner, reside at the top of the evidence hierarchy, because they are less prone to bias than traditional expert reviews. In addition to providing summaries of the best external evidence, systematic reviews and randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are also powerful ways of identifying research gaps and ultimately setting the agenda of future clinical research in dermatology. But like any paradigm, EBD can have its limitations. Wrong application, misuse and overuse of EBD can have serious consequences. For example, mindless pooling together of data from dissimilar studies in a meta-analysis may render it a form of reductionism that does not make any sense. Similarly, even highly protocolised study designs such as SRs and RCTs are still susceptible to some degree of dishonesty and bias. Over-reliance on randomized controlled trials (RCT) may be inappropriate, as RCTs are not a good source for picking up rare but important adverse effects such as lupus syndrome with minocycline. A common criticism leveled against SRs is that these frequently conclude that there is lack of sufficient evidence to inform current clinical practice, but arguably, such a perception is grounded more on the interpretation of the SRs than anything else. The apparent absence of evidence should not paralyze the dermatologist to adopt a state of therapeutic nihilism. Poor primary data and an SR based on evidence that is not up-to-date are also limitations that can only improve with better primary studies and updated reviews such as those done by the Cochrane Collaboration. Most dermatologists are interested in integrating the best external evidence with the care of individual patients and have been practicing good EBD without realizing it.
doi:10.4103/0019-5154.127670
PMCID: PMC3969670  PMID: 24700929
Bias; dermatology; evidence-based; systematic review; trials; uncertainty
2.  Optimization of multimodal spectral imaging for assessment of resection margins during Mohs micrographic surgery for basal cell carcinoma 
Biomedical Optics Express  2014;6(1):98-111.
Multimodal spectral imaging (MSI) based on auto-fluorescence imaging and Raman micro-spectroscopy was used to detect basal cell carcinoma (BCC) in tissue specimens excised during Mohs micrographic surgery. In this study, the MSI algorithm was optimized to maximize the diagnosis accuracy while minimizing the number of Raman spectra: the segmentation of the auto-fluorescence images was optimized according to the type of BCC, sampling points for Raman spectroscopy were generated based on auto-fluorescence intensity variance and segment area, additional Raman spectra were acquired when performance of the segmentation algorithm was sub-optimal. The results indicate that accurate diagnosis can be achieved with a sampling density of ~2,000 Raman spectra/cm2, based on sampling points generated by the MSI algorithms. The key benefit of MSI is that diagnosis of BCC is obtained based on intrinsic chemical contrast of the tissue, within time scales similar to frozen-section histopathology, but without requiring laborious sample preparation and subjective interpretation of stained frozen-sections.
doi:10.1364/BOE.6.000098
PMCID: PMC4317116  PMID: 25657878
(170.0170) Medical optics and biotechnology; (170.5660) Raman spectroscopy; (170.4580) Optical diagnostics for medicine; (170.1870) Dermatology
5.  Emollient enhancement of the skin barrier from birth offers effective atopic dermatitis prevention 
Background
Atopic dermatitis (atopic eczema) is a chronic inflammatory skin disease that has reached epidemic proportions in children worldwide and is increasing in prevalence. Because of the significant socioeconomic effect of atopic dermatitis and its effect on the quality of life of children and families, there have been decades of research focused on disease prevention, with limited success. Recent advances in cutaneous biology suggest skin barrier defects might be key initiators of atopic dermatitis and possibly allergic sensitization.
Objective
Our objective was to test whether skin barrier enhancement from birth represents a feasible strategy for reducing the incidence of atopic dermatitis in high-risk neonates.
Methods
We performed a randomized controlled trial in the United States and United Kingdom of 124 neonates at high risk for atopic dermatitis. Parents in the intervention arm were instructed to apply full-body emollient therapy at least once per day starting within 3 weeks of birth. Parents in the control arm were asked to use no emollients. The primary feasibility outcome was the percentage of families willing to be randomized. The primary clinical outcome was the cumulative incidence of atopic dermatitis at 6 months, as assessed by a trained investigator.
Results
Forty-two percent of eligible families agreed to be randomized into the trial. All participating families in the intervention arm found the intervention acceptable. A statistically significant protective effect was found with the use of daily emollient on the cumulative incidence of atopic dermatitis with a relative risk reduction of 50% (relative risk, 0.50; 95% CI, 0.28-0.9; P = .017). There were no emollient-related adverse events and no differences in adverse events between groups.
Conclusion
The results of this trial demonstrate that emollient therapy from birth represents a feasible, safe, and effective approach for atopic dermatitis prevention. If confirmed in larger trials, emollient therapy from birth would be a simple and low-cost intervention that could reduce the global burden of allergic diseases.
doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2014.08.005
PMCID: PMC4180007  PMID: 25282563
Atopic dermatitis; eczema; skin barrier; prevention; emollients
6.  The Cochrane Skin Group: a vanguard for developing and promoting evidence‐based dermatology 
Abstract
Aim
The Cochrane Skin Group (CSG) is part of the international Cochrane Collaboration (http://www.cochrane.org/). The CSG prepares, maintains and disseminates high quality evidence‐based summaries on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of skin diseases. We present a synopsis of the history, scope and priorities of the CSG. In addition, we report outcomes of CSG reviews and critically assess clinical value.
Methods
Descriptive analysis of systematic reviews published by the CSG since its inception including output, impact factor, associated methodological studies, and influence in clinical guidelines, promoting patient and public engagement and in triggering new primary research.
Results
The CSG started in 1997, and has published 61 reviews, 34 protocols and 31 registered titles by August 2013. The CSG scope includes 1000 skin diseases; 80% of reviews cover the top ten diagnoses and 40% of reviews provide clear guidance for clinical practice. CSG reviews had an impact factor of 6.1 in 2011 which places it alongside top dermatology journals. CSG reviews are typically broad in focus and have been shown to be of better quality than non‐Cochrane reviews. They are highly cited in clinical guidelines. Several reviews have identified evidence gaps that have led to better primary research.
Conclusions
The CSG has emerged as a vanguard of evidence‐based dermatology by growing a community interested in applying best external evidence to the care of skin patients and by identifying topics for research. CSG reviews are high impact, clinically relevant and have tangibly influenced international dermatology clinical practice guidelines and new research.
doi:10.1111/jebm.12068
PMCID: PMC4163638  PMID: 24325417
Cochrane; skin; evidence; epidemiology; dermatology
7.  Global, regional, and national levels of neonatal, infant, and under-5 mortality during 1990–2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013 
Wang, Haidong | Liddell, Chelsea A | Coates, Matthew M | Mooney, Meghan D | Levitz, Carly E | Schumacher, Austin E | Apfel, Henry | Iannarone, Marissa | Phillips, Bryan | Lofgren, Katherine T | Sandar, Logan | Dorrington, Rob E | Rakovac, Ivo | Jacobs, Troy A | Liang, Xiaofeng | Zhou, Maigeng | Zhu, Jun | Yang, Gonghuan | Wang, Yanping | Liu, Shiwei | Li, Yichong | Ozgoren, Ayse Abbasoglu | Abera, Semaw Ferede | Abubakar, Ibrahim | Achoki, Tom | Adelekan, Ademola | Ademi, Zanfina | Alemu, Zewdie Aderaw | Allen, Peter J | AlMazroa, Mohammad AbdulAziz | Alvarez, Elena | Amankwaa, Adansi A | Amare, Azmeraw T | Ammar, Walid | Anwari, Palwasha | Cunningham, Solveig Argeseanu | Asad, Majed Masoud | Assadi, Reza | Banerjee, Amitava | Basu, Sanjay | Bedi, Neeraj | Bekele, Tolesa | Bell, Michelle L | Bhutta, Zulfiqar | Blore, Jed | Basara, Berrak Bora | Boufous, Soufiane | Breitborde, Nicholas | Bruce, Nigel G | Bui, Linh Ngoc | Carapetis, Jonathan R | Cárdenas, Rosario | Carpenter, David O | Caso, Valeria | Castro, Ruben Estanislao | Catalá-Lopéz, Ferrán | Cavlin, Alanur | Che, Xuan | Chiang, Peggy Pei-Chia | Chowdhury, Rajiv | Christophi, Costas A | Chuang, Ting-Wu | Cirillo, Massimo | Leite, Iuri da Costa | Courville, Karen J | Dandona, Lalit | Dandona, Rakhi | Davis, Adrian | Dayama, Anand | Deribe, Kebede | Dharmaratne, Samath D | Dherani, Mukesh K | Dilmen, Uğur | Ding, Eric L | Edmond, Karen M | Ermakov, Sergei Petrovich | Farzadfar, Farshad | Fereshtehnejad, Seyed-Mohammad | Fijabi, Daniel Obadare | Foigt, Nataliya | Forouzanfar, Mohammad H | Garcia, Ana C | Geleijnse, Johanna M | Gessner, Bradford D | Goginashvili, Ketevan | Gona, Philimon | Goto, Atsushi | Gouda, Hebe N | Green, Mark A | Greenwell, Karen Fern | Gugnani, Harish Chander | Gupta, Rahul | Hamadeh, Randah Ribhi | Hammami, Mouhanad | Harb, Hilda L | Hay, Simon | Hedayati, Mohammad T | Hosgood, H Dean | Hoy, Damian G | Idrisov, Bulat T | Islami, Farhad | Ismayilova, Samaya | Jha, Vivekanand | Jiang, Guohong | Jonas, Jost B | Juel, Knud | Kabagambe, Edmond Kato | Kazi, Dhruv S | Kengne, Andre Pascal | Kereselidze, Maia | Khader, Yousef Saleh | Khalifa, Shams Eldin Ali Hassan | Khang, Young-Ho | Kim, Daniel | Kinfu, Yohannes | Kinge, Jonas M | Kokubo, Yoshihiro | Kosen, Soewarta | Defo, Barthelemy Kuate | Kumar, G Anil | Kumar, Kaushalendra | Kumar, Ravi B | Lai, Taavi | Lan, Qing | Larsson, Anders | Lee, Jong-Tae | Leinsalu, Mall | Lim, Stephen S | Lipshultz, Steven E | Logroscino, Giancarlo | Lotufo, Paulo A | Lunevicius, Raimundas | Lyons, Ronan Anthony | Ma, Stefan | Mahdi, Abbas Ali | Marzan, Melvin Barrientos | Mashal, Mohammad Taufiq | Mazorodze, Tasara T | McGrath, John J | Memish, Ziad A | Mendoza, Walter | Mensah, George A | Meretoja, Atte | Miller, Ted R | Mills, Edward J | Mohammad, Karzan Abdulmuhsin | Mokdad, Ali H | Monasta, Lorenzo | Montico, Marcella | Moore, Ami R | Moschandreas, Joanna | Msemburi, William T | Mueller, Ulrich O | Muszynska, Magdalena M | Naghavi, Mohsen | Naidoo, Kovin S | Narayan, KM Venkat | Nejjari, Chakib | Ng, Marie | Ngirabega, Jean de Dieu | Nieuwenhuijsen, Mark J | Nyakarahuka, Luke | Ohkubo, Takayoshi | Omer, Saad B | Caicedo, Angel J Paternina | Wyk, Victoria Pillay-van | Pope, Dan | Prabhakaran, Dorairaj | Rahman, Sajjad UR | Rana, Saleem M | Reilly, Robert Quentin | Rojas-Rueda, David | Ronfani, Luca | Rushton, Lesley | Saeedi, Mohammad Yahya | Salomon, Joshua | Sampson, Uchechukwu | Santos, Itamar S | Sawhney, Monika | Schmidt, Jürgen C | Nazarova, Marina Shakh | She, Jun | Sheikhbahaei, Sara | Shibuya, Kenji | Shin, Hwashin Hyun | Shishani, Kawkab | Shiue, Ivy | Sigfusdottir, Inga Dora | Singh, Jasvinder A | Skirbekk, Vegard | Sliwa, Karen | Soshnikov, Sergey S | Sposato, Luciano A | Stathopoulou, Vasiliki Kalliopi | Stroumpoulis, Konstantinos | Tabb, Karen M | Talongwa, Roberto Tchio | Teixeira, Carolina Maria | Terkawi, Abdullah Sulieman | Thomson, Alan J | Lyman, Andrew L Thorne | Toyoshima, Hideaki | Dimbuene, Zacharie Tsala | Uwaliraye, Parfait | Uzun, Selen Begüm | Vasankari, Tommi J | Vasconcelos, Ana Maria Nogales | Vlassov, Vasiliy Victorovich | Vollset, Stein Emil | Vos, Theo | Waller, Stephen | Wan, Xia | Weichenthal, Scott | Weiderpass, Elisabete | Weintraub, Robert G | Westerman, Ronny | Wilkinson, James D | Williams, Hywel C | Yang, Yang C | Yentur, Gokalp Kadri | Yip, Paul | Yonemoto, Naohiro | Younis, Mustafa | Yu, Chuanhua | Jin, Kim Yun | Zaki, Maysaa El Sayed | Zhu, Shankuan | Lopez, Alan D | Murray, Christopher J L
Lancet  2014;384(9947):957-979.
Summary
Background
Remarkable financial and political efforts have been focused on the reduction of child mortality during the past few decades. Timely measurements of levels and trends in under-5 mortality are important to assess progress towards the Millennium Development Goal 4 (MDG 4) target of reduction of child mortality by two thirds from 1990 to 2015, and to identify models of success.
Methods
We generated updated estimates of child mortality in early neonatal (age 0–6 days), late neonatal (7–28 days), postneonatal (29–364 days), childhood (1–4 years), and under-5 (0–4 years) age groups for 188 countries from 1970 to 2013, with more than 29 000 survey, census, vital registration, and sample registration datapoints. We used Gaussian process regression with adjustments for bias and non-sampling error to synthesise the data for under-5 mortality for each country, and a separate model to estimate mortality for more detailed age groups. We used explanatory mixed effects regression models to assess the association between under-5 mortality and income per person, maternal education, HIV child death rates, secular shifts, and other factors. To quantify the contribution of these different factors and birth numbers to the change in numbers of deaths in under-5 age groups from 1990 to 2013, we used Shapley decomposition. We used estimated rates of change between 2000 and 2013 to construct under-5 mortality rate scenarios out to 2030.
Findings
We estimated that 6·3 million (95% UI 6·0–6·6) children under-5 died in 2013, a 64% reduction from 17·6 million (17·1–18·1) in 1970. In 2013, child mortality rates ranged from 152·5 per 1000 livebirths (130·6–177·4) in Guinea-Bissau to 2·3 (1·8–2·9) per 1000 in Singapore. The annualised rates of change from 1990 to 2013 ranged from −6·8% to 0·1%. 99 of 188 countries, including 43 of 48 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, had faster decreases in child mortality during 2000–13 than during 1990–2000. In 2013, neonatal deaths accounted for 41·6% of under-5 deaths compared with 37·4% in 1990. Compared with 1990, in 2013, rising numbers of births, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, led to 1·4 million more child deaths, and rising income per person and maternal education led to 0·9 million and 2·2 million fewer deaths, respectively. Changes in secular trends led to 4·2 million fewer deaths. Unexplained factors accounted for only −1% of the change in child deaths. In 30 developing countries, decreases since 2000 have been faster than predicted attributable to income, education, and secular shift alone.
Interpretation
Only 27 developing countries are expected to achieve MDG 4. Decreases since 2000 in under-5 mortality rates are accelerating in many developing countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. The Millennium Declaration and increased development assistance for health might have been a factor in faster decreases in some developing countries. Without further accelerated progress, many countries in west and central Africa will still have high levels of under-5 mortality in 2030.
Funding
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, US Agency for International Development.
doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(14)60497-9
PMCID: PMC4165626  PMID: 24797572
8.  A comparative risk assessment of burden of disease and injury attributable to 67 risk factors and risk factor clusters in 21 regions, 1990–2010: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010 
Lim, Stephen S | Vos, Theo | Flaxman, Abraham D | Danaei, Goodarz | Shibuya, Kenji | Adair-Rohani, Heather | Amann, Markus | Anderson, H Ross | Andrews, Kathryn G | Aryee, Martin | Atkinson, Charles | Bacchus, Loraine J | Bahalim, Adil N | Balakrishnan, Kalpana | Balmes, John | Barker-Collo, Suzanne | Baxter, Amanda | Bell, Michelle L | Blore, Jed D | Blyth, Fiona | Bonner, Carissa | Borges, Guilherme | Bourne, Rupert | Boussinesq, Michel | Brauer, Michael | Brooks, Peter | Bruce, Nigel G | Brunekreef, Bert | Bryan-Hancock, Claire | Bucello, Chiara | Buchbinder, Rachelle | Bull, Fiona | Burnett, Richard T | Byers, Tim E | Calabria, Bianca | Carapetis, Jonathan | Carnahan, Emily | Chafe, Zoe | Charlson, Fiona | Chen, Honglei | Chen, Jian Shen | Cheng, Andrew Tai-Ann | Child, Jennifer Christine | Cohen, Aaron | Colson, K Ellicott | Cowie, Benjamin C | Darby, Sarah | Darling, Susan | Davis, Adrian | Degenhardt, Louisa | Dentener, Frank | Des Jarlais, Don C | Devries, Karen | Dherani, Mukesh | Ding, Eric L | Dorsey, E Ray | Driscoll, Tim | Edmond, Karen | Ali, Suad Eltahir | Engell, Rebecca E | Erwin, Patricia J | Fahimi, Saman | Falder, Gail | Farzadfar, Farshad | Ferrari, Alize | Finucane, Mariel M | Flaxman, Seth | Fowkes, Francis Gerry R | Freedman, Greg | Freeman, Michael K | Gakidou, Emmanuela | Ghosh, Santu | Giovannucci, Edward | Gmel, Gerhard | Graham, Kathryn | Grainger, Rebecca | Grant, Bridget | Gunnell, David | Gutierrez, Hialy R | Hall, Wayne | Hoek, Hans W | Hogan, Anthony | Hosgood, H Dean | Hoy, Damian | Hu, Howard | Hubbell, Bryan J | Hutchings, Sally J | Ibeanusi, Sydney E | Jacklyn, Gemma L | Jasrasaria, Rashmi | Jonas, Jost B | Kan, Haidong | Kanis, John A | Kassebaum, Nicholas | Kawakami, Norito | Khang, Young-Ho | Khatibzadeh, Shahab | Khoo, Jon-Paul | Kok, Cindy | Laden, Francine | Lalloo, Ratilal | Lan, Qing | Lathlean, Tim | Leasher, Janet L | Leigh, James | Li, Yang | Lin, John Kent | Lipshultz, Steven E | London, Stephanie | Lozano, Rafael | Lu, Yuan | Mak, Joelle | Malekzadeh, Reza | Mallinger, Leslie | Marcenes, Wagner | March, Lyn | Marks, Robin | Martin, Randall | McGale, Paul | McGrath, John | Mehta, Sumi | Mensah, George A | Merriman, Tony R | Micha, Renata | Michaud, Catherine | Mishra, Vinod | Hanafiah, Khayriyyah Mohd | Mokdad, Ali A | Morawska, Lidia | Mozaff arian, Dariush | Murphy, Tasha | Naghavi, Mohsen | Neal, Bruce | Nelson, Paul K | Nolla, Joan Miquel | Norman, Rosana | Olives, Casey | Omer, Saad B | Orchard, Jessica | Osborne, Richard | Ostro, Bart | Page, Andrew | Pandey, Kiran D | Parry, Charles D H | Passmore, Erin | Patra, Jayadeep | Pearce, Neil | Pelizzari, Pamela M | Petzold, Max | Phillips, Michael R | Pope, Dan | Pope III, C Arden | Powles, John | Rao, Mayuree | Razavi, Homie | Rehfuess, Eva A | Rehm, Jürgen T | Ritz, Beate | Rivara, Frederick P | Roberts, Thomas | Robinson, Carolyn | Rodriguez-Portales, Jose A | Romieu, Isabelle | Room, Robin | Rosenfeld, Lisa C | Roy, Ananya | Rushton, Lesley | Salomon, Joshua A | Sampson, Uchechukwu | Sanchez-Riera, Lidia | Sanman, Ella | Sapkota, Amir | Seedat, Soraya | Shi, Peilin | Shield, Kevin | Shivakoti, Rupak | Singh, Gitanjali M | Sleet, David A | Smith, Emma | Smith, Kirk R | Stapelberg, Nicolas J C | Steenland, Kyle | Stöckl, Heidi | Stovner, Lars Jacob | Straif, Kurt | Straney, Lahn | Thurston, George D | Tran, Jimmy H | Van Dingenen, Rita | van Donkelaar, Aaron | Veerman, J Lennert | Vijayakumar, Lakshmi | Weintraub, Robert | Weissman, Myrna M | White, Richard A | Whiteford, Harvey | Wiersma, Steven T | Wilkinson, James D | Williams, Hywel C | Williams, Warwick | Wilson, Nicholas | Woolf, Anthony D | Yip, Paul | Zielinski, Jan M | Lopez, Alan D | Murray, Christopher J L | Ezzati, Majid
Lancet  2012;380(9859):2224-2260.
Summary
Background
Quantification of the disease burden caused by different risks informs prevention by providing an account of health loss different to that provided by a disease-by-disease analysis. No complete revision of global disease burden caused by risk factors has been done since a comparative risk assessment in 2000, and no previous analysis has assessed changes in burden attributable to risk factors over time.
Methods
We estimated deaths and disability-adjusted life years (DALYs; sum of years lived with disability [YLD] and years of life lost [YLL]) attributable to the independent effects of 67 risk factors and clusters of risk factors for 21 regions in 1990 and 2010. We estimated exposure distributions for each year, region, sex, and age group, and relative risks per unit of exposure by systematically reviewing and synthesising published and unpublished data. We used these estimates, together with estimates of cause-specific deaths and DALYs from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010, to calculate the burden attributable to each risk factor exposure compared with the theoretical-minimum-risk exposure. We incorporated uncertainty in disease burden, relative risks, and exposures into our estimates of attributable burden.
Findings
In 2010, the three leading risk factors for global disease burden were high blood pressure (7·0% [95% uncertainty interval 6·2–7·7] of global DALYs), tobacco smoking including second-hand smoke (6·3% [5·5–7·0]), and alcohol use (5·5% [5·0–5·9]). In 1990, the leading risks were childhood underweight (7·9% [6·8–9·4]), household air pollution from solid fuels (HAP; 7·0% [5·6–8·3]), and tobacco smoking including second-hand smoke (6·1% [5·4–6·8]). Dietary risk factors and physical inactivity collectively accounted for 10·0% (95% UI 9·2–10·8) of global DALYs in 2010, with the most prominent dietary risks being diets low in fruits and those high in sodium. Several risks that primarily affect childhood communicable diseases, including unimproved water and sanitation and childhood micronutrient deficiencies, fell in rank between 1990 and 2010, with unimproved water we and sanitation accounting for 0·9% (0·4–1·6) of global DALYs in 2010. However, in most of sub-Saharan Africa childhood underweight, HAP, and non-exclusive and discontinued breastfeeding were the leading risks in 2010, while HAP was the leading risk in south Asia. The leading risk factor in Eastern Europe, most of Latin America, and southern sub-Saharan Africa in 2010 was alcohol use; in most of Asia, North Africa and Middle East, and central Europe it was high blood pressure. Despite declines, tobacco smoking including second-hand smoke remained the leading risk in high-income north America and western Europe. High body-mass index has increased globally and it is the leading risk in Australasia and southern Latin America, and also ranks high in other high-income regions, North Africa and Middle East, and Oceania.
Interpretation
Worldwide, the contribution of different risk factors to disease burden has changed substantially, with a shift away from risks for communicable diseases in children towards those for non-communicable diseases in adults. These changes are related to the ageing population, decreased mortality among children younger than 5 years, changes in cause-of-death composition, and changes in risk factor exposures. New evidence has led to changes in the magnitude of key risks including unimproved water and sanitation, vitamin A and zinc deficiencies, and ambient particulate matter pollution. The extent to which the epidemiological shift has occurred and what the leading risks currently are varies greatly across regions. In much of sub-Saharan Africa, the leading risks are still those associated with poverty and those that affect children.
Funding
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(12)61766-8
PMCID: PMC4156511  PMID: 23245609
9.  Comparing Cutaneous Research Funded by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases with 2010 Global Burden of Disease Results 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e102122.
Importance
Disease burden data helps guide research prioritization.
Objective
To determine the extent to which grants issued by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) reflect disease burden, measured by disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) from Global Burden of Disease (GBD) 2010 project.
Design
Two investigators independently assessed 15 skin conditions studied by GBD 2010 in the NIAMS database for grants issued in 2013. The 15 skin diseases were matched to their respective DALYs from GBD 2010.
Setting
The United States NIAMS database and GBD 2010 skin condition disability data.
Main Outcome(s) and Measure(s)
Relationship of NIAMS grant database topic funding with percent total GBD 2010 DALY and DALY rank for 15 skin conditions.
Results
During fiscal year 2013, 1,443 NIAMS grants were issued at a total value of $424 million. Of these grants, 17.7% covered skin topics. Of the total skin disease funding, 82% (91 grants) were categorized as “general cutaneous research.” Psoriasis, leprosy, and “other skin and subcutaneous diseases” (ie; immunobullous disorders, vitiligo, and hidradenitis suppurativa) were over-represented when funding was compared with disability. Conversely, cellulitis, decubitus ulcer, urticaria, acne vulgaris, viral skin diseases, fungal skin diseases, scabies, and melanoma were under-represented. Conditions for which disability and funding appeared well-matched were dermatitis, squamous and basal cell carcinoma, pruritus, bacterial skin diseases, and alopecia areata.
Conclusions and Relevance
Degree of representation in NIAMS is partly correlated with DALY metrics. Grant funding was well-matched with disability metrics for five of the 15 studied skin diseases, while two skin diseases were over-represented and seven were under-represented. Global burden estimates provide increasingly transparent and important information for investigating and prioritizing national research funding allocations.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0102122
PMCID: PMC4086973  PMID: 25003335
10.  Key considerations for the experimental training and evaluation of cancer odour detection dogs: lessons learnt from a double-blind, controlled trial of prostate cancer detection 
BMC Urology  2014;14:22.
Background
Cancer detection using sniffer dogs is a potential technology for clinical use and research. Our study sought to determine whether dogs could be trained to discriminate the odour of urine from men with prostate cancer from controls, using rigorous testing procedures and well-defined samples from a major research hospital.
Methods
We attempted to train ten dogs by initially rewarding them for finding and indicating individual prostate cancer urine samples (Stage 1). If dogs were successful in Stage 1, we then attempted to train them to discriminate prostate cancer samples from controls (Stage 2). The number of samples used to train each dog varied depending on their individual progress. Overall, 50 unique prostate cancer and 67 controls were collected and used during training. Dogs that passed Stage 2 were tested for their ability to discriminate 15 (Test 1) or 16 (Tests 2 and 3) unfamiliar prostate cancer samples from 45 (Test 1) or 48 (Tests 2 and 3) unfamiliar controls under double-blind conditions.
Results
Three dogs reached training Stage 2 and two of these learnt to discriminate potentially familiar prostate cancer samples from controls. However, during double-blind tests using new samples the two dogs did not indicate prostate cancer samples more frequently than expected by chance (Dog A sensitivity 0.13, specificity 0.71, Dog B sensitivity 0.25, specificity 0.75). The other dogs did not progress past Stage 1 as they did not have optimal temperaments for the sensitive odour discrimination training.
Conclusions
Although two dogs appeared to have learnt to select prostate cancer samples during training, they did not generalise on a prostate cancer odour during robust double-blind tests involving new samples. Our study illustrates that these rigorous tests are vital to avoid drawing misleading conclusions about the abilities of dogs to indicate certain odours. Dogs may memorise the individual odours of large numbers of training samples rather than generalise on a common odour. The results do not exclude the possibility that dogs could be trained to detect prostate cancer. We recommend that canine olfactory memory is carefully considered in all future studies and rigorous double-blind methods used to avoid confounding effects.
doi:10.1186/1471-2490-14-22
PMCID: PMC3945616  PMID: 24575737
Prostate cancer; Cancer detection dogs; Cancer odour; Olfactory memory; Multiple sample learning
11.  Prophylactic Antibiotics to Prevent Cellulitis of the Leg: Economic Analysis of the PATCH I & II Trials 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e82694.
Background
Cellulitis (erysipelas) is a recurring and debilitating bacterial infection of the skin and underlying tissue. We assessed the cost-effectiveness of prophylactic antibiotic treatment to prevent the recurrence of cellulitis using low dose penicillin V in patients following a first episode (6 months prophylaxis) and more recurrent cellulitis (12 months prophylaxis, or 6 months in those declining 12 months).
Methods
Within-trial cost-effectiveness analysis was conducted using the findings of two randomised placebo-controlled multicentre trials (PATCH I and PATCH II), in which patients recruited in the UK and Ireland were followed-up for up to 3 years. Incremental cost, reduction in recurrence, cost per recurrence prevented and cost/QALY were estimated. National unit and reference costs for England in 2010 were applied to resource use, exploring NHS and societal perspectives. A total of 397 patients from the two trials contributed to the analysis.
Results
There was a 29% reduction in the number of recurrences occurring within the trial (IRR: 0.71 95%CI: 0.53 to 0.90, p = 0.02), corresponding to an absolute reduction of recurrence of 0.31 recurrences/patient (95%CI: 0.05 to 0.59, p = 0.02). Incremental costs of prophylaxis suggested a small cost saving but were not statistically significant, comparing the two groups. If a decision-maker is willing to pay up to £25,000/QALY then there is a 66% probability of antibiotic prophylaxis being cost-effective from an NHS perspective, rising to 76% probability from a secondary, societal perspective.
Conclusion
Following first episode or recurrent cellulitis of the leg, prophylactic low dose penicillin is a very low cost intervention which, on balance, is effective and cost-effective at preventing subsequent attacks. Antibiotic prophylaxis reduces cellulitis recurrence by nearly a third but is not associated with a significant increase in costs.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0082694
PMCID: PMC3925077  PMID: 24551029
12.  How should an incident case of atopic dermatitis be defined? A systematic review of primary prevention studies 
Background
Eczema prevention is now an active area of dermatologic and allergic research. Defining an incident case is therefore a prerequisite for such as study.
Objective
We sought to examine how an incident case of atopic dermatitis was defined in previous atopic dermatitis prevention studies in order to make recommendations on a standard definition of new atopic dermatitis cases for use in future prevention trials.
Methods
We conducted a systematic review of controlled interventional atopic dermatitis prevention studies using searches of Medline and Cochrane databases from 1980 to the end of January 2011. Studies that included atopic dermatitis as a secondary outcome, such as asthma prevention trials, were included.
Results
One hundred and two (102) studies were included in the final analysis, of which 27 (26.5%) did not describe any criteria for defining an incident case of atopic dermatitis. Of the remaining 75 studies with reported disease criteria, the Hanifin-Rajka criteria were the most commonly used (28 studies). A disease definition unique to that particular study (21 studies) was the second most commonly used disease definition, although the sources for such novel definitions were not cited.
Conclusions
The results from this systematic review highlight the need for improved reporting and standardization of the definition used for an incident case in atopic dermatitis prevention studies. Most prevention studies have used disease definitions such as the Hanifin-Rajka criteria that include disease chronicity. While acceptable for cumulative incidence outcomes, inclusion of disease chronicity precludes the precise measurement of disease onset. We propose a definition based on existing scientific studies that could be used in future prospective studies.
doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2012.01.075
PMCID: PMC3387336  PMID: 22424882
outcomes; atopic dermatitis; eczema; systematic review; definition; incident case; disease criteria
13.  Mapping Systematic Reviews on Atopic Eczema—An Essential Resource for Dermatology Professionals and Researchers 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e58484.
Background
Many research studies have been published on atopic eczema and these are often summarised in systematic reviews (SRs). Identifying SRs can be time-consuming for health professionals, and researchers. In order to facilitate the identification of important research, we have compiled an on-line resource that includes all relevant eczema reviews published since 2000.
Methods
SRs were searched for in MEDLINE (Ovid), EMBASE (Ovid), PubMed, the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, DARE and NHS Evidence. Selected SRs were assessed against the pre-defined eligibility criteria and relevant articles were grouped by treatment category for the included interventions. All identified systematic reviews are included in the Global Resource of EczemA Trials (GREAT) database (www.greatdatabase.org.uk) and key clinical messages are summarised here.
Results
A total of 128 SRs reviews were identified, including three clinical guidelines. Of these, 46 (36%) were found in the Cochrane Library. No single database contained all of the SRs found. The number of SRs published per year has increased substantially over the last thirteen years, and reviews were published in a variety of clinical journals. Of the 128 SRs, 1 (1%) was on mechanism, 37 (29%) were on epidemiology, 40 (31%) were on eczema prevention, 29 (23%) were on topical treatments, 31 (24%) were on systemic treatments, and 24 (19%) were on other treatments. All SRs included searches of MEDLINE in their search methods. One hundred six SRs (83%) searched more than one electronic database. There were no language restrictions reported in the search methods of 52 of the SRs (41%).
Conclusions
This mapping of atopic eczema reviews is a valuable resource. It will help healthcare practitioners, guideline writers, information specialists, and researchers to quickly identify relevant up-to-date evidence in the field for improving patient care.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0058484
PMCID: PMC3594299  PMID: 23505516
14.  IJD®: Consorting with CONSORT 2010 
doi:10.4103/0019-5154.105271
PMCID: PMC3555366  PMID: 23372203
15.  Prevention of atopic dermatitis 
Atopic dermatitis now affects one in five children, and may progress to asthma and hay fever. In the absence of effective treatments that influence disease progression, prevention is a highly desirable goal. The evidence for most existing disease prevention strategies, such as avoidance of allergens and dietary interventions, has been unconvincing and inconsistent. Fresh approaches to prevention include trying to induce tolerance to allergens in early life, and enhancing the defective skin barrier to reduce skin inflammation, sensitisation and subsequent allergic disease. Early and aggressive treatment of atopic dermatitis represents another possible secondary prevention strategy that could interrupt the development of autoimmunity, which may account for atopic dermatitis persistence. Large scale and long term randomized controlled trials are needed to demonstrate that these ideas result in clinical benefit.
doi:10.3410/M4-24
PMCID: PMC3515944  PMID: 23236339
16.  What determines patient preferences for treating low risk basal cell carcinoma when comparing surgery vs imiquimod? A discrete choice experiment survey from the SINS trial 
BMC Dermatology  2012;12:19.
Background
The SINS trial (Controlled Clinical Trials ISRCTN48755084; Eudract No. 2004-004506-24) is a randomised controlled trial evaluating long term success of excisional surgery vs. imiquimod 5% cream for low risk nodular and superficial basal cell carcinoma (BCC). The trial included a discrete choice experiment questionnaire to explore patient preferences of a cream versus surgery for the treatment of their skin cancer.
Methods
The self-completed questionnaire was administered at baseline to 183 participants, measuring patients’ strength of preferences when choosing either alternative ‘surgery’ or ‘imiquimod cream’ instead of a fixed ‘current situation’ option (of surgical excision as standard practice in UK). The treatments were described according to: cost, chance of complete clearance, side effects and appearance. Participants had to choose between various scenarios. Analysis was performed using a mixed logit model, which took into account the impact of previous BCC treatment and sample preference variability.
Results
The analysis showed that respondents preferred ‘imiquimod cream’ to their ‘current situation’ or ‘surgery’, regardless of previous experience of BCC symptoms and treatment. Respondents were more likely to be worried about their cosmetic outcomes and side effects they might experience over and above their chance of clearance and cost. Those with no experience of surgery (compared with experience) valued more the choice of ‘imiquimod cream’ (£1013 vs £781). All treatment characteristics were significant determinants of treatment choice, and there was significant variability in the population preferences for all of them.
Conclusions
Patients with BCC valued more ‘imiquimod cream’ than alternative ‘surgery’ options, and all treatment characteristics were important for their choice of care. Understanding how people with a BCC value alternative interventions may better inform the development of health care interventions.
doi:10.1186/1471-5945-12-19
PMCID: PMC3532314  PMID: 23035730
Patient preferences; Discrete choice; Willingness to pay; Nodular and superficial basal cell carcinoma; Surgery; Imiquimod cream
17.  Overview of Reviews The prevention of eczema in infants and children: an overview of Cochrane and non-Cochrane reviews 
Background
Eczema is the most common inflammatory skin disease of childhood, characterized by an itchy red rash that usually involves the face and skin folds. There is currently no curative treatment for eczema, so the reduction of eczema incidence through disease prevention is a desirable goal. Potential interventions for preventing eczema include exclusive breastfeeding, hydrolysed protein formulas and soy formulas when bottle feeding, maternal antigen avoidance, omega oil supplementation, prebiotics and probiotics.
Objectives
This overview of reviews aims to present the current body of data from Cochrane and non-Cochrane reviews to provide the most up-to-date evidence on the efficacy and safety of interventions to prevent eczema in infants and children at different risk levels for developing allergic disease.
Methods
Our pool of Cochrane and non-Cochrane reviews came from the 2010 United Kingdom National Health Service (NHS) Evidence Skin Disorders Annual Evidence Updates Mapping Exercise on Atopic Eczema. This group used a comprehensive search strategy last conducted in August 2010 to identify all systematic reviews on eczema prevention. We identified all reviews that met our pre-specified inclusion criteria, and data were extracted, analysed, compiled into tables and synthesized using quantitative and qualitative methods.
Main results
Seven systematic reviews containing 39 relevant trials with 11 897 participants were included in this overview. Overall, there was no clear evidence that any of the main interventions reviewed reduced eczema incidence. In subgroup analyses of infants at high risk of allergic disease, an observational study found that exclusive breastfeeding for at least six months compared with introduction of solids at three to six months decreased the incidence of eczema by 60% (risk ratio (RR): 0.40; 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.21, 0.78), and a randomized controlled trial found that prebiotics compared with no prebiotics decreased incidence by 58% (RR: 0.42; 95% CI: 0.21, 0.84). However, each of these findings was based on the results of a single small trial, and no intervention reduced eczema incidence beyond the first two years of life. Although we pre-specified incidence of atopic eczema (i.e. eczema associated with immunoglobulin E (IgE) sensitization) as a primary outcome, data on whether participants diagnosed with eczema were truly atopic were largely lacking from systematic reviews. Similarly, data on atopy, measured using skin prick tests or specific IgE tests to allergens, were not reported in many reviews. No interventions were found to decrease atopy when reported. Adverse events data were generally lacking, but data from a trial of probiotics versus no probiotics showed significantly more spitting up in the first one (RR: 1.88; 95% CI: 1.03, 3.45) and two (RR: 1.69; 95% CI: 1.02, 2.80) months of life, but no overall increase in risk of gastrointestinal symptoms in the first year.
Authors’ conclusions
Although there is currently no clear evidence showing that any of the interventions examined in this overview prevent eczema in participants not selected for risk of allergic disease, there is some evidence that exclusive breastfeeding for at least six months and prebiotics might reduce eczema incidence in high-risk participants. However, these conclusions are based on limited evidence with methodological shortcomings. Future research on prevention of eczema is needed and should examine different types of hydrolysed formulas, prebiotics and probiotics, as well as enhancement of the skin barrier and other novel approaches in infants at different risk levels for developing allergic disease.
doi:10.1002/ebch.827
PMCID: PMC3399595  PMID: 22822349
eczema; overview; skin disease; systematic review
18.  UK Dermatology Clinical Trials Network’s STOP GAP trial (a multicentre trial of prednisolone versus ciclosporin for pyoderma gangrenosum): protocol for a randomised controlled trial 
Trials  2012;13:51.
Background
Pyoderma gangrenosum (PG) is a rare inflammatory skin disorder characterised by painful and rapidly progressing skin ulceration. PG can be extremely difficult to treat and patients often require systemic immunosuppression. Recurrent lesions of PG are common, but the relative rarity of this condition means that there is a lack of published evidence regarding its treatment. A systematic review published in 2005 found no randomised controlled trials (RCTs) relating to the treatment of PG. Since this time, one small RCT has been published comparing infliximab to placebo, but none of the commonly used systemic treatments for PG have been formally assessed. The UK Dermatology Clinical Trials Network’s STOP GAP Trial has been designed to address this lack of trial evidence.
Methods
The objective is to assess whether oral ciclosporin is more effective than oral prednisolone for the treatment of PG. The trial design is a two-arm, observer-blind, parallel-group, randomised controlled trial comparing ciclosporin (4 mg/kg/day) to prednisolone (0.75 mg/kg/day). A total of 140 participants are to be recruited over a period of 4 years, from up to 50 hospitals in the UK and Eire. Primary outcome of velocity of healing at 6 weeks is assessed blinded to treatment allocation (using digital images of the ulcers). Secondary outcomes include: (i) time to healing; (ii) global assessment of improvement; (iii) PG inflammation assessment scale score; (iv) self-reported pain; (v) health-related quality of life; (vi) time to recurrence; (vii) treatment failures; (viii) adverse reactions to study medications; and (ix) cost effectiveness/utility. Patients with a clinical diagnosis of PG (excluding granulomatous PG); measurable ulceration (that is, not pustular PG); and patients aged over 18 years old who are able to give informed consent are included in the trial. Randomisation is by computer generated code using permuted blocks of randomly varying size, stratified by lesion size, and presence or absence of underlying systemic disease (for example, rheumatoid arthritis).
Patients who require topical therapy are asked to enter a parallel observational study (case series). If topical therapy fails and systemic therapy is required, participants are then considered for inclusion in the randomised trial.
Trial registration
Current controlled trials: ISRCTN35898459. Eudract No.2008-008291-14.
doi:10.1186/1745-6215-13-51
PMCID: PMC3423010  PMID: 22540770
Ciclosporin (cyclosporin); Prednisolone; Pyoderma gangrenosum; RCT
19.  The value of the pragmatic-explanatory continuum indicator summary wheel in an ongoing study: the bullous pemphigoid steroids and tetracyclines study 
Trials  2012;13:50.
Background
The Pragmatic-Explanatory Continuum Indicator Summary (PRECIS) tool is intended to be used in the design phase of trials to help investigative teams design trials in-line with their purpose. Our team applied this tool to an ongoing trial (BLISTER) to determine whether the initial suggestion among some team members that the trial could be described as largely pragmatic was the consensus.
Methods
Each of the six members of the BLISTER trial team was sent a blank PRECIS wheel to independently complete. The results obtained were averaged and plotted on a single PRECIS wheel to illustrate the degree of pragmatism of the trial.
Results
The trial team found that the design of the trial was closest to the pragmatic end of the pragmatic-explanatory continuum. The strongest consensus was found on the ‘flexibility of the comparison intervention’ and ‘practitioner adherence’ domains (SD = 13). The trial team appeared to disagree most on the ‘eligibility criteria’ (SD = 35) and ‘participant compliance’ (SD = 31) domains, although the large standard deviations were a result of a single outlier in the two domains.
Conclusion
The PRECIS tool can be used to retrospectively determine the pragmatism of a trial provided enough expertise and information on the trial is available. Illustrating the design of a trial on the PRECIS wheel can help research users more easily identify studies of interest. We hope our recommendations for applying this useful tool will encourage others to consider using it when designing, conducting and reporting studies.
Trial registration
Current Controlled Trials http://www.controlled-trials.com/ISRCTN13704604
doi:10.1186/1745-6215-13-50
PMCID: PMC3423061  PMID: 22540678
BLISTER; Bullous pemphigoid; Explanatory; Pragmatic; PRECIS; Clinical trial
20.  Mapping randomized controlled trials of treatments for eczema - The GREAT database (The Global Resource of Eczema Trials: a collection of key data on randomized controlled trials of treatments for eczema from 2000 to 2010) 
BMC Dermatology  2011;11:10.
Background
Massive duplication of effort occurs when researchers all over the world undertake extensive searches for randomized controlled trials when preparing systematic reviews, when developing evidence-based guidelines and when applying for research funding for eczema treatments. Such duplication wastes valuable resources.
Searching for randomized controlled trials of eczema is a laborious task involving scrutiny of thousands of individual references from diverse electronic databases in order to obtain a few papers of interest. Clinicians and patients who wish to find out more about a particular treatment are at risk of missing the relevant evidence if they are not trained in electronic bibliographic searching. Systematic reviews cannot be relied upon to comprehensively inform current optimal eczema treatments due to incomplete coverage and because many may be out of date.
An international, publically available and comprehensive resource which brings together all randomized controlled trials on eczema treatment using a highly sensitive search has the potential to release more filtered knowledge about patient care to those who need it most and to significantly shorten the duration and costs of many clinical eczema research and guideline projects.
Description
The Global Resource of EczemA Trials brings together information on all randomized controlled trials of eczema treatments published from the beginning of 2000 up to the end of 2010 and will be updated every month.
We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials in The Cochrane Library and the Cochrane Skin Group Specialised Register, MEDLINE, EMBASE, LILACS, AMED and CINHAL databases. We included 268 RCTs (24th March 2011) covering over 70 different treatment interventions.
The structure of the Global Resource of Eczema Trials allows the user as much, or as little, specificity when retrieving information on trials as they wish, in an easy to use format. For each trial, the database gives the citation for the published report and also provides enough information to enable a user to decide whether the trial is worth further scrutiny.
Conclusions
The Global Resource of Eczema Trials has been created to facilitate knowledge mobilization into healthcare and to reduce wastage of research time through unnecessary duplication. The collective time saved by research groups around the world can now be used to make strides in optimising the treatment of eczema, in order to further benefit people with eczema. The database can be accessed free of charge at http://www.greatdatabase.org.uk
doi:10.1186/1471-5945-11-10
PMCID: PMC3125320  PMID: 21592376
21.  A Randomised Controlled Trial of Ion-Exchange Water Softeners for the Treatment of Eczema in Children 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(2):e1000395.
In a randomized trial evaluating the effect of installation of ion-exchange water softeners in the households of children with eczema, the researchers found no evidence of improvement in eczema severity as compared to usual care in the study population.
Background
Epidemiological studies and anecdotal reports suggest a possible link between household use of hard water and atopic eczema. We sought to test whether installation of an ion-exchange water softener in the home can improve eczema in children.
Methods and Findings
This was an observer-blind randomised trial involving 336 children (aged 6 months to 16 years) with moderate/severe atopic eczema. All lived in hard water areas (≥200 mg/l calcium carbonate). Participants were randomised to either installation of an ion-exchange water softener plus usual eczema care, or usual eczema care alone. The primary outcome was change in eczema severity (Six Area Six Sign Atopic Dermatitis Score, SASSAD) at 12 weeks, measured by research nurses who were blinded to treatment allocation. Analysis was based on the intent-to-treat population. Eczema severity improved for both groups during the trial. The mean change in SASSAD at 12 weeks was −5.0 (20% improvement) for the water softener group and −5.7 (22% improvement) for the usual care group (mean difference 0.66, 95% confidence interval −1.37 to 2.69, p = 0.53). No between-group differences were noted in the use of topical corticosteroids or calcineurin inhibitors.
Conclusions
Water softeners provided no additional benefit to usual care in this study population. Small but statistically significant differences were found in some secondary outcomes as reported by parents, but it is likely that such improvements were the result of response bias, since participants were aware of their treatment allocation. A detailed report for this trial is also available at http://www.hta.ac.uk.
Trial registration
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN71423189
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Eczema (sometimes referred to as atopic dermatitis) is a chronic, inflammatory skin condition that affects about 20% of school children in developed countries. Eczema is often associated with other conditions, such as asthma, hay-fever and food allergy and can cause intractable itching leading to thickened skin, bleeding, secondary infection, sleep loss, poor concentration, and psychological distress. Current topical treatments for eczema have side effects, for example, topical corticosteroids may cause skin thinning and the long term safety of topical tacrolimus and pimecrolimus has yet to be determined. Therefore, there is a lot of interest in exploring the benefits of non-pharmacological treatments that have no apparent side effects.
Water hardness (≥200 mg/l calcium carbonate) has become a recent focus of attention.
Why Was This Study Done?
In addition to some epidemiological evidence linking increased water hardness with increased eczema prevalence, there have been widespread anecdotal reports of improvement in the skin of children with eczema when the family has moved from a hard to a soft water area. In addition, some patients report how their eczema symptoms have rapidly improved following the installation of a water softener. However, to date there have been no relevant published trials evaluating the potential benefit of water softeners for eczema. Given the lack of evidence, the high public interest in their potential benefit and the low risk of adverse effects, the researcher conducted a study to assess whether the installation of an ion-exchange water softener reduces the severity of eczema in children with moderate to severe eczema.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers did a pilot study that showed that it was not possible to blind participants to their treatment allocation using real and “dummy” water softener units because the softened water produced more soap suds. So the researchers conducted an observer-blind randomised controlled trial in which they used trained research nurses to conduct an objective assessment of every participant's skin. The researchers recruited 336 children who all lived in hard water areas in England. Eligible children were aged 6 months to 16 years who had a diagnosis of eczema (in line with the UK working party's diagnostic criteria) and an eczema severity score of 10 or over. Participants were randomised to either installation of an ion-exchange water softener plus usual eczema care, or usual eczema care alone. Trained research nurses examined each child's skin at baseline and at 6, 12, and 16 weeks to record changes in eczema severity. The researchers also analysed any changes in symptoms over the study period such as, sleep loss and itchiness, the amount of topical corticosteroid/calcineurin inhibitors used, the Dermatitis Family Impact questionnaire and the health related Quality of Life (children's version).
Although both treatment groups improved in disease severity during the course of the trial, the researchers found no difference between the treatment groups in the main outcome—eczema severity. Similar finding were found for night movement (scratching) and the use of topical medications (creams/ointments applied to the skin), both of which were blinded to intervention status. Nevertheless, parents in the trial did report small health benefits, and just over 50% chose to buy the water softener at the end of the trial because of perceived improvements in the eczema and the wider benefits of water softeners. It is unclear how much of this effect can be explained by prior belief in the effectiveness of the water softeners for the treatment of eczema.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The results of this study suggest that water softeners provide no additional clinical benefit to usual care in children with eczema so the use of ion-exchange water softeners for the treatment of moderate to severe eczema in children should not be recommended. However, it is up to each family to decide whether or not the wider benefits of installing a water softener in their home are sufficient to consider buying one.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000395.
The UK's NHS presents information on eczema for patients and families
MedlinePlus gives information for patients, families, and caregivers on eczema and other similar conditions
The National Eczema Society in the UK provides information and a helpline for eczema patients, families, and caregivers
Medinfo provides information for eczema patients
Wikipedia has more information about water softening (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000395
PMCID: PMC3039684  PMID: 21358807
22.  Validation of epidemiological tools for eczema diagnosis in brazilian children: the isaac's and uk working party's criteria 
BMC Dermatology  2010;10:11.
Background
Instruments for field diagnosis of eczema are increasingly used, and it is essential to understand specific limitations to make best use of their strengths. Our objective was to assess the validity of ISAAC and UK Working Party criteria for field diagnosis of eczema in children.
Methods
We performed a cohort study in urban Brazil. Parents/guardians of 1,419 children answered ISAAC phase II questionnaire. Children were examined for skin lesions (UKWP protocol). Two dermatologists examined most cases of eczema (according to ISAAC or UKWP), and a sample without eczema.
Results
Agreement between repeat questionnaires on the filter question was poor (kappa = 0.4). Agreement between the 2 dermatologists was fair (kappa = 0.6). False positive reports included scabies in 39% of ISAAC cases and 33% of UKWP cases. Sensitivity and PPV were low (ISAAC: 37.1% and 16.1%; UKWP: 28.6% and 23.8%). Specificity and NPV were high (ISAAC: 90.0% and 96.6%; UKWP: 95.3% and 96.2%). One-year prevalence of eczema was 11.3% (ISAAC), 5.9% (UKWP) and 4.9% (adjusted dermatologist diagnosis). Point prevalence of scabies (alone or not) was 43%, 33% and 18%, in eczemas according to ISAAC, to UKWP and to dermatologists. The reasons why children with eczema were not identified by ISAAC or UKWP were wrongly denying dry skin, itchy rash or personal history of atopic diseases. A limitation is that questionnaire was already validated in Brazil, but not field tested in this specific setting.
Conclusions
Studies using UKWP or ISAAC criteria should include a validation arm, to contribute to the understanding of potential limitations of their use in different contexts and to explore solutions. We list specific recommendations.
doi:10.1186/1471-5945-10-11
PMCID: PMC2992474  PMID: 21062476
23.  Problems in the reporting of acne clinical trials: a spot check from the 2009 Annual Evidence Update on Acne Vulgaris 
Trials  2010;11:77.
In the course of producing the 2009 NHS Evidence - skin disorders Annual Evidence Update on Acne Vulgaris, 25 randomised controlled trials were examined. From these, at least 12 potentially serious problems of trial reporting were identified. Several trials concluded no effect of a treatment yet they were insufficiently powered to exclude potentially useful benefits. There were examples of duplicate publication and "salami publication", as well as two trials being combined and reported as one. In some cases, an incorrect "within-groups" statistical comparison was made and one trial report omitted original efficacy data and included only P values. Both of the non-inferiority studies examined failed to pre-specify a non-inferiority margin. Trials reported as "double-blind" compared treatments that were dissimilar in appearance or had differing adverse effect profiles. In one case an intention-to-treat analysis was not performed and there was a failure to account for all of the randomized participants. Trial results were made to sound more impressive by selective outcome reporting, emphasizing the statistical significance of treatment effects that were clinically insignificant, and by the use of larger-sounding odds ratios rather than rate ratios for common events. Most of the reporting problems could have been avoided by use of the CONSORT guidelines and prospective trial registration on a public clinical trials database.
doi:10.1186/1745-6215-11-77
PMCID: PMC2911424  PMID: 20624287
25.  The SINS trial: A randomised controlled trial of excisional surgery versus imiquimod 5% cream for nodular and superficial basal cell carcinoma 
Trials  2010;11:42.
Background
Basal cell carcinoma is the commonest human cancer. Despite increasing incidence it remains poorly researched. While not life threatening it can cause significant cosmetic disfigurement. Imiquimod, a cream which enhances the body's immune response, may help deal with the number of cases that occur in low-risk sites, especially when good cosmetic results and home use without surgery are needed.
This study aims 1. To compare excisional surgery with imiquimod cream for nodular or superficial basal cell carcinoma in low risk sites, with respect to 3 year clinical clearance, cost-effectiveness and cosmetic results. 2. To ascertain if certain phenotypic features and gene polymorphisms predict tumour responsiveness to treatment.
Methods/Design
Five hundred participants with low risk nodular or superficial basal cell carcinoma will be recruited from hospitals to this multi-centre, randomised, parallel group, controlled phase III trial. Treatment in the imiquimod group is for 6 weeks for superficial basal cell carcinoma and 12 weeks for nodular basal cell carcinoma. Both treatment groups are followed up in clinic for 3 years. Primary outcome variable: the proportion of participants with clinical evidence of success (no recurrence) at 3 years. The primary outcome will be compared between the two treatment groups. Secondary outcomes include: i) clinical success at 1, 2 and 5 years, ii) time to first recurrence, iii) cosmetic appearance of lesion site after treatment, iv) level of pain, and v) cost-effectiveness. Safety and tolerability data will also be reported.
Discussion
This study protocol describes a pragmatic randomised controlled trial which it is hoped will address the above uncertainties. Three-year results will be available towards the end of 2010.
Trial registration
Meta-register: NCT00066872, Eudract No. 2004-004506-24, ISRCTN48755084.
doi:10.1186/1745-6215-11-42
PMCID: PMC2877028  PMID: 20409337

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