Highlights of the BMC series: March 2016

Anxiety and depression in the LGB community • Why do 11-year-olds drink? • Co-infection of mosquito borne viruses • Gender associated mandible size • Animal response to climate change • Why freebirth? • Children’s HIV treatment • Attitudes to genetic research

Psychiatry: Anxiety and depression in the LGB community

This month BMC Psychiatry published a study investigating the association between sexual orientation identity and mental wellbeing. A meta-analysis of 12 population health surveys of adults in the UK showed that individuals identifying themselves as lesbian, gay or bisexual are twice as likely as heterosexuals to suffer from anxiety or depression. These results emphasize the need to address inequalities in mental health among these groups.


Public Health: Why do 11-year-olds drink?

There is not much insight in what factors may influence young adolescents to drink. Researchers from London now shed light on this question in BMC Public Health, analysing survey responses from more than 10,000 11-year-olds in the UK. They found that around one in seven had drank, and were more likely to do so if their parents or friends drank, or if they lacked supervision, were unhappy with their family situation or had positive expectancies of alcohol. These results indicate that interventions at multiple levels are necessary for effective prevention of risky behaviour.


Infectious Diseases: Co-infection of mosquito borne viruses

Chikungunya and dengue fever are two viral diseases which have similar symptoms, making them difficult to distinguish. Since both are spread by the same Aedes species of mosquitoes, it is hypothesised that there is a spatial and temporal relation between the epidemiology of these two infections. A study published by BMC Infectious Diseases which collated information about the geographical distribution of the two viruses and the mosquitoes that spread them, suggests that many chikungunya cases might have been misdiagnosed as dengue fever, which points at the urgent need for better diagnostic tests, and development of the current dengue monitoring and control procedures to also include chikungunya. The article is further explained in another BMC series blog.


Genomics: Gender associated mandible size

The Golden Stag Beetle, Cyclommatus metallifer, exhibits distinct differences in morphology between the two sexes, particularly penetrant in the sizes of the mandibles. The transcriptomic mechanisms underlying these contrasts in morphology are therefore of particular interest. Research published in BMC Genomics this month describes how, utilising Roche 454 pyrosequencing, the male and female beetle transcriptome at both larval and pre-pupal developmental stages were assessed. Several candidate genes could be identified, and their effect on phenotype assessed in transcript knockdown experiments.


Evolutionary Biology: Animal response to climate change

Forecasts of species’ responses to climate change usually assume that the factors of most impact are ecological niche and the availability of habitat. An article published in BMC Evolutionary Biology shows however that species’ genetic diversity, generation time and rate of evolution are also important. The authors reconstructed populations of the emperor penguin and the Weddell seal over the past 75,000 years. Both animals are predators dependent on sea ice, and have overlapping habitats. While the seal population did not change, the number of penguins grew despite a warmer climate, something that could have been promoted by a higher adaptive capacity, enabled, among other factors, by a higher genetic flow between penguin colonies.


Proposed data workflow for linking genome-scale models of an organism’s metabolism with knowledge of protein structural properties. Brunk et al describe in BMC Systems Biology 10:26 (2016) how such integration for example could answer how the temperature (which affects protein instability) determines an organism’s growth rate.


Pregnancy and Childbirth: Why freebirth?

BMC Pregnancy & Childbirth published this month an article that investigates why women in the UK may choose to give birth without the presence of any medical professionals. Recurring themes emerging from the interviews with the ten women who shared the reasons behind their decisions was a negative previous experience with the maternity services, limited homebirth options, and a wish to enhance the birthing experience without any perceived clinical interference and with the possibility to retain control of the process. This study points out needs that should be addressed in order to fully achieve the woman-centered care that is the policy of the UK midwifery system.


Pediatrics: Children’s HIV treatment

Children living with HIV/AIDS also need antiretroviral treatment, but in quantities other than those used for adults. A study in BMC Pediatrics presents an analysis of the pediatric antiretroviral medicine market in developing countries. Mainly examining donor funded products, the authors show that, contrary to the adult market, pediatric formulations are not decreasing in price. The market is dominated by generic drugs, and since it is relatively small, requires targeted initiatives to ensure the generation and acquisition of pharmaceuticals adapted for children.


Medical Genomics: Attitudes to genetic research

Do people want to take part in genetic testing? An article in BMC Medical Genomics examines this month the attitudes to genetic studies held by residents living in the Japanese city of Nagahama. Several years after a community health-promotion program, the respondents seem to show good support and understanding of the benefits of genetic studies, including those who had been unaware of the program. Those who were more engaged with the program had fewer concerns about potential negative effects of testing, but this did not increase willingness to take part in related activities, such as drug susceptibility testing.

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