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Health + Medicine — Analysis and Comment

Pain-related behaviour is remarkably consistent between cultures. sybanto/Shutterstock

‘I feel your pain’: measuring the unmeasurable

There may be many pitfalls in an argument which equates sensation in humans with nervous discharges from frogs skin. – Edgar Adrian, 1932 Nobel Prize in Medicine Humans seem to experience pain, whether…
Border screening for Ebola is unlikely to be effective because the virus has a 21-day incubation period and early symptoms are similar to common infections such as malaria. EPA/AHMED JALLANZO

Ebola outbreak is cause for concern but there’s hope yet

The current outbreak of Ebola in West Africa is now the largest recorded since the virus was first described in 1976. That this outbreak is not under control after more than four months is cause for great…
When cells are deprived of energy and nutrients from their external environment, they package up and consume their own components to survive. Kevin McShane/Flickr

How cancer eats itself to survive our therapies

Can you imagine being so desperate for food that you would eat yourself to survive? Most people can’t but our cells do exactly this. When cells are deprived of energy and nutrients from their external…
When you hear hooves, shout camel, not bioterrorist. Delpixel/Flickr

Middle East respiratory virus came from camels, not terrorists

The Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is a tiny, spiky package of fat, proteins and genes that was first found in a dying man in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 2012. Since then, we…
There is no evidence that the antibacterial ingredients of such soaps do anything more than plain soap and water. Arlington County/Flickr

Cleaning your hands may be more complicated than you think

The next time you wash your hands with a liquid soap claiming to be antibacterial, keep in mind that you may not actually be sanitising them. There’s no evidence that the antibacterial ingredients of such…
The poorest households already spend more than a fifth of their disposable income on health care. Iakov Filimonov/Shutterstock

Higher health co-payments will hit the most vulnerable

Many poor families already pay a significant proportion of their household income on health care co-payments and will face increasing financial pressure with a proposed additional A$7 charge, according…
The idea of research reducing health-care costs may seem counter intuitive because it often leads to the development of expensive drugs, technologies, and treatments. EPA/ANGELIKA WARMUTH

With the right kind of research, we can reduce health-care costs

Quality health care can be expensive and medical research has traditionally been thought to play a role in making it so. But research can also help cut the cost of medical care. The notion of research…
Yoghurt is one of the products containing probiotics that do confer a health benefit. Flickr: Mark Kenny

Health Check: what’s your gut feeling about probiotics?

You don’t usually have to look far to find news about the virtues of probiotics, but should you go out and seek probiotic-laden products to cultivate a healthier gut? Probiotics are micro-organisms that…
Historical evidence of suicide rates varying with the philosophy of the times urges caution about adopting an unqualified libertarian stance that privileges autonomy above all else. Arallyn!/Flickr

Do people really have the right to a rational suicide?

Seven Australians will die today as a result of suicide, the leading cause of death in young Australian men. So the media interest surrounding one in particular, that of 45-year-old Nigel Brayley’s suicide…
A model of the bubonic plague bacterium, which is known as Yersina pestis. Tim Evanson/Flcikr

Explainer: what is the plague?

Cases of plague have been reported in the Chinese city of Yumen, where a man has died of the disease. Control measures taken by the authorities include travel restrictions in and out of the city, and 151…
Philip Nitschke and David Leyonhjelm have appealed libertarian ideals in their arguments for euthanasia and same-sex marriage respectively. Joe Castro & Luca Koch/AAP

Strange bedfellows: euthanasia, same-sex marriage, and libertarianism

The suspension of Philip Nitschke’s medical registration, and the events leading up to it, has sparked one of the most heated discussions about euthanasia in Australia for some time. What’s surprising…
Many people infected have had no contact with camels or other animals. Al Jazeera English/Flickr

MERS coronavirus: animal source or deliberate release?

The Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS Co-V) emerged in 2012 and has caused ongoing illness in the Middle East and more than 280 deaths. The public health response to MERS-CoV has been…
We have stalked the human immunodeficiency virus from every direction science suggested. Flickr: Brian Talbot

Where to now? Future directions for HIV treatment

The future of HIV treatment bears no resemblance to its past. Through the lonely days of the early single-drug treatment AZT to the arrival of combination therapy in 1996, and the new generation of fixed-dose…
Up to 90% of the population will experience lower back pain over their life time; around 25% will have it on any given day. Flickr: Christian Bucad

Put down the paracetamol, it’s just a placebo for low back pain

People with lower back pain are usually told to take some paracetamol for relief. But research published today shows that this almost universal advice is misguided. Up to 90% of the population will experience…
From the late 1990s, the world galvanised in support of dramatic increases in funding for the distribution of HIV treatments to all who needed them. World national flags/Shuttershock

It takes a global village: how we got ahead in HIV control

When AIDS first emerged in the early 1980s, HIV infection was a death sentence. But a global effort has ensured this is no longer the case for a growing number of people. The good news today is that the…
The average Australian adult gains 0.416 kg a year, so staying weight-neutral is a major accomplishment. TaraPatta/Shutterstock

Weighty matters: why GPs shouldn’t be afraid of the scales

If you’re an adult and live in Australia, you’re more likely to be overweight or obese than not: 63% and 37% respectively. This excess weight is associated with increased premature death and disease, and…
HIV-prevention campaigns need to do more than simply urge people to use condoms. charnsitr/Shutterstock

Five myths about HIV in Australia

Australia had a quick and effective response to HIV at the start of the epidemic. Some 30 years later, however, there’s a tendency to underestimate the sheer effort involved in maintaining HIV prevention…
HIV epidemics have grave implications for the world’s Indigenous cultures. Flickr: j h

Stepping up the HIV response in the world’s Indigenous communities

Indigenous people are estimated to comprise 4.5% of the total global population. They are often overrepresented in HIV data and recognise themselves as being particularly vulnerable to HIV. In Canada…
The Hon. Michael Kirby presenting a report on human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea at the UN earlier this year. EPA/Salvatore Di Nolfi

‘The law can be an awful nuisance in the area of HIV/AIDS’: Michael Kirby

Watch the Honourable Michael Kirby, visiting professorial fellow at UNSW Australia, talk about how the law impacts HIV below. Michael Kirby is a former justice of the High Court of Australia, serving from…
We are only now realising how poor diets impact mental health and well-being. Λ |_ ν-\ Γ Ø/Flickr

You are what you eat: how diet affects mental well-being

Over the last half century, the global food industry has profoundly changed the way we eat. While we understand how these dietary changes have impacted physical health, their effect on mental well-being…
A coloured electron micrograph image of HIV infecting a human cell. Flickr: NIAID

We need a cure for HIV but there’s still a long way to go

One of the greatest success stories in modern medicine is that HIV is no longer a death sentence, but a chronic, manageable disease that often can be managed with a single tablet a day. Antiretroviral…
Polic trainers Jones Blantri from Ghana and Lam Tien Dung from Vietnam with, Professor Nick Crofts and former Seattle police chief Jim Pugel at the launch of the report. International AIDS Society/ James Braund

Discretionary policing has a role controlling HIV: report

Watch the video of Professor Nick Crofts talking about the report To Protect and Serve: How Police, Sex Workers, and People Who Use Drugs Are Joining Forces to Improve Health and Human Rights below. Professor…
Most gum disease is preventable through good dental hygiene. Inside and Out/Flickr

Health Check: why do my gums bleed and should I be worried?

Bleeding gums are very common but that doesn’t mean you should ignore them. They’re usually a sign of gum (periodontal) disease. If treated in its early stages, periodontal disease can be easily reversed…
Francoise Barre-Sinoussi (centre) speaks at the opening ceremony of AIDS2014 on July 20 while conference co-chair Professor Sharon Lewin looks on. AAP Image/David Crosling

In Conversation with Professor Françoise Barré-Sinoussi

Watch the video of Professor Rob Moodie talking to Professor Françoise Barré-Sinoussi below. Françoise Barré-Sinoussi is the director of the Regulation of Retroviral Infections Unit, at the Institut Pasteur…