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Open Reading Frame brings together a selection of recent publication highlights from elsewhere in the open access ecosystem. This week we take a look at the past few weeks in medicine.


Stroke prevalence increasing in Nigeria
The global burden of stroke is high, and incidence is known to vary across different geographical settings. Relatively little is known about the current prevalence of stroke in rural Africa. Now, a small study carried out in Nigeria has shown that the prevalence of stroke is higher than previously documented, with males at higher risk than females. This increase in stroke incidence emphasizes the need for interventions to reduce cerebrovascular risk in African populations, as well as careful monitoring of at-risk individuals.
Enwereji et al. Vascular Health and Risk Management


Does open peer review improve the quality of reporting of RCTs?
There are continual debates about how best to conduct the peer-review process for medical research. Sally Hopewell and colleagues have investigated whether open peer review improves the quality of reporting in randomized controlled trials by monitoring authors revisions to manuscripts, both before and after peer review, in 93 trials published in BioMed Central medical journals in 2012. The authors found that peer reviewers generally requested changes in line with CONSORT guidelines, which positively enhanced the quality of the reporting, however they highlight that often peer reviewers failed to detect important deficiencies in the reporting of trial methodology and results. The authors recommend that better adherence to standards of reporting by authors, journal editors, and peer-reviewers would improve the quality of reporting in medical journals.
Hopewell et al. BMJ


Improving the symptoms of asthma
Asthma is the most common chronic childhood condition, affecting 6.3 million children in the US. Factors contributing to poor housing environment – including cockroaches, rodents and house dust mites – are linked to poor asthma control. An environmental intervention study has therefore been carried out to assess whether home-based interventions can improve respiratory symptoms in asthmatic children. Guardians of children in the intervention group received products to assist in cleaning and maintenance of the home, including traps for household pests and non-allergenic bedding, as well as instructions and guidance for improving indoor environmental quality. Initial results revealed a 58 percent improvement in self-reported asthma symptoms in the intervention group compared with the control group. While validation in a larger study is required, these findings indicate that efforts to improve the quality of the home environment are likely to be effective in reducing asthma symptoms, highlighting the importance of collaborations between pediatric asthma programs and environmental health professionals.
Kearney et al. Environmental Health Insights


Could leukemia drugs be used to treat breast cancer?
New analyses suggest that leukemia research may pave the way for a better understanding of triple negative breast cancer. Although specific targeted treatments exist for some molecular subtypes of breast cancer – such as HER2-positive – triple negative breast cancer is poorly understood, and there is an urgent need for the development of specific targeted therapies. Research revealed that the transcription factor RUNX1, which is one of the most commonly altered genes in leukemia, is also active in patients with triple negative breast cancer, and is correlated with poor survival. The authors conclude that RUNX1 could be employed as a prognostic biomarker in triple negative breast cancer, and could lead to future clinical trials of RUNX1-targeted leukemia drugs for treating breast cancer.
Ferrari et al. PLOS One


Are current antibiotic doses sufficient for obese patients?
Recommended daily doses of broad-spectrum antibiotics to treat bacterial infections are generally calculated using data from non-obese patients. However, obesity is thought to alter the pharmacokinetics of antibiotics, bringing into question whether current recommended doses are sufficient to treat obese patients. To address this issue, a study has been carried out to assess whether antibiotic concentrations are adequate when standard β-lactam regimens are given to obese patients. The authors showed that in many obese patients, giving the recommended daily doses of these antibiotics resulted in insufficient drug concentrations in the blood to treat Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection. In light of these findings, the authors recommend that new dosage regimens should be explored for treating the increasing number of obese patients.
Hites et al. Nutrition & Diabetes


Predicting outcome in fatty liver disease
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) encompasses a spectrum of liver diseases that range from benign steatosis to advanced cirrhosis, and is thought to arise as a result of many different factors. Now, research reveals that a polymorphism in the gene coding for the transmembrane protein TM6SF2 is associated with advanced cirrhosis in patients with NAFLD. This association was shown to be independent of confounding factors such as age and body mass index, suggesting that TM6SF2 polymorphisms could be a predictive factor for a more severe course of illness in NAFLD patients. These findings may improve risk prediction and help target prevention strategies to those most at risk from developing cirrhosis and eventual liver failure.
Liu et al. Nature Communications


Pediatric cancer: a global health priority
There has been tremendous progress in treating childhood cancer over the last few decades, but many advances have not been translated to low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). In a policy forum article, Sumit Gupta and colleagues emphasize that pediatric cancer should be considered a global child health priority, and outline strategies to achieve meaningful declines in childhood cancer mortality. The authors describe the challenges associated with implementing such approaches in LMICs, recommending that further health policy and economic research is required to assess the cost-effectiveness of childhood cancer prevention and treatment strategies.
Gupta et al. PLOS Medicine


Written by Claire Barnard,  Senior Editor for BMC Medicine, and Joanna Denyer, Senior Assistant Editor for BMC Medicine.



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