Your morning summary of digital health news, information and events to know about if you want to be “in the know”. 

👇 News 

🧬 When the UK’s 100,000 Genomes Project launched 10 years ago, its mission wasn’t just to sequence that many people’s genomes to see how they influenced health. It also set out to understand the genomes of some volunteers’ tumors. The fruits of that research appear today in Nature Medicine, based on work analysing 13,800 solid tumors in adults. Some tumors were more likely to carry mutations, a discovery that is already helping direct treatment choices for the patient and in some cases indicating potential risks for the patient’s family. 

💊 Boots has become the second pharmacy system supplier to develop and test the technology needed to support the delivery of an Electronic Prescription Service (EPS) in Wales. The UK’s leading health and beauty retailer has made changes to its dispensing software to enable it to be ready to receive prescriptions digitally instead of on paper in Wales. The system, which has now been developed to get Boots pharmacies in Wales ready for EPS, has just started its testing phase, which is due to be completed early in 2024. 

🖥 Cerebras Systems, a provider of AI computing chips for deep learning applications, will provide both hardware and software development services to Mayo under the deal announced during a presentation at last week’s J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco. The AI created from the anonymised Mayo Clinic data would eventually be made available on the Mayo Clinic Platform, Healthcare IT reported, citing Reuters. 

🧫 For the first time, researchers have analysed the impact of antibiotic use on the rise of treatment-resistant bacteria over the last 20 years in the UK and Norway. They show that while the increase in drug use has amplified the spread of superbugs, it is not the only driver. Researchers from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, the University of Oslo, the University of Cambridge, and collaborators, conducted a high-resolution genetic comparison of bacteria. They compared over 700 new blood samples with nearly 5,000 previously sequenced bacterial samples to answer questions about what factors influence the spread of antibiotic-resistant Escherichia coli (E. coli). The study, published 11 January in the Lancet Microbe, shows that greater antibiotic use does drive an increase in treatment-resistant bacteria in some instances. However, researchers confirmed that this varies depending on the type of broad-spectrum antibiotic used. They also found that the success of antibiotic-resistance genes depends on the genetic makeup of the bacteria carrying them. 

🧖 Ice baths have gained growing popularity, not only for improving mental health but also for performance and athletic recovery. This surge in interest is partly owed to the influence of extreme athlete Wim Hof and the reported positive impacts on the autonomic nervous system and inflammation that cold therapy triggers. What’s even more intriguing is that recent research has shown that neuromodulation, a type of bioelectric medicine, can provide similar health benefits. The research, conducted by Parasym has identified that the new proprietary autonomic neuromodulation technology, Nurosym, amplifies the nervous system’s ‘rest and digest’ response – an automatic reaction that happens in your body when you feel safe and calm, helping to alleviate stress, anxiety, fatigue and also improving cognition.

Did you know that? 

Today’s data from the ONS lays bare the impact that the pandemic has had on life expectancy in the UK. It shows that life expectancy at birth fell by about half a year between 2019 and 2022 – from 79.5 to 79 years in males and from 83.2 to 82.8 years in females – slashing life expectancy to the level of a decade ago. Although life expectancy has recovered somewhat since the sharp fall in 2020 when the pandemic struck, it’s not had the bounce back that might have been expected once the worst of the pandemic was over, pointing to deeper problems with the health of the nation and the resilience of the health care system. 

📖 What we’re reading 

In the vast expanse of modern healthcare, where technology and tradition intertwine, dermatology stands at a pivotal crossroads. The advent of AI promises a revolution, yet its journey in dermatology is akin to navigating a labyrinth, filled with potential yet riddled with complexities. The promise of AI in dermatology is undeniably profound, ranging from enhancing electronic health records (EHRs) to revolutionising diagnostic processes. However, the reality is a tapestry rich with challenges, demanding a nuanced understanding of AI’s role in this specialty, reports the Dermatology Times. 

🚨 This week’s events 

16 January 9.30-13.00, The Health Foundation – Net zero NHS: Imagining the future