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

👇 News 

🧠 A pioneering new Mental Health Platform Research Hub, which will advance the understanding, diagnosis and treatment of severe mental illness has been awarded a £4.3million grant from UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) and the Medical Research Council (MRC). The South Wales and South-West England (SW²) Hub will bring together an interdisciplinary network of world-leading researchers, from the GW4 Alliance universities of CardiffBathBristol, & Exeter, alongside Swansea UniversityAdferiad RecoveryBipolar UK, and people with lived experience, to accelerate impactful research into, and treatments for, severe mental conditions. 

Intelligent Ultrasound Group, the ‘classroom to clinic’ ultrasound company specialising in AI software and simulation, has announced that its gestational age software, ScanNav FetalCheck, is to be used in the largest ever trial on the use of aspirin to prevent pre-eclampsia. Conducted in Kenya, Ghana and South Africa, the trial is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and led by international NGO Concept Foundation. It will compare the effects of daily intake of two different doses of aspirin during pregnancy: 75 mg and 150mg among pregnant women at high risk of developing pre-eclampsia. It aims to advance evidence on pre-eclampsia prevention and inform policies so that women who are treated with aspirin to prevent pre-eclampsia receive a dose that is both effective and safe. 

🙎 The first-of-its-kind dedicated workplace support programme for people who suffer with endometriosis has been launched by the digital health app frendo to coincide with Endometriosis Awareness Month. Endometriosis is a chronic disease, which if left untreated, can cause organ dysfunction, chronic pain and infertility. Research by frendo found that while almost a quarter (24%) of workplaces provide an employee support network for people experiencing fertility issues and menstrual problems, there is very little support in the workplace for endometriosis. frendo@work aims to tackle this by providing organisations with the resources they need to support their employees with endometriosis, including company workshops, self-management tools and informative expert panel discussions, as well as resources and guidance for line managers to help them better support and communicate with staff members with the condition. 

🧑‍⚕️ Thursday is Rare Diseases Day. Radboud University in the Netherlands is aiming to revolutionise how we diagnose rare diseases, making the process quicker, less invasive, and more cost-effective. Radboud have initially focussed on people with undiagnosed neurodevelopmental disorders affecting brain function, learning, and behaviour, including autism spectrum disorder and impairments in vision and hearing. Traditional tests often miss the complex genetic variants underpinning these conditions, with only 30-40% of patients receiving a diagnosis even after multiple tests. Radboud is exploring whether a different sequencing technology – called HiFi – can uncover previously hidden variants associated with the conditions to get answers for patients faster, and unravel rare diseases mysteries. So far, the new technology has proved its worth. Out of the 100 ‘difficult’ genetic variants Radboud selected, 95% were identified in a single test, compared to only 30-40% for conventional tests. This breakthrough hints at a future where a single test could illuminate the path to diagnosis for countless undiagnosed individuals. 

🧫 Skoltech researchers and their colleagues from China and Russia have discovered that the waters and soils of the Tibetan Plateau are teeming with bacteria that produce antibiotics. While none of the antimicrobial compounds identified by the team are new to science, the findings bring certain hope amid the outbreak of bacterial resistance triggered by irresponsible drug use. Further investigation of remote and hard-to-reach habitats in Tibet and elsewhere could eventually uncover new antibiotics. The team’s findings are reported in Frontiers in Microbiology and Microorganisms. 

❓ Did you know that 

Nearly three in four women (72%) have run out of their contraception due to difficulty renewing their prescription, but more than half (52%) don’t know they can go online to get started on, or renew, their oral contraception. That’s according to new research by Pharmacy2U, as it launches a convenient and free online NHS contraception service in England as part of the NHS’s drive to increase the provision of primary care by pharmacies. 

📢 What we’re listening to 

With over 1000 episodes under its belt, This Week in Virology (TWiV) podcast welcomes Dr Daniel Griffin, MD, PhD and president of Parasites Without Borders, to the pod each week for a clinical update, where he discusses the week’s viral topics. In a field where the research is ever-evolving, Dr Griffin’s updates provide medical professionals, students, and laymen with a succinct and digestible overview. His latest episode, TWiV 1090: Clinical update with Dr Daniel Griffin, discusses new treatment options for the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), the week’s influenza virus, and SARS-CoV-2 virus statistics, including the efficacy of self-testing, CDC quarantine guidelines, paying for Paxlovid, and more.  

🚨 This week’s events 

1 March 2024, Westminster Health Forum – Next steps for respiratory health services in England