+44(0)208 9952500 karen.stancombe@lionsdencommunications.com LionsDen Communications Lionsden medical John Clare


Presenting in Russian

The most unusual presentation I’ve made recently: me speaking English to Russian haematologists, with Russian slides. It’s harder than you think..especially if you get out of synch by clicking the slide advancer twice. Still, it made sense. I think.Jc presenting Russian slides-1

Pharma and new antibiotics

Antibiotic resistance is a threat as great as terrorism, according to Sally Davies, the UK’s Chief Medical Officer. Scaremongering? Many people don’t think so, including the NHS and Public Health England, who’ve produced a video about it to mark Antibiotic Resistance Day around Europe today: http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/ARC/Pages/AboutARC.aspx

Antibiotics are an essential part of treatment for many serious conditions, including heart and cancer surgery.  As Sally Davies says, there is now a risk that within 20 years people undergoing routine operations may die of simple infections because we won’t  have any drugs to treat them.  The more they’re used, the less effective they become. So developing new ones without ensuring appropriate use ‘is like supplying your alcoholic patients with a finer brandy’, as Dr Dennis Maki  told the Infectious Disease Society of America. That was in 1998. Since then, the FDA has approved just 11 new ones.  So what is the pharma industry doing?

Many commentators today will say ‘The pharmaceutical industry isn’t developing any new antibiotics.’ That’s not quite true.  There are currently 38 new antibiotics in development.  Of those, about 80 per cent are being developed by small pharmaceutical companies.  In the new world of transparency-and-doing-the-right thing, maybe the big players need to put their weight behind the problem again? It can’t do their reputation any harm.

See  here for details of antibiotics in the pipeline: http://tinyurl.com/l4w762z

Ebola fact and fiction

I recently moderated an international conference on infectious diseases in Istanbul. Amid the accounts of new strains of drug resistant bacteria, hopes of a cure for Hep C and even, one day, AIDS, there was a huge amount of hope in the conference hall. One topic, however, brought only gloom from the assembled experts: Ebola.

The picture which emerged of life in Liberia, in particular, was horrific: Fishermen rowing the bodies of victims out to a nearby island for burial then going fishing and selling their catch in the market.  Every day we’re warned that air travel means the scenario of the virus reaching Europe is not a case of ‘if’ but ‘when’.

I asked the experts the big question: If Ebola does land here, what are the chance of an epidemic? Low, they said, for a number of reasons.

One is called the R0, or R-nought. This is a measure of how contagious a virus is. Measles has an R0 of 18, mumps of 10, HIV of 4, and Ebola less than 2.  In addition, an Ebola-infected person is only infectious once they show symptoms. So if you travel back from Africa with a fellow passenger who has the virus but no symptoms yet, you’re safe (from them, at least).  Then there’s the way it’s transmitted. It requires close contact with an infected person’ bodily fluids…so you won’t catch it by just breathing the same air.

Time magazine has done a great piece on it:


There’s a very good infographic from NPR: