What's the buzz

What's the buzz

Fish pedicure could spread infection

The latest beauty craze — fish pedicures — offered in salons and spas across the world have raised serious health concerns. British experts are worried that the trend could spread infection and disease.

The Health Protection Agency is investigating after the treatment was banned by 14 American states. The treatment, which costs between 10 and 50 pounds, involves customers dunking their feet in tanks to have their dead skin nibbled away by scores of Turkish miniature toothless carp.

But it has been revealed the pedicures using the garra rufa fish could spread infection from person to person through open wounds.

Salons said they use UV-lit tanks, which are constantly filtered to keep them clear of disease. But the therapy’s opponents said that unlike usual salon rules, which compel staff to throw away or sanitise tools after each use, the epidermis-eating fish are too expensive to discard. The agency began investigating after being contacted by environmental health officers.

“The HPA will examine the most up-to-date evidence of any possible risks associated with garra rufa fish pedicures,” said an agency spokesman.

Smoking in pregnancy linked to heart defects in infants

A new study has found that maternal cigarette smoking in the first trimester was associated with a 20 to 70 per cent greater likelihood that a baby would be born with certain types of congenital heart defects.

Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defects, contributing to approximately 30 per cent of infant deaths from birth defects annually.

The study found an association between tobacco exposure and certain types of defects such as those that obstruct the flow of blood from the right side of the heart into the lungs (right ventricular outflow tract obstructions) and openings between the upper chambers of the heart (atrial septal defects).

The research conducted by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention was published in the journal Pediatrics.

“Women who smoke and are thinking about becoming pregnant need to quit smoking and, if they’re already pregnant, they need to stop,” said CDC Director Thomas R Frieden.

“Successfully stopping smoking during pregnancy also lowers the chances of pregnancy complications such as preterm delivery and that an infant will have other complications such as low birth weight,” said Adolfo Correa, medical officer in CDC.

Vaccine-delivering nanoparticles to fight malaria

Engineers at MIT have come up with a new type of nanoparticle that could safely and effectively deliver vaccines for diseases such as HIV and malaria.

The new particles consist of concentric fatty spheres that can carry synthetic versions of proteins normally produced by viruses. These synthetic particles elicit a strong immune response — comparable to that produced by live virus vaccines — but should be much safer, says Darrell Irvine.

Such particles could help scientists develop vaccines against cancer as well as infectious diseases. In collaboration with scientists at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Irvine and his students are now testing the nanoparticles’ ability to deliver an experimental malaria vaccine in mice. Vaccines protect the body by exposing it to an infectious agent that primes the immune system to respond quickly when it encounters the pathogen again.