Medical notes

Scientists in the US are unravelling the causes of restless-leg syndrome, which leaves sufferers with creepy-crawly sensations in their legs and an irresistible urge to move them. Between five and 10% of the US population is believed to suffer from the condition. The Penn State scientists have proved that it is linked to iron deficiencies in the brain, though this doesn't necessarily mean that sufferers aren't getting enough iron - it may be that they find it harder to process iron in the brain. The findings lay to rest a long-standing debate as to whether RLS was physical or psychological.

Two long-awaited antiviral flu drugs have been proved to reduce the duration of symptoms by up to one day and, when used preventatively, cut the odds of developing flu by up to 90%. The problem is that oseltamivir and zanamivir don't have such a positive effect on older people, those likely to suffer most from flu, concluded the study in this week's British Medical Journal.

Junior doctors are waging a war against the necktie. They say that despite inspiring confidence from their patients, the ties are prone to spreading germs through hospitals. The ties become contaminated with food, drink, smoke, blood and other bodily secretions, the British Medical Association's conference heard last week. Hospital superbugs are believed to cost the NHS £1bn a year. A BMA spokesman said the association was not aware of any deaths caused by ties.

Getting through exams on a diet of fish, long believed to be the best "brain food", might not be such a good idea, according to scientists at John Hopkins University. It is already known that large fish, such as swordfish and shark, are contaminated with low levels of mercury, which has a negative effect on brain functioning; and that pregnant women should avoid contaminated fish. But this is the first study to prove that adults who regularly eat contaminated fish could find that their concentration, dexterity and verbal memory are impaired.

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