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Objective To test the hypotheses that physical activity in midlife is not associated with a reduced risk of dementia and that the preclinical phase of dementia is characterised by a decline in physical activity.Design Prospective cohort study with a mean follow-up of 27 years.Setting Civil service departments in London (Whitehall II study).Participants 10 308 participants aged 35-55 years at study inception (1985-88). Exposures included time spent in mild, moderate to vigorous, and total physical activity assessed seven times between 1985 and 2013 and categorised as “recommended” if duration of moderate to vigorous physical activity was 2.5 hours/week or more.Main outcome measures A battery of cognitive tests was administered up to four times from 1997 to 2013, and incident dementia cases (n=329) were identified through linkage to hospital, mental health services, and mortality registers until 2015.Results Mixed effects models showed no association between physical activity and subsequent 15 year cognitive decline. Similarly, Cox regression showed no association between physical activity and risk of dementia over an average 27 year follow-up (hazard ratio in the “recommended” physical activity category 1.00, 95% confidence interval 0.80 to 1.24). For trajectories of hours/week of total, mild, and moderate to vigorous physical activity in people with dementia compared with those without dementia (all others), no differences were observed between 28 and 10 years before diagnosis of dementia. However, physical activity in people with dementia began to decline up to nine years before diagnosis (difference in moderate to vigorous physical activity -0.39 hours/week; P=0.05), and the difference became more pronounced (-1.03 hours/week; P=0.005) at diagnosis.Conclusion This study found no evidence of a neuroprotective effect of physical activity. Previous findings showing a lower risk of dementia in physically active people may be attributable to reverse causation-that is, due to a decline in physical activity levels in the preclinical phase of dementia.

Concepts: Cohort study, Cohort, Epidemiology, Proportional hazards models, Actuarial science, Relative risk, Physical exercise, Cognition


Objective To estimate the benefits and harms of using corticosteroids as an adjunct treatment for sore throat.Design Systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised control trials.Data sources Medline, Embase, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), trial registries up to May 2017, reference lists of eligible trials, related reviews.Study selection Randomised controlled trials of the addition of corticosteroids to standard clinical care for patients aged 5 or older in emergency department and primary care settings with clinical signs of acute tonsillitis, pharyngitis, or the clinical syndrome of sore throat. Trials were included irrespective of language or publication status.Review methods Reviewers identified studies, extracted data, and assessed the quality of the evidence, independently and in duplicate. A parallel guideline committee (BMJ Rapid Recommendation) provided input on the design and interpretation of the systematic review, including the selection of outcomes important to patients. Random effects model was used for meta-analyses. Quality of evidence was assessed with the GRADE approach.Results 10 eligible trials enrolled 1426 individuals. Patients who received single low dose corticosteroids (the most common intervention was oral dexamethasone with a maximum dose of 10 mg) were twice as likely to experience pain relief after 24 hours (relative risk 2.2, 95% confidence interval 1.2 to 4.3; risk difference 12.4%; moderate quality evidence) and 1.5 times more likely to have no pain at 48 hours (1.5, 1.3 to 1.8; risk difference 18.3%; high quality). The mean time to onset of pain relief in patients treated with corticosteroids was 4.8 hours earlier (95% confidence interval -1.9 to -7.8; moderate quality) and the mean time to complete resolution of pain was 11.1 hours earlier (-0.4 to -21.8; low quality) than in those treated with placebo. The absolute pain reduction at 24 hours (visual analogue scale 0-10) was greater in patients treated with corticosteroids (mean difference 1.3, 95% confidence interval 0.7 to 1.9; moderate quality). Nine of the 10 trials sought information regarding adverse events. Six studies reported no adverse effects, and three studies reported few adverse events, which were mostly complications related to disease, with a similar incidence in both groups.Conclusion Single low dose corticosteroids can provide pain relief in patients with sore throat, with no increase in serious adverse effects. Included trials did not assess the potential risks of larger cumulative doses in patients with recurrent episodes of acute sore throat.Systematic review registration PROSPERO CRD42017067808.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Clinical trial, Medical statistics, Systematic review, Randomized controlled trial, Relative risk, Meta-analysis, Random effects model


Ever since Darwin, the role of natural selection in shaping the morphological, physiological, and behavioral adaptations of animals and plants across generations has been central to understanding life and its diversity. New discoveries have shown with increasing precision how genetic, molecular, and biochemical processes produce and express those organismal features during an individual’s lifetime. When it comes to microorganisms, however, understanding the role of natural selection in producing adaptive solutions has historically been, and sometimes continues to be, contentious. This tension is curious because microbes enable one to observe the power of adaptation by natural selection with exceptional rigor and clarity, as exemplified by the burgeoning field of experimental microbial evolution. I trace the development of this field, describe an experiment with Escherichia coli that has been running for almost 30 years, and highlight other experiments in which natural selection has led to interesting dynamics and adaptive changes in microbial populations.

Concepts: Genetics, Natural selection, Bacteria, Evolution, Biology, Organism, Adaptation, Charles Darwin


Objectives To examine the association between intelligence measured in childhood and leading causes of death in men and women over the life course.Design Prospective cohort study based on a whole population of participants born in Scotland in 1936 and linked to mortality data across 68 years of follow-up.Setting Scotland.Participants 33 536 men and 32 229 women who were participants in the Scottish Mental Survey of 1947 (SMS1947) and who could be linked to cause of death data up to December 2015.Main outcome measures Cause specific mortality, including from coronary heart disease, stroke, specific cancer types, respiratory disease, digestive disease, external causes, and dementia.Results Childhood intelligence was inversely associated with all major causes of death. The age and sex adjusted hazard ratios (and 95% confidence intervals) per 1 SD (about 15 points) advantage in intelligence test score were strongest for respiratory disease (0.72, 0.70 to 0.74), coronary heart disease (0.75, 0.73 to 0.77), and stroke (0.76, 0.73 to 0.79). Other notable associations (all P<0.001) were observed for deaths from injury (0.81, 0.75 to 0.86), smoking related cancers (0.82, 0.80 to 0.84), digestive disease (0.82, 0.79 to 0.86), and dementia (0.84, 0.78 to 0.90). Weak associations were apparent for suicide (0.87, 0.74 to 1.02) and deaths from cancer not related to smoking (0.96, 0.93 to 1.00), and their confidence intervals included unity. There was a suggestion that childhood intelligence was somewhat more strongly related to coronary heart disease, smoking related cancers, respiratory disease, and dementia in women than men (P value for interactions <0.001, 0.02, <0.001, and 0.02, respectively).Childhood intelligence was related to selected cancer presentations, including lung (0.75, 0.72 to 0.77), stomach (0.77, 0.69 to 0.85), bladder (0.81, 0.71 to 0.91), oesophageal (0.85, 0.78 to 0.94), liver (0.85, 0.74 to 0.97), colorectal (0.89, 0.83 to 0.95), and haematopoietic (0.91, 0.83 to 0.98). Sensitivity analyses on a representative subsample of the cohort observed only small attenuation of the estimated effect of intelligence (by 10-26%) after adjustment for potential confounders, including three indicators of childhood socioeconomic status. In a replication sample from Scotland, in a similar birth year cohort and follow-up period, smoking and adult socioeconomic status partially attenuated (by 16-58%) the association of intelligence with outcome rates.Conclusions In a whole national population year of birth cohort followed over the life course from age 11 to age 79, higher scores on a well validated childhood intelligence test were associated with lower risk of mortality ascribed to coronary heart disease and stroke, cancers related to smoking (particularly lung and stomach), respiratory diseases, digestive diseases, injury, and dementia.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Cancer, Disease, Diseases and disorders, Death, Senescence, Demography, Heart


The fight against cancer is hindered by its highly heterogeneous nature. Genome-wide sequencing studies have shown that individual malignancies contain many mutations that range from those commonly found in tumor genomes to rare somatic variants present only in a small fraction of lesions. Such rare somatic variants dominate the landscape of genomic mutations in cancer, yet efforts to correlate somatic mutations found in one or few individuals with functional roles have been largely unsuccessful. Traditional methods for identifying somatic variants that drive cancer are ‘gene-centric’ in that they consider only somatic variants within a particular gene and make no comparison to other similar genes in the same family that may play a similar role in cancer. In this work, we present oncodomain hotspots, a new ‘domain-centric’ method for identifying clusters of somatic mutations across entire gene families using protein domain models. Our analysis confirms that our approach creates a framework for leveraging structural and functional information encapsulated by protein domains into the analysis of somatic variants in cancer, enabling the assessment of even rare somatic variants by comparison to similar genes. Our results reveal a vast landscape of somatic variants that act at the level of domain families altering pathways known to be involved with cancer such as protein phosphorylation, signaling, gene regulation, and cell metabolism. Due to oncodomain hotspots' unique ability to assess rare variants, we expect our method to become an important tool for the analysis of sequenced tumor genomes, complementing existing methods.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Genetics, Gene expression, Evolution, Organism, RNA


Objectives To investigate whether outcomes of patients who were admitted to hospital differ between those treated by younger and older physicians.Design Observational study.Setting US acute care hospitals.Participants 20% random sample of Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries aged ≥65 admitted to hospital with a medical condition in 2011-14 and treated by hospitalist physicians to whom they were assigned based on scheduled work shifts. To assess the generalizability of findings, analyses also included patients treated by general internists including both hospitalists and non-hospitalists.Main outcome measures 30 day mortality and readmissions and costs of care. Results 736 537 admissions managed by 18 854 hospitalist physicians (median age 41) were included. Patients' characteristics were similar across physician ages. After adjustment for characteristics of patients and physicians and hospital fixed effects (effectively comparing physicians within the same hospital), patients' adjusted 30 day mortality rates were 10.8% for physicians aged <40 (95% confidence interval 10.7% to 10.9%), 11.1% for physicians aged 40-49 (11.0% to 11.3%), 11.3% for physicians aged 50-59 (11.1% to 11.5%), and 12.1% for physicians aged ≥60 (11.6% to 12.5%). Among physicians with a high volume of patients, however, there was no association between physician age and patient mortality. Readmissions did not vary with physician age, while costs of care were slightly higher among older physicians. Similar patterns were observed among general internists and in several sensitivity analyses.Conclusions Within the same hospital, patients treated by older physicians had higher mortality than patients cared for by younger physicians, except those physicians treating high volumes of patients.

Concepts: Medicine, Death, Patient, Hospital, Physician, Doctor-patient relationship, Internal medicine, Residency


Objectives To evaluate the risk of all cause mortality associated with initiating compared with not initiating benzodiazepines in adults, and to address potential treatment barriers and confounding related to the use of a non-active comparator group.Design Retrospective cohort study.Setting Large de-identified US commercial healthcare database (Optum Clinformatics Datamart).Participants 1:1 high dimensional propensity score matched cohort of benzodiazepine initiators, and randomly selected benzodiazepine non-initiators with a medical visit within 14 days of the start of benzodiazepine treatment (n=1 252 988), between July 2004 and December 2013. To address treatment barriers and confounding, patients were required to have filled one or more prescriptions for any medication in the 90 days and 91-180 days before the index date (ie, the date of starting benzodiazepine treatment for initiators and the date of the selected medical visit for benzodiazepine non-initiators) and the high dimensional propensity score was estimated on the basis of more than 300 covariates.Main outcome measure All cause mortality, determined by linkage with the Social Security Administration Death Master File.Results Over a six month follow-up period, 5061 and 4691 deaths occurred among high dimensional propensity score matched benzodiazepine initiators versus non-initiators (9.3 v 9.4 events per 1000 person years; hazard ratio 1.00, 95% confidence interval 0.96 to 1.04). A 4% (95% confidence interval 1% to 8%) to 9% (2% to 7%) increase in mortality risk was observed associated with the start of benzodiazepine treatment for follow-ups of 12 and 48 months and in subgroups of younger patients and patients initiating short acting agents. In secondary analyses comparing 1:1 high dimensional propensity score matched patients initiating benzodiazepines with an active comparator, ie, patients starting treatment with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressants, benzodiazepine use was associated with a 9% (95% confidence interval 3% to 16%) increased risk.Conclusions This large population based cohort study suggests either no increase or at most a minor increase in risk of all cause mortality associated with benzodiazepine initiation. If a detrimental effect exists, it is likely to be much smaller than previously stated and to have uncertain clinical relevance. Residual confounding likely explains at least part of the small increase in mortality risk observed in selected analyses.

Concepts: Experimental design, Epidemiology, Actuarial science, Relative risk, Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, Statistical terminology, Benzodiazepine, Reuptake inhibitor


Objective To examine how poor reporting and inadequate methods for key methodological features in randomised controlled trials (RCTs) have changed over the past three decades.Design Mapping of trials included in Cochrane reviews.Data sources Data from RCTs included in all Cochrane reviews published between March 2011 and September 2014 reporting an evaluation of the Cochrane risk of bias items: sequence generation, allocation concealment, blinding, and incomplete outcome data.Data extraction For each RCT, we extracted consensus on risk of bias made by the review authors and identified the primary reference to extract publication year and journal. We matched journal names with Journal Citation Reports to get 2014 impact factors.Main outcomes measures We considered the proportions of trials rated by review authors at unclear and high risk of bias as surrogates for poor reporting and inadequate methods, respectively.Results We analysed 20 920 RCTs (from 2001 reviews) published in 3136 journals. The proportion of trials with unclear risk of bias was 48.7% for sequence generation and 57.5% for allocation concealment; the proportion of those with high risk of bias was 4.0% and 7.2%, respectively. For blinding and incomplete outcome data, 30.6% and 24.7% of trials were at unclear risk and 33.1% and 17.1% were at high risk, respectively. Higher journal impact factor was associated with a lower proportion of trials at unclear or high risk of bias. The proportion of trials at unclear risk of bias decreased over time, especially for sequence generation, which fell from 69.1% in 1986-1990 to 31.2% in 2011-14 and for allocation concealment (70.1% to 44.6%). After excluding trials at unclear risk of bias, use of inadequate methods also decreased over time: from 14.8% to 4.6% for sequence generation and from 32.7% to 11.6% for allocation concealment.Conclusions Poor reporting and inadequate methods have decreased over time, especially for sequence generation and allocation concealment. But more could be done, especially in lower impact factor journals.

Concepts: Scientific method, Randomized controlled trial, Academic publishing, Nature, Impact factor, Bibliometrics, Institute for Scientific Information, Journal Citation Reports


Microbubbles (MBs) serve as a critical catalyst to amplify local cavitation in CNS capillary lumen to facilitate focused ultrasound (FUS) to transiently open the blood-brain barrier (BBB). However, limited understanding is available regarding the effect of different microbubbles to induce BBB opening. The aim of this study is to characterize different MBs on their effect in FUS-induced BBB opening. Three MBs, SonoVue, Definity, and USphere, were tested, with 0.4-MHz FUS exposure at 0.62-1.38 of mechanical index (MI) on rats. Evans blue, dynamic contrast-enhanced (DCE) MRI and small-animal ultrasound imaging were used as surrogates to allow molecule-penetrated quantification, BBB-opened observation, and MBs circulation/persistence. Cavitation activity was measured via the passive cavitation detection (PCD) setup to correlate with the exposure level and the histological effect. Under given and identical MB concentrations, the three MBs induced similar and equivalent BBB-opening effects and persistence. In addition, a treatment paradigm by adapting exposure time is proposed to compensate MB decay to retain the persistence of BBB-opening efficiency in multiple FUS exposures. The results potentially improve understanding of the equivalence among MBs in focused ultrasound CNS drug delivery, and provide an effective strategy for securing persistence in this treatment modality.

Concepts: Effect, Medical imaging, Effectiveness, Ultrasound, Evans Blue, Equivalence, Equivalence relation


Dextromethorphan (3-methoxy-N-methylmorphinan), also known as “DXM” and “the poor man’s PCP,” is a synthetically produced drug that is available in more than 140 over-the-counter cough and cold preparations. Dextromethorphan (DXM) has overtaken codeine as the most widely used cough suppressant due to its availability, efficacy, and safety profile at directed doses. However, DXM is subject to abuse. When consumed at inappropriately high doses (over 1500 mg/day), DXM can induce a state of psychosis characterized by Phencyclidine (PCP)-like psychological symptoms, including delusions, hallucinations, and paranoia. We report a noteworthy case of severe dextromethorphan use disorder with dextromethorphan-induced psychotic disorder in a 40-year-old Caucasian female, whose symptoms remitted only following treatment with a combination of an antipsychotic and mood stabilizer. While some states have begun to limit the quantity of DXM sold or restrict sales to individuals over 18-years of age, there is currently no federal ban or restriction on DXM. Abuse of DXM, a readily available and typically inexpensive agent that is not detected on a standard urine drug screen, may be an under-recognized cause of substance-induced psychosis. It is imperative that clinicians are aware of the potential psychiatric sequelae of recreational DXM use.

Concepts: Cough, Schizophrenia, Psychosis, Bipolar disorder, Psychiatry, Common cold, Codeine, Cough medicine