Problematic alcohol consumption is still going unnoticed

Despite huge increases in alcoholic liver disease in the last 10 years, particularly in younger people, a new study shows that many students are not concerned about the long-term health impacts of alcohol consumption.

The study found that twice as many college students were likely to reduce their alcohol consumption for cost reasons compared to those who would reduce consumption to prevent negative health impacts.  As reported by the Irish Medical News, the study consisted of a survey of first year students at University College Cork.

According to the study, two-fifths (or 39%) of students surveyed admitted to going out with the intention of getting drunk, knowing that it would affect their duties the next day.

The study has prompted the Irish Society of Gastroenterology (ISG) to call for legislation to target alcohol consumption.

The ISG has warned that alcohol related deaths and hospital admissions continue to rise in Ireland, particularly in younger people and deaths related to cirrhosis of the liver have doubled between 1994 and 2008.

Perhaps a public awareness campaign is needed to educate our young people that the health costs of over-zealous alcohol consumption are far more costly in the long run that the initial monetary outlay.

Gut bacteria may hold key to schizophrenia

Gut bacteria may hold key to schizophrenia published on Irish Medical Times


Researchers in the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre in UCC have put forward a radically novel view of the biology of schizophrenia and more specifically its genetic basis, and their work may have significant implications for the development of new treatment strategies for the disorder.

Schizophrenia usually begins in the late teens or early 20s, and tends to be a life-long condition in the majority of cases. The risk of developing the disorder is approximately one in 100 in the general population. However, if there is a history of schizophrenia in the family the risk rises significantly.

However, very slow progress has been made in determining the complex genetics of schizophrenia.

Prof Ted Dinan and colleagues at the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre have published a paper on the genetics of schizophrenia in the journal Molecular Psychiatry. They argue that genetic studies over the past few decades have been less than productive in determining the biology of the disorder and in helping develop new treatments.

They re-evaluate the studies to date and put forward a radical alternative perspective.

The research — funded by Science Foundation Ireland — points out that there are more than 100 times as many genes in the bacteria within our intestine as exist in our cells and many of these genes play a fundamental role in brain development and function. In their laboratory, the researchers have found that animals raised in a germ-free environment, who have not been exposed to bacteria, show similar social interaction to that observed in schizophrenia and recent studies indicate that antibiotics may help alleviate some symptoms.

Minocycline, which is used to treat acne in teenagers, has been found to impact on symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations as well as social withdrawal. To date, there has been little effort to explore intestinal bacterial genes in patients with the disorder.

Prof Dinan’s group is currently focusing on this approach with a view to developing new and more effective treatments. They draw a parallel with the gut disorder peptic ulcer disease, which like schizophrenia tends to run in families.

Molecular Psychiatry advance online publication 7 Oct 2014; doi: 10.1038/mp.2014.93.