A sobering paper in the prestigious journal Lancet Infectious Diseases predicts a disastrous future in which antibiotics will soon no longer be effective against infectious diseases. The article explains how a new gene called NDM 1, discovered last year by the paper’s author Professor Tim Walsh, can pass easily between enterobacteriaceae such as Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae, making them resistant to almost all of the powerful, last-line group of antibiotics called carbapenems. The Lancet paper revealed that NDM 1 is already widespread in India and has now arrived in the West as a result of global travel and medical tourism. ‘In many ways, this is it..’ said Walsh in a Guardian newspaper interview, ‘… this is potentially the end. There are no antibiotics in the pipeline that have activity against NDM 1-producing enterobacteriaceae. We have a bleak window of maybe 10 years, where we are going to have to use the antibiotics we have very wisely, but also grapple with the reality that we have nothing to treat these infections with. ‘(Lancet Emergence of a new antibiotic resistance mechanism in India, Pakistan, and the UK: a molecular,  biological, and epidemiological study. Infect Dis. 2010 Aug 10. [Epub ahead of print]. The Guardian. August 4, 1010l http//www.guardian.co.u,/society/2010/aug/12/the-end-of-antibiotics-health-infections)

Chinese nutritional theory has always held that beetroot has blood-nourishing properties. A British team has now found that beetroot juice can boost athletic stamina by increasing the nitrate concentration of the blood. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study, eight men drank 500ml of beetroot juice every day for seven days and completed a series of exercise tests on the last three days. They were able to cycle 16% longer without feeling fatigued and analysis showed that levels of nitrate in their plasma had effectively doubled. The authors suggest that the additional nitrate had the effect of slowing the rate of muscular energy metabolism, and suggest the finding will be of interest not only to athletes but also to elderly people and those with metabolic, respiratory or cardiovascular diseases. (Dietary nitrate supplementation reduces the 02 cost of low-intensity exercise and enhances tolerance to high-intensity exercise in humans. J Appl Physiol. 2009 Oct;107(4):1144-55).

A Norwegian study has used both quantitative and qualitative methods to examine how group tai chi (TC) exercise impacted on disease activity, physical function, health status and experience in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients. Fifteen patients were instructed in TC twice weekly for 12 weeks. TC led to improved lower-limb muscle function at the end of intervention and at 12 weeks follow-up. Qualitative analyses showed that patients experienced improved physical condition, confidence in moving, balance and less pain during exercise and in daily life. Other patient experiences included stress reduction, and increased body awareness and confidence in moving. The authors conclude that TC has beneficial effects on health not related to disease activity or standardised health status assessment. They suggest that this combination of research methods may contribute to an understanding of how TC exerts its effects. (Exploring Tai Chi in rheumatoid arthritis: a quantitative and qualitative study. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2010 Mar 5;11:43).

A systematic review carried out by US researchers has found that tai chi TC) appears to be associated with improvements in many aspects of psychological health. Forty studies totaling 3817 subjects were subjected to meta-analysis. The results showed that regular TC significantly increased psychological well-being, including reduction of stress, anxiety, depression, enhanced mood and increased self-esteem in healthy participants and in patients with a variety of chronic conditions. (Tai Chi on psychological well-being: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2010 May 21;10:23).

American authors have carried out a comprehensive review of the health benefits of qigong and tai chi (TC). Seventy-seven articles met their inclusion criteria. Nine outcome category groupings emerged: bone density, cardiopulmonary effects, physical function, falls and related risk factors, quality of life, self-efficacy, patient-reported outcomes, psychological symptoms and immune function. The authors conclude that there are consistent, significant results for a number of health benefits in RCTs of qigong and TC. (A comprehensive review of health benefits of qigong and tai chi. Am J Health Promot. 2010 Jul-Aug;24(6):el-e25).

American researchers have found that long-term tai chi (TC) exercise improves physical performance among people with peripheral neuropathy. Twenty-five patients completed 24 consecutive weeks of modified, group-based TC. After six weeks of TC participants showed increased six-minute walk, timed up-and-go and leg strength performance. Continued improvement was observed in timed up-and-go performance. Plantar sensation also improved following the TC intervention. (Long term Tai Chi exercise improves physical performance among people with peripheral neuropathy. Am J Chin Med. 2010;38(3):449-59).

Taking part in a six-month tai chi (TC) exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation program may lead to a better prognosis for cardiac events in patients with coronary artery disease (CAD). Fifty-four Taiwanese patients were randomised to usual care or usual care plus TC (weekly 90 minute sessions of Yang-style TC) for six months. A treadmill exercise test was performed to evaluate their exercise test responses at baseline and six months. The TC exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation programme was associated with improved peak RPP (rate pressure product) and RPP reserve during exercise testing in patients with CAD. The improvement over time in two prognostic factors of cardiac events was found to be significantly different between the TC and control groups. (Effects of Tai Chi rehabilitation on heart rate responses in patients with coronary artery disease. Am J Chin Med. 2010;38(3):461-72).

A systematic review of TCM therapies for treatment of fibromyalgia has concluded that they appear to be effective. The authors looked at twenty-five RCTs (1516 participants) of which ten were eligible for meta-analysis. Acupuncture reduced pain scores and number of tender points compared with conventional medication, however it showed no significant effect on pain reduction compared with sham acupuncture. A combination of acupuncture and cupping therapy was better than conventional medication for reducing pain and for improving depression scores. Other individual trials demonstrated positive effects of Chinese herbal medicine on pain reduction compared with conventional medication. (Traditional Chinese Medicine for treatment of fibromyalgia: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. J Altern Complement Med. 2010 Apr;16(4):397-409).

Acupuncture can reduce the frequency of hot flushes in men undergoing androgen ablation therapy (AAT) for prostate cancer. In an observational study carried out in the USA, 22 patients received electroacupuncture biweekly for four weeks, then weekly for six weeks, using a predefined treatment plan. After four weeks, 41% of patients had over 50% reduction in their hot flush score, and by the end of the treatment course, 55% of patients met this response definition. No patient experienced a significant increase in hot flush score during therapy. A reduced hot flush score was associated with improvement in the hot flush-related quality of life and sleep quality. (Acupuncture for Hot Flashes in Patients With Prostate Cancer. Urology. 2010 May 20. [Epub ahead of print]).

Another American study has concluded that acupuncture provides excellent control of hot flushes in patients undergoing AAT. In this small observational study of 17 men, the mean improvement at weeks two and six was 68.4% and 89.2% respectively, and at eight months the improvement reached 80.3%. (Acupuncture for the Alleviation of Hot Flashes in Men Treated with Androgen Ablation Therapy. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2010 Jun 2. [Epub ahead of print]).

Acupuncture produces measurable benefits in symptom reduction and quality of life (QOL) for patients with advanced ovarian and breast cancer, according to US researchers. In a pilot, single-armed prospective trial, 40 patients with advanced cancer were enrolled to receive 12 acupuncture sessions over eight weeks, with follow-up at weeks nine and 12. Among all 32 assessed patients, there was self-reported improvement immediately post-treatment in anxiety, fatigue, pain and depression, and significant improvement over time in anxiety and depression. QOL measures of pain severity and interference, physical and psychological distress, life satisfaction and mood states also showed improved scores during treatment, with sustained benefit at 12 weeks. (Acupuncture as palliative therapy for physical symptoms and quality of life for advanced cancer patients. Integr Cancer Ther. 2010 Jun;9(2):158-67).