Vital Signs

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Wine and dine

Wine buffs should drink only with meals, new research suggests. Those who drink between meals have a higher mortality rate than those who drink wine only with food, a study of 15,000 Italians shows. The difference is particularly marked in women - those drinking between meals have a death rate nearly four times as high as those who imbibe only when eating. A report in New Scientist says it may be linked to the fact that alcohol on an empty stomach is absorbed faster into the blood.

Allergy aid

A "universal" vaccine for sufferers of hay fever, asthma and food allergies could be available within three years, say researchers at Birmingham University. They found that 16 out of 18 hay fever patients given the new vaccine needed no further remedies during the summer, and a second trial of 13 patients allergic to nuts or fish could tolerate these foods after vaccination. A report in General Practitioner says the vaccine is not restricted to any particular allergen.

Hair today, here tomorrow

Rapidly balding men are more likely to die of heart disease than those who still have their hair, researchers write in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Their 30-year study of more than 2,000 men found the risk of heart attack, angina or sudden death to be almost double in men who had suffered rapid, as opposed to moderate, hair loss. They suggest the male hormone testosterone may have something to do with it.

Bad bats

Bats may be part of the charm of English rural life, but in the US they are more akin to vermin. According to Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, US bats are responsible not only for spreading rabies but also for histoplasmosis, a fungal infection of the lungs, which can be life-threatening in those with impaired immune systems.

Dangerous blisters

Tablets in plastic "blisters" can be dangerous in the hands of the confused, the elderly or those with failing sight, Norwegian surgeons warn. They describe in the Lancet the case of a 68-year-old patient admitted to hospital with severe pain in the abdomen a few days after a coronary bypass. The man's small intestine, which had to be removed, had been perforated by a tablet, still in its wrapping. A corner had cut through the intestinal wall.

CHERRILL HICKS

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