Lancet 13 Jan 2007

Your biological age is written in your telomeres, which shorten every time your cells divide. Frequently dividing cells like leucocytes lose about 50 binary pairs of DNA nucleotides per year, and when they get down to a certain length,

Comes the blind Fury with th’abhorred shears,

And slits the thin spun life.

Beware then, O middle-aged men of Britain! The West of Scotland Primary Prevention Study shows that the faster your telomeres shorten, the more likely you are to get coronary heart disease.

Toxoplasma gondii, although named after a retiring Ethiopian rodent, is actually spread mostly by domestic cats. These we serve diligently in our homes, so that we can be rewarded with their disdain and faeces. From time to time, the latter convey toxoplasmosis to pregnant women, and in a third of such cases, the fetus also becomes infected. In both mothers and babies infection is usually harmless and asymptomatic, but 4% of the latter can suffer death or permanent neurological damage. So should all cat-loving nations attempt to detect and treat toxoplasmosis in pregnant women? This French meta-analysis of individual data finds that conclusive evidence of benefit is lacking.

Syphilis, a South American disease named after a Greek swain in an Italian poem, reached China in 1505. Mao Zedong nearly got rid of it in the 1950s, but it is now increasing at an average annual rate of 72%!

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a recent diagnostic category with political implications which are discussed rather diffusely in this review. This discussion has a particular resonance in the week when Tony Blair has affirmed his belief in our right to wage war in the furtherance of national political aims. There is a big literature (both medical and creative) about PTSD and “cowardice