US highlights – 13 August 2010

Fiona GodleeThe focus at our daily planning meetings this week has not been the UK, nor indeed the US, but the natural disasters engulfing the world. Smog in Russia, flooding and fears of a cholera outbreak in Pakistan, the murder of aid agency workers in Afghanistan, including British doctor Karen Woo.

Visit for the regular updates on these stricken areas. On BMJ blogs, Vasiliy Vlassov, Professor of Medical Sciences at the Moscow Medical Academy, describes how the smog is affecting local health services. And on doc2doc, BMJ Group’s clinical community for doctors worldwide, Saqib Noor, blogs from Pakistan about the situation there. Some of you may have read his earlier blogs from Haiti. Read his posts at

Finally, my colleague David Stevens is retiring as editor-in-chief of the BMJ’s bimonthly specialist journal Quality and Safety in Health Care, and a successor is needed, ideally from the scholarly health care improvement and patient safety community, to replace him.

Professor Stevens, who is based at Dartmouth Medical School in New Hampshire, is happy to discuss the post. The deadline for applicants is August 27 2010. Find out more by contacting

Latest research

Short term effects of temperature on risk of myocardial infarction

A 1 degree Celsius reduction in average daily temperature was associated with a cumulative 2% increase in risk of myocardial infarction for 28 days. The highest risk was within two weeks of exposure, according to this study. Exposure to heat and cold is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and clinicians should consider this in risk prevention and management, says an accompanying editorial.

Adequacy of authors’ replies to criticism

Letters to the editor are essential for the scientific debate, but how willing are authors to respond to criticisms of their work? Should editors ensure that authors take relevant criticism seriously and respond adequately to it?  This cohort study looks at the amount of substantive criticism raised against research papers in the BMJ between October 2005 and September 2007.

Read these research articles and others at

Latest from the BMJ

What explains the fall in planned home births in developed countries?

The UK’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists thinks that planned home births are fine. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology does not.

Two scientific studies purporting to add to this debate have been published this year – one in the Medical Journal of Australia, and one in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Each provoked the furor that routinely engulfs such research.

BMJ deputy editor Tony Delamothe hopes that a prospective cohort study, to be published soon, will allow us to draw more confident conclusions about home births.

Quick links—a selection of recent news stories

Latest poll

Last week’s poll asked: “Have you ever taken modafinil, methylphenidate, or atomoxetine to boost your cognitive performance?”

9% said yes (total 401 votes cast )

This week’s poll asks: Should the role of family physicians in maternity care be strengthened?

Cast your vote here.

Latest podcast

In June 2010 the drug company Novo Nordisk announced that its only conventional human biphasic insulin, human Mixtard 30, would no longer be available in the UK from January 2011, a decision that affects an estimated 90,000 patients 

Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin (DTB), one of the BMJ’s sister journals, is campaigning against that decision. DTB editor Ike Ihenacho talks about the campaign.

Mabel Chew talks to the authors of a rational testing article on what to do about mildly abnormal serum amine transferase levels, what to suspect, and how to diagnose.

Listen to this podcast and others at

Latest blogs

Richard Lehman’s latest weekly journal blog discusses the four recent JAMA papers about the health consequences of violence and triggers memories of war poets and a tearful family visit to the New Menin Gate at Ypres.

Within the zinc world, there is a definite sense of community, says Tracey Koehlmoos in her latest blog from Bangladesh. As a treatment for childhood diarrhea it is both cost effective and evidence based and should be a priority for child health service delivery programs in developing countries. But why can’t it be mixed into oral rehydration solution, is the question she’s most often asked.

Liz Wager returned jetlagged from the 2nd World Congress in Research Integrity in Singapore and emailed some draft international standards for authors and editors to her co-delegates. The speed at which she collated comments, including feedback from Cameroon, France, Sri Lanka, and an American in Hong Kong, has rekindled her love of email as a means of communication.

Read these blogs and others, and leave your own comments, at

Fiona Godlee is the editor in chief, BMJ