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PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 March, 2009, 12:00am

Flu-fighting antibodies replicated
Harvard University researchers have replicated human antibodies that appear to be able to disable several key types of influenza, including the H5N1 bird flu and the 1918 Spanish flu. The breakthrough may lead to the development of a vaccine and treatment for seasonal and pandemic flu. The team plans to begin human trials within two years. The key to the treatment is that the antibodies attack the virus in a stable part of its structure that tends not to mutate, making them effective against different strains, AFP reports. A Japanese team reported a similar breakthrough earlier this month.

Vitamin D a potent cold fighter
Vitamin D may be far more effective in preventing the common cold than vitamin C, say University of Colorado researchers who analysed the records of almost 19,000 people over six years. Those with the lowest levels of the vitamin, which is better known for its role in bone development, were 36 per cent more likely to have recently had an upper respiratory tract infection than those with higher levels. People with asthma or emphysema who also had low vitamin D levels appear to be particularly susceptible to infections, WebMD reports.

Small doses build peanut tolerance
Children with severe peanut allergies have been able to develop a limited but potentially life-saving immunity by taking small daily doses of peanut flour as part of a pilot study at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge. All four volunteers were so susceptible to peanuts that eating them could trigger a life-threatening shock, but after the treatment they can safely eat at least 10. A further 18 children and teens are now undergoing the therapy. Previous attempts to develop tolerance have failed, Reuters reports. 'It's not a permanent cure,' says team leader Andy Clark. 'But as long as they go on taking a daily dose they should maintain their tolerance.'

Calcium fights cancer
Diets rich in calcium may help protect against some cancers, say US researchers, based on a study of almost 500,000 people aged about 50 to 70 when the programme began in the mid-1990s. The link appears to be stronger with calcium-rich foods than supplements. More than 10 per cent of those studied developed cancer - typically prostate, breast, lung or colorectal, AP reports. Women who got the most calcium from food were almost 30 per cent less likely to get colon cancer than those who consumed the least amounts; men were about 16 per cent less likely, says the National Cancer Institute team.

Strong emotions bad for heart
Anger and other strong emotions can significantly increase the chances of potentially deadly disruptions to the heart's electrical rhythms, say US researchers, based on a three-year study of 62 patients with implantable defibrillators. Although it's known that stress can set off heart problems in some people, the Yale University study looked at what actually occurs. 'Anger really does impact the heart's electrical system in very specific ways that can lead to sudden death,' says team leader Rachel Lampert. Those with the 'highest anger-induced electrical instability' were 10 times more likely to suffer arrhythmia, or dangerous heart rhythm, during the three years, Reuters reports.