1. Will you soon be diagnosed just by breathing? Never mind that the author interviewed is the last of 57 (!) authors mentioned — not as the article suggests its sole author (Diagnosis and Classification of 17 Diseases from 1404 Subjects via Pattern Analysis of Exhaled Molecules). This is not a medical journal.
I didn’t find it easy to read this report, but it seems that the 86% accuracy reported was NOT its ability to find who is sick in a group of people; only the ability to DISTINGUISH correctly between two sort-of similar but different illnesses, e.g.: gastric vs. bladder cancer, and between totally different illnesses.
In normal accuracy results, one wants two figures: one on what percentage were correctly diagnosed and in what percentage was the diagnosis missed (false negative); the other on what percentage of the people declared ill were actually ill and what percentage was actually well and wrongly fingered as sick (false positive). These two important percentages were not given. So this breath analysis is NOT for finding sick people – only to say with 86% accuracy which of two illnesses is going on.
Because 100% accuracy was found in 13 of the 30 different comparisons, in the other 17 couples the percentage must have been on average 75%. However, that should not be compared to 0% but to the random percentage that turned out to be 58%. It is easy to tell the difference between totally different diseases, and we do not need a test to distinguish e.g. chronic kidney failure from long cancer. So this test is for distinguishing what is really similar, and that it can – on average – 17% better (from 58% to 75%) than the throw of a dice. Not that dramatic yet really. Just a little better than an uninformed guess. But they’re working on it, and that’s what counts.
2. The JPost science reporter wrote on nanotechnology that should treat disease: US, Israeli researchers applying nanotechnology to cancer. The experiments have not even started so it’s anyone’s guess if anything useful will come from this. One experiment is to see if maybe some unsuspected gut bacterium can be implicated in causing breast cancer, and can be stopped with nano-antibiotics. The other is a lab test to see if nano-stem-cells could be deliver to brain cells. These seem wild guesses to me but the hype is there, and who knows? That’s how science marches on, though presently they have nothing to show for themselves. But they’re working on it, and that’s what counts.
3. Hi-tech system can find life-threatening conditions years before you get it. This article IS about early detection of disease, but only one: colon cancer. We read already that it is a mighty popular disease in Israel (Cancer most common cause of death in Israel) with in 2012 28,077 people diagnosed with it.
The reported “successful year-long trial” identified 111 people with colon cancer among 2 million people. However, this is only 38% correct, so that means that 181 people were told incorrectly to get checked (false positive). This is a real problem, which would not be so bad if at least all people with budding colon cancer would be found. However, that is not true at all.
In a third of Israel’s population, more than 9000 people should be found that fit such a diagnosis. To find only 111 of them means that the percentage of false negative is 98.8%. In other words, 99 per 100 sick were missed. Not a great test. It finds 1% and 60% of the findings are false alarm. That’s not what I would call successful. But they’re working on it and that is what counts.
What was good is that these 111 were diagnosed early. However, not included is a control group, to see how much all this is better than a physician without tests predicting that 292 people should go for first testing. How many of them would actually have a very early stage of this very popular colon cancer? That number must be subtracted from the 111 to see much it is better than an educated guess.
4. A report from another outlet: Ageless 85-year old marathon runner confounds scientists, its headline very upbeat: Ageless 85-year old marathon runner confounds scientists. However, when we read what is written, there is a slight problem with its premise that this guy ages slower. All the parameters that need to indicate this are boosted by his decades of running. No data are provided that his skin ages slower, or his eyes.
In short more wishful than thinking; this only proves that exercising fanatically but wisely helps retain your muscles and longs; no progress for physical immortality. But they’re working on it and that is what counts.
5. Last but not least, the Minister of Health promised to intensify the fight against hospital-borne infections: Ministry promises to tackle deadly in-hospital infections. Unfortunately, every hospital has specialists in charge of this and 150 years after Semmelweis, they turn out not to know even the basics. If one comes into a large Israeli hospital and watches the cleaners, one sees them mop the floors twice a day, as if tuberculosis is still endemic. When they disinfect a room they even clean the walls (off the wall). Instead, they should, five times a day, clean the beds’ fences, doorknobs, tabs and counters. So instead of changing policy, they first need is to retrain or fire all hospital epidemiologists. Your health reporter won’t tell you this, because then she will lose all cooperation with and reporting by doctors. Not everyone is as brave as Semmelweis!