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Fergus Walsh, Medical correspondent

Fergus Walsh Medical correspondent

This is my take on the medical and health issues of the day, especially those involving research and ethics

Room for growth: Viagra patent ends

There can be few drugs in recent decades which have become so embedded in popular consciousness as Viagra.

The diamond-shaped blue pill revolutionised treatment for erectile dysfunction.

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Uncertainty over children's heart surgery

I still remember the 29 tiny black coffins - each with a white cross - laid out in front of the General Medical Council. That was 1998 and the start of the disciplinary hearing into failures of two surgeons at Bristol Royal Infirmary.

The Bristol heart scandal led to a wide-ranging inquiry which concluded in 2001 that dozens of babies had died needlessly. It recommended that children's heart surgery should be carried out in fewer specialist centres.

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Uncertainty over children's heart surgery

I still remember the 29 tiny black coffins - each with a white cross - laid out in front of the General Medical Council. That was 1998 and the start of the disciplinary hearing into failures of two surgeons at Bristol Royal Infirmary.

The Bristol heart scandal led to a wide-ranging inquiry which concluded in 2001 that dozens of babies had died needlessly. It recommended that children's heart surgery should be carried out in fewer specialist centres.

Read full article

Chemicals: a worry for pregnancy?

There are many things that pregnant women should definitely avoid. Chief among these are cigarettes.

There is overwhelming evidence that smoking is harmful to the developing baby, can lead to premature birth and low birth weight, and increase the risk of cot death.

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Big rise in medical trial volunteers

The number of patients taking part in clinical trials in England has trebled in five years.

Figures from the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) show almost 638,000 patients volunteered last year.

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Time-lapse imaging 'improves IVF'

Time-lapse imaging which takes thousands of pictures of developing embryos can boost the success rate of IVF, according to British research.

The method, reported in Reproductive BioMedicine Online, can be used to select embryos at low risk of defects.

Coronavirus threat 'remains low'

The emergence of the novel coronavirus is a reminder of the potential threat we face from emerging diseases. A decade ago hundreds of people were killed by severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

Although the novel coronavirus is from the same large family of pathogens as SARS, it is very different. And although media reports usually mentions the new virus and SARS in the same breath it is worth pointing out that coronaviruses also produce infections like the common cold.

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Should we worry about H7N9?

There is a new disease in town - at least there is if you live in eastern China. Long after most people had lost interest in - and the media had stopped writing about - H5N1 bird flu, we now have to get used to another assortment of letters and numbers. So should we all worry about H7N9?

"Yes and no" seems to sum up the view of experts. Yes, because of the potential of flu viruses to cause global disease outbreaks - pandemics. No, because the virus is still confined to China and has no ability at present to transmit between humans.

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Why do so many people want cosmetic procedures?

It would seem that more and more of us are opting for a bit of help to slow the appearance of ageing.

The idea of growing old gracefully - wrinkles and all - seems anathema to a growing number of Britons.

Long shadow cast by MMR scare

It is 15 years since Dr Andrew Wakefield published research suggesting a possible link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

Although both he and his research have been discredited, the MMR scare still casts a long shadow.

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Fergus added analysis to:

Leeds child heart ops 'had to stop'

The plan to cut the number of children's heart surgery units in England has led to a bitter and protracted dispute.

There is almost universal support for the concept of fewer, bigger and better heart units.

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Synchrotron yields 'safer' vaccine

Producing vaccines against viral threats is a potentially hazardous business and that's why manufacturers have to operate strict controls to ensure that no pathogens escape.

British scientists have developed a new method to create an entirely synthetic vaccine which doesn't rely on using live infectious virus, meaning it is much safer.

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'Warmed liver' transplant first

Surgeons in London have carried out the first 'warm liver' transplant using an organ which was 'kept alive' at body temperature in a machine.

Usually donor livers are kept on ice, but many become damaged as a result.

The man who gives away £600m a year

Imagine having £600m to give away - every year. That is what Sir Mark Walport has been doing for the past decade at the Wellcome Trust.

It is the biggest medical charity in Europe and second in the world to the Gates Foundation in terms of grants.

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Why do the Italians live longer than us?

What is it about the Italians? They smoke more than us, they earn less, their economy is in even worse shape than ours, they spend less on healthcare, and yet - they live longer. Not just a bit, but a whopping 18 months more on average.

They also have more years of good health before disease and disability set in.

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Roche trial data pledge

The pharmaceutical company Roche has announced that it will make more of the data from its clinical trials available to researchers.

The company says it will appoint a panel of experts to evaluate and approve requests to access anonymised patient data.

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Horsemeat - food fraud, not food safety

You may have noticed that I've spent quite a bit of my time reporting about horsemeat in recent days.

I'm the medical correspondent and so that might make you assume that there is a strong health angle to the horsemeat contamination scandal.

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Fergus added analysis to:

Sars-like virus 'spreads in people'

The emergence of any new virus that poses a threat to human health is a cause for concern.

If the pathogen can spread from person to person, it becomes a significant issue. But the indications are the dangers to the general population are very low.

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Tuberculosis vaccine hopes dashed

A major trial of a new booster vaccine has ended in failure, marking a major setback in the fight against tuberculosis (TB).

It was the first big study in infants since the Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine was introduced in 1921.

Bill Gates: The world can defeat polio

Glance at the latest figures for polio incidence and it would appear that the world is within touching distance of eradicating the disease.

Last year there were just 205 cases of naturally occurring poliovirus compared with 650 cases in 2011 and a staggering 350,000 a quarter of a century ago.

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About Fergus

Fergus began working for the BBC in 1984 and has reported on health, science and medicine for nearly 20 years. Follow Fergus on Twitter.

He has reported for the BBC from around the world on topics such as stem cells, obesity, HIV/AIDS, malaria, TB, polio and swine flu.

Fergus has had his genes sequenced, his heart, brain and other body parts scanned, as well as being vaccinated against bird flu for his reports.

He appeared in a BBC TV drama with Julie Walters. He didn't win any awards for his acting, but has won several for his journalism.

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