BMJ 1998; 317 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.317.7163.958 (Published 03 October 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:958

A few years ago genital herpes was a hot topic, but it seems to have faded from public concern—though it remains very common. Some unfortunate people have more than six attacks a year. This recurrence rate was cut substantially by treatment for a year with famciclovir in a placebo controlled trial in 455 patients (JAMA 1998;280:887-92. The time to first recurrence was seven weeks in the placebo group and seven months in the patients taking the active drug.

The search is on for a better test of tuberculosis infection than the traditional tuberculin skin test, which has important limitations. Researchers from Melbourne tested the performance of a new γ interferon blood test and found that it was fast and accurate with a sensitivity of 90% and a specificity of 98% (International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease1998;113:1175-7). The assay can be performed on a single blood sample, avoids patients being injected with foreign protein, and is not influenced by observer error.

A meta-analysis of 12 randomised controlled trials confirms what many doctors have long suspected: that prescribing antibiotics to children with upper respiratory tract infections is a waste of time and money (Archives of Diseases in Childhood1998;79:225-30. Coughs and colds usually get better without …

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