BMJ 1998; 317 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.317.7154.358 (Published 01 August 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:358

The link between stress and irritable bowel syndrome is well established, but how important is it to eventual outcome? A longitudinal study of 117 patients showed that severe chronic stress accounted for 97% of the variance in outcome over 16 months (Gut 1998;43:256-61). One highly threatening chronic problem in a patient was enough to abolish any chance of improvement over the study period. The authors conclude that the effect is strong, unidirectional, and uninfluenced by age, sex, personality, anxiety, or depression.

Seamen working on tankers carrying petrol and other chemical products already have a dangerous job, and to add to their worries new research suggests that they may have higher rates of some haematological cancers (Occupational and Environmental Medicine1998;55:517-21). Exposure to benzene, a well known carcinogen, during loading, unloading, and tank cleaning probably has something to do with it.

Scientists have finally sequenced the whole genome of Treponema pallidum, the spirochete that causes syphilis (Science 1998;281:375-88). It has over a million base pairs and is one of only half a dozen other completely sequenced human pathogens. The American team behind the discovery describes the spirochete as metabolically crippled by weaknesses in the genome, including an inability to make vital complex molecules. This means that T pallidumdepends on stealing from its …

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