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BMJ 2005; 331 doi: (Published 03 November 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:1045
  1. Alison Tonks, associate editor (

    Vaccinating children against pneumococcal disease protects older adults too

    In 2000, the United States authorities licensed a 7 valent pneumococcal vaccine (PCV 7) for children younger than 5 years. The incidence of invasive pneumoccocal disease in this age group fell quickly, but the benefits also extended to older US citizens. Active surveillance across eight distinct geographical areas shows that the incidence of invasive diseases, such as pneumonia, meningitis, and bacteraemia of unknown origin, has continued to fall among elderly US citizens, and has now reached the government target of 42 cases per 100 000 for the over 65s.

    Credit: JAMA

    Researchers estimate that in 2002 and 2003, there were 12 500 fewer cases of invasive disease and 1100 fewer deaths among elderly US citizens compared with the two years before the vaccine was introduced. Adults aged between 75 and 84 years benefited most. In this age group the incidence of invasive pneumoccocal disease in 2002-3 was 35% lower than the corresponding incidence in 1998-9.

    The authors think it likely that the new children's vaccine is responsible for these trends. An analysis that stratified invasive disease by serotype showed that most of the overall decline among elderly people was accounted for by the serotypes in the childhood vaccine. Disease caused by other serotypes remained stable.

    JAMA 2005;294: 2043-51

    Illegal trade in growth hormone must stop

    Selling growth hormone as a prophylactic against ageing has grown into a multi-million dollar business in the United States. The extent of the problem is hard to gauge with any certainty, but officials estimate that in 2004, between 25 000 and 30 000 older US citizens were treated with growth hormone to combat the physical effects of ageing. Others from within the profitable “anti-ageing” industry estimate that about 100 000 people a year get growth hormone without a prescription. It's widely available on the internet and by mail order.

    Wherever it comes …

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