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BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 19 January 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d313

Selected US adults look untroubled by genetic profiling

Genetic profiling is a growing industry that sells the promise of a glimpse into the future to any adult who can afford a test. The industry is unregulated, and the tests are unvalidated. Some experts believe they are unreliable, inaccurate, and clinically meaningless. But do they do any psychological harm?

In one study, a large cohort of US adults looked unfazed by commercial testing that quantified the lifetime risk of 23 different diseases including prostate cancer, breast cancer, abdominal aneurysm, obesity, and macular degeneration. The authors found little evidence of additional distress or anxiety three months after the test, even for those with positive results. Participants did not rush out for more screening tests, and only one in 10 asked for genetic counselling, which was provided free of charge. Genetic profiling had no discernible effect on fat intake or exercise. A quarter of the cohort shared their results with a doctor.

This uncontrolled study included a convenience sample of 3639 volunteers, mostly employees of health or technology companies and their families. They were well educated, wealthy, insured, and selected to resemble the kind of people targeted by companies selling genetic profiling. Follow-up was short. The effect of these tests on more vulnerable populations, or on anyone in the long term, remains unknown.

Antibiotics improve outcomes in young children with otitis media

Two new placebo controlled trials have confirmed that young children with definite otitis media get better faster when treated early with amoxicillin-clavulanate. They also have more side effects, including diarrhoea and nappy rash.

One commentator believes these trials lay to rest any lingering doubts about the use of antibiotics for young children with confirmed middle ear infections (p 168). Both trials recruited children with clear symptoms and signs including a middle ear effusion, an acutely inflamed tympanic membrane, fever, earache, respiratory symptoms, or other behaviours such …

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