Tasman Medical Journal Blog Page

Welcome to Our Blog Page

Tasman Medical Journal welcomes you to our blog page.  Our purpose is to float and respond to respectable and scientifically justified but sometimes potentially controversial medical ideas in a way that avoids the need for peer review and stimulates discussion amongst our readers.  But we will ensure that a high standard of scholarship applies.  The rules for commenting are:

  • Submitted comments must relate directly to the blog post or formal paper under which they appear and should aim to maintain an acceptable level of academic discussion appropriate to a medical journal. 
  • Where comments are submitted in relation to a formal paper, the journal may publish the comment as a letter to the editor, on condition that full disclosure of your identity, professional qualifications and contact details is provided. 
  • If your comment makes a claim of fact, you must cite the primary source, just as you would for a paper.
  • A word limit of 600 will apply to comments. Where your comment exceeds this amount we may reject your comment and ask you to edit and resubmit.
  • Comments will be scrutinised to prevent publication of insulting or defamatory material, frankly unscientific or crank ideas or illogical claims, and to ensure the above rules is met. We may reject a comment outright without notification, or notify you to edit and resubmit the comment.
  • Tasman Medical Journal aims to maintain acceptable standards of well-written English. We reserve the right to edit your comment to maintain these standards, but may also reject your comment for the very same reasons and ask you to edit and resubmit.

To start things off we present two blogs, one on the contribution to annual global CO2 emissions from human breathing, and one on whether Herpes simplex viruses (cold sores) can cause skin cancers.

We look forward to hearing from you!

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Evolving appreciation of risk associated with environmental per- and polyfluoroalkyls (PFAS), the so-called forever chemicals

As a child the writer was told a joke about a liquid which dissolved everything.  The question was what container could you keep it in?  We now have a modern counterpart, a compound (or indeed, thousands of related compounds to date) that do not degrade, and the question arising is how can they be prevented from accumulating in the environment?  The molecules in question are carbon chain compounds in which all mid-chain carbon atoms are bonded to two fluorine atoms.  The result is compounds that are extraordinarily chemically stable and resist physical or biological degradation.  The energy content of carbon

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Why Tasman Medical Journal does not support the Voice

This journal has as its main aim the publication of papers which support the health of all Australians, and to the extent that its publications apply elsewhere, worldwide.  So stating a purely political point of view is controversial.  But this one has a strong health aspect, as did the subjects of our previous intrusions (on the war in Ukraine1­ and COVID policies in Australia2).  The matter here is a proposed addition to the Australian Constitution, subject to a YES vote in a national referendum in late 2023.  Since the health status of aboriginal Australians is undeniably poor compared with the

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Are neonates from vegan mothers at risk of taurine deficiency?

TMJ Blog 12; uploaded 14 May 2023. Taurine, an organic amino sulphonic acid* (2-aminoethanesulphonic acid; Fig 1), is present in animals but not plants and is thought to have a role in neonatal and infant development, especially of the neurological system.1  Observational data suggest that relative taurine deficiency during the neonatal period is associated with adverse long-term neurodevelopmental outcomes in preterm infants.2  Because the placenta and newborn livers lack γ-cystathionase required for taurine synthesis2,3 and immature renal tubular reabsorption causes loss of taurine in the urine,4 unborn babies and breast-fed neonates receive taurine from the mother.  We address here the

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Efficacy of psilocybin in severe depression: what is the evidence?

IntroductionIn a world first, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) in Australia has scheduled psilocybin in the treatment of severe depression treated by registered psychiatrists, acting with approval of a human research ethics committee (from July 1 2023).1  The decision has been controversial because risk of leakage to the streets is substantial and because it was made in the setting of extreme lobbying by outside organisations and individuals.  Leaving these interesting aspects on one side, I summarise here the published evidence for the efficacy of psilocybin. How do we “know” a therapeutic drug works? The listing of a drug as a

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Current trends in COVID-19 infection and treatment

What is our current understanding of COVID-19?  A gigantic and possibly never-ending question.  It may appear that there is current COVID stability, but this is illusory, as new pathogenetic strains precipitating further pandemics are inevitable. What about the demand for booster innoculations?  Anti-COVID neutralising antibodies and clinical immunity produced by vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 virus are known to wane over a period of months.1  Antibody levels one booster dose after the primary series of vaccinations are fully restored but this effect also progressively declines.  Fortunately, the 3-dose regimen including RNA-based vaccines is also highly effective against severe disease and death from

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No case for avoiding vaccination against COVID-19 based on alleged lack of vaccine efficacy

Widespread uptake of vaccination against SARS-CoV-2 infection is limited by a minority in the population who decline to be vaccinated.  The proportion varies between centres, and several reasons for non-vaccination exist or are stated.  These include social reasons, especially (in Australia) in remote indigenous communities; medical reasons in patients with impaired immunity and like diseases; distaste at administration of foreign compounds and other forms of disagreement with the principles of vaccination; and disbelief that in the case of COVID-19 the vaccines are effective, often conjoined with the belief that the vaccines are deliberately toxic or introduce toxic substances into the

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Babi Yar, War in Ukraine, and the Tasman Medical Journal

War causes death, disease, destruction, despair and destitution.  It is a valid topic for inclusion in a medical journal. Spare a momentary thought for Mr Vladimir Putin.  He does not seem to realise that by invading Ukraine he may have signed his own death warrant.  A week ago he might have expected to live a full life, notwithstanding earlier adventures, and he appears not to realise that violent adventurism based on lies only ends in tragedy.  Mother Russia, whom he is indulging, exists only in the creative minds of Russian romantics.  How do we respond as doctors to such an

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Will discriminatory public health policies based on COVID-19 vaccine status cause social harm that exceeds the benefit?

This Journal, in an early publication from the pen of the Editor (1) and at a point prior to the availability of vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 infection during which lockdown of citizens was taken to be the only possible mechanism for reducing community spread of the virus, noted that the wider economic and social impacts of such measures had been overlooked.  I stated “…The natural and expected political imperative is to prevent unnecessary infections and deaths.  However, this must be balanced against the adverse chronic consequences of economic shutdown, which will produce its own health hazards, especially in the area of

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WA Government mis-steps in regulating community response to omicron strain of SARS-CoV-2

The Tasman Medical Journal is politically neutral but government decisions in health based on misapplication of science and/or causing widespread community confusion justify comment as they must have health consequences.  In a previous (1) and supplementary blog we summarised information demonstrating from four studies that the Omicron strain of SARS-CoV-2 is resistant to currently available vaccines until the “booster” or 3rd dose has been administered.  A further two studies confirm that conclusion (2,3).  Thus the description of double-vaccinated persons as “fully vaccinated” is wrong for the omicron strain, which is the strain currently feared most by the WA authorities. In

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Omicron strain demands new terminology to describe vaccination status against SARS-CoV-2 infection

Recent papers1-3 have demonstrated and confirmed that the omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, which is now the dominant strain worldwide, is resistant to neutralising vaccinations, and that immunity from two vaccinations is poor.  On the other hand, it increases substantially after a third administration. Garcia-Beltran and his colleagues1 state that, in a study of  239 vaccinees internationally, “…Taken together, our results indicate that two-dose mRNA-based vaccines are effective at inducing neutralizing immunity to SARS-CoV-2 wild-type and Delta variants but suboptimal for inducing neutralizing responses to the Omicron variant”  but that “…recently boosted vaccinees exhibited potent neutralization of Omicron variant pseudovirus that

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CO2 emissions by humans caused by breathing

Atmospheric CO2  concentration is measured in parts per million, total tonnage and “emissions”.  There is a natural carbon cycle because plants can remove CO2 by photosynthesis.  It is suggested that in a “natural” world this cycle would be in equilibrium and that increasing CO2 concentrations are due directly or indirectly to human activity, either by increasing CO2 production (burning fossil fuels etc) or decreasing CO2 adsorption (by deforestation), of which the former is the greater factor.  However, this means that all sources of CO2 emissions need to be measured, and it is to be expected that the direct and indirect

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