May 17, 2020

New 5p and 10p coins could cause dermatitis and eczema

new coins
3 min
New 5p and 10p coins could cause skin conditions
Two new coins that are being introduced into circulation in the UK may cause and aggravate skin conditions such as dermatitis and eczema. An alteration...

Two new coins that are being introduced into circulation in the UK may cause and aggravate skin conditions such as dermatitis and eczema.

An alteration has been made to the coating of the five and 10 pence pieces and now skin experts are urging the Royal Mint to carry out a thorough investigation into the safety of the coins.

The new coins are made out of steel and are plated in nickel, whereas previous versions were made from cupronickel – a 75 percent copper and 25 percent nickel mixture.

It is thought the changes have been introduced as a cost saving measure as the new 5p and 10p coins will be cheaper to manufacture.

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However, dermatologists have criticised the Royal Mint for not assessing the health impacts of the updated versions of the coins.

They say the cost of treating skin conditions such as dermatitis and eczema will outweigh the savings that are made during the manufacturing process.

The Treasury has anticipated that the new coins will save £10 million every year, but they are slightly thicker than their predecessor so millions of pounds have already had to be spent altering parking meters and vending machines so they accept the new coins.

Two dermatologists from London’s St John's Institute of Dermatology and the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield believe these costs will be increased if people suffer a reaction to the nickel coating.

In a letter to the British Medical Journal (BMJ), Danielle Greenblatt and Ian White explained that health authorities in Sweden had linked nickel plated coins to public health risks.

As quoted in the Financial Times newspaper, the pair said: “The Swedish Riksbank recently reviewed its coinage and concluded that nickel-plated coins pose unacceptable risks to health.

“The prevalence and implications of contact allergy to nickel in Sweden are no different from those in the UK.”  

They added: “The Royal Mint may have followed all the rules with regards to the introduction of new coinage, but there is still no proof that those with hand eczema – dermatitis – or nickel contact allergies will not suffer.”

Despite their concerns, the Royal Mint is adamant is has “adhered to all the relevant legislation and guidelines relating to the introduction of new coinage and can confirm that the new nickel-plated 5p and 10p coins have no additional potential to cause adverse effects on people with allergic contact dermatitis and hand dermatitis.”

The new coins will be introduced within the next few months.

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Jun 15, 2021

 NHS trials test that predicts sepsis 3 days in advance 

2 min
Queen Alexandra Hospital is trialling a new sepsis test by Presymptom Health that uses machine learning to detect the onset of the disease

A new test that can predict sepsis before the patient develops symptoms is being trialled at a National Health Service (NHS) hospital in the south of England. 

Clinicians at Portsmouth’s Queen Alexandra Hospital are leading medical trials of the blood test, which they hope will help them save thousands of lives a year. 

The test is being developed by government spin-out company Presymptom Health, but the research began over 10 years ago at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl). This included a study of 4,385 patients and more than 70,000 samples, the largest study of its kind at the time. 

From the samples taken, a clinical biobank and database were generated and then mined using machine learning to identify biomarker signatures that could predict the onset of sepsis. The researchers found they were able to provide an early warning of sepsis up to three days ahead of illness with an accuracy of up to 90%.

Unlike most other tests, Presymptom Health identifies the patient’s response to the disease as opposed to detecting the pathogen. This is an important differentiator, as sepsis occurs as a result of the patient's immune system’s overreaction to an infection or injury, which can then cause life-threatening organ dysfunction. 

Worldwide, an estimated 49 million people a year contract sepsis, while in the UK almost two million patients admitted to hospital each year are thought to be at risk of developing the condition. If Presymptom's test is effective, it could save billions of pounds globally and improve clinical outcomes for millions of sepsis patients.

The initial trials at Queen Alexandra Hospital will last 12 months, with two other sites planned to go live this summer. Up to 600 patients admitted to hospital with respiratory tract infections will be given the option to participate in the trial. The data collected will be independently assessed and used to refine and validate the test, which could be available for broader NHS use within two years. 

If successful, this test could also identify sepsis arising from other infections before symptoms appear, which could potentially include future waves of COVID-19 and other pandemics.

Dr Roman Lukaszewski, the lead Dstl scientist behind the innovation, said: “It is incredible to see this test, which we had originally begun to develop to help service personnel survive injury and infection on the front line, is now being used for the wider UK population, including those fighting COVID-19.”

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