News in brief: Australian rheumatologist to lead genomics push in UK; Clinicians to consult on opioid stewardship standard; Healthcare worker vaccination reduces COVID-19 transmission to household members

Australian rheumatologist to lead genomics push in UK

Former Queensland-based rheumatologist-researcher Professor Matt Brown has accepted the role of Chief Scientific Officer at Genomics England.

Professor Brown previously established and directed the Australian Translational Genomics Centre, in Brisbane, where he led international efforts in mapping genes in rheumatic diseases, which led to major translational benefits such as the development of IL-23 pathway.

He was Director of Genomics at the Queensland University of Technology and in 2019 took up a position in the UK as Professor of Medicine and Director of the King’s College London National Institutes of Health Biomedical Research Centre.

“I’m thrilled to be joining this iconic organisation and working with its outstanding staff to deliver on the amazing promise genomics has to improve diagnosis and management of a huge swathe of human diseases,” Professor Brown said.

Opioid stewardship standards released for consultation

A draft standard for opioid analgesic stewardship in acute pain clinical care is currently open for consultation.

Clinicians are encouraged to comment on the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care’s proposed standard, which features nine quality statements and a set of indicators to support its implementation.

Under the standard, clinicians would need to share pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatment decision making with patients and carers and prescribe analgesics based on an individual patient’s function, pain intensity and opioid-related harm risk.

“An opioid analgesic can be used if the potential benefit outweighs the potential harm,” the standard read.

Patients on opioid analgesics should be managed according to a locally approved treatment pathway to mitigate potential opioid-related harm if they are at increased risk, and assessed regularly to ensure the treatment is effective, safe and appropriate for the patient’s stage of care, it said.

Patients’ therapy duration, review and referral plan should be documented in their health records and transfer of care protocols initiated when patients are given opioid analgesics during a hospital visit.

Clinicians can view the draft standard, fact sheet and list of consultation questions via the Commission’s website. Consultation closes at 11:59 pm Monday 4 October 2021, the Commission wrote.

Healthcare worker vaccination reduces COVID-19 transmission to household members

In findings described reassuring for healthcare workers and their families, a UK study has provided evidence suggesting that COVID-19 vaccination of healthcare staff reduces transmission within their household.

Researchers in the UK evaluated data from almost 200,000 household members of 144,525 health care workers in Scotland who worked from March to November 2020.

At the time of the study, 78% of healthcare workers had received at least one dose of either Pfizer or the AstraZeneca vaccine, and 25% had received a second dose.

The analysis found that risk of COVID-19 among household members of vaccinated health care workers was 30% lower (Hazard Ratio 0.70) after the first dose and more than 50% lower (HR 0.46) after the second dose of vaccine.

The effect of vaccination may have been larger because the analysis did not cover risk of transmission from sources outside the household, the researchers wrote in NEJM.

“Given that vaccination reduces asymptomatic infection with SARS-CoV-2, it is plausible that vaccination reduces transmission,” said the researchers led by Dr Anoop Shah of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

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