WEIRD, wild and decidedly offbeat research findings have emerged in 2009.
Among the most bizarre medical discoveries were:.
- Pulling a tick off the wrong way can lead to meat allergy. An Australian doctor found the link while studying rising cases of the allergy among people who live on Sydney's tick-prone northern beaches. "I now tell everybody I see who lives anywhere near ticks to use `Aerostart' (spray-on engine cleaner) or another high-alcohol substance," said Dr Sheryl van Nunen. "Stun the tick before you scrape it out and it can't inject what it injects."
- Serial coffee drinkers are more likely to feel "the presence of dead people", British researchers found. They asked students about their caffeine intake and those with the highest were also most likely to report seeing, or hearing, things that were not there.
- The hotter a common laser printer gets, the more likely it is to spew out potentially hazardous "ultrafine particles", Australian scientists warned. The particles can be as toxic as cigarette smoke, and 60 per cent of printers in one study were found to emit them.
- British scientists have created a custom-made bacteria that glows green when it comes into contact with chemicals leaked by buried explosives, meaning it can be used to safely detect the presence of landmines.
- A UK study found men who reported more frequent masturbation and sex during their 20s and 30s went on to have an increased risk of prostate cancer. However this was at odds with Australian research prompting claims "bashful" Brits may have skewed the result. "Men who haven't got the disease ... are less likely to admit to high levels of self-satisfaction," said Melbourne's Professor Graham Giles.
- They provide relief from the body's aches and pains but they can also burn, doctors from an Adelaide hospital's emergency department warned after treating a string of "wheat bag" injuries.
- The first US case of "cannabinoid hyperemesis" was recorded in the medical literature. The syndrome was first described in 2004 in 20 South Australian men. Sufferers experience nausea and vomiting as a result of chronic cannabis use, but these ill effects are relieved by taking a very hot shower. "Grown men, screaming in pain, sweating profusely, vomiting every 30 seconds and demanding to be allowed to use the shower. It's a very dramatic presentation," an Adelaide-based doctor said.
- US surgeons successfully restored a woman's sight by pulling out one of her teeth, placing a lens inside the tooth and then implanting the tooth in her eyeball. The technique can only be used when a person has a scarred cornea on an otherwise healthy eye.
- Australian medicos found a new use for saline solution. The hospital staple is very effective at removing a leech from an eyeball. A Sydney hospital treated a woman who had a leech "tucked up underneath her upper eyelid". "Our little fellow started off at about half a centimetre and by the time we removed it, it was about 2cm long - it had quite a good lunch," said doctor Toby Fogg.
- Caffeine does temporarily dull the body's ability to feel pain, according to a US study that looked at how long cyclists could maintain maximum exertion.
- A study of children taken to emergency departments in Australia and New Zealand has found boys were over-represented, even when accounting for their higher accident rate. "All of the nurses in my department think it is because males are the weaker sex," said Dr Jason Acworth.
- A 62-year-old cancer survivor was temporarily denied entry into the US because the drug he was taking had wiped out his fingerprints. The journal Annals of Oncology issued a travel warning for the drug capecitabine, which lists inflammation of the hands and peeling palms among its side effects. "Patients ... may have problems with regards to fingerprint identification when they enter US ports or other countries," it warned.
- Brain scans on 30 Brisbane-based mums showed that some experienced a "natural high" when looking at photos of their crying child, while for others the same scenario inspired feelings of "disgust".
- A paper in the Journal of Clinical Practice listed cases of people who drank up to nine litres of cola a day. One man was confined to an electric scooter as a result. Another saw his GP for muscle weakness, and admitted to drinking more than four litres a day during a trip to the Australian outback. Excess soft drink consumption can cause "mild weakness to profound paralysis", researchers warned.
- Many smokers feel more compelled to quit when asked to ponder the impact of their habit on their pet's health, a US study revealed.
- Having a hook worm in your stomach was found to be an effective treatment for coeliac disease. The parasite reduced the sensitivity of the immune system, which would otherwise malfunction and attack the stomach lining. Despite the "yuck factor", 20 study participants opted to keep their hookworm at the end of an Australian trial.
- Research into a 17 per cent jump in Australian men who sought tests for prostate cancer found the cause was Sam Newman. The controversial AFL identity went public with his diagnosis in early 2008, and it had a similar impact on prostate cancer testing as Kylie Minogue had on breast screening following her 2005 diagnosis.
- A testosterone patch designed to pep up a woman's sex drive received the thumbs down in a study published in the UK's Drugs and Therapeutics Bulletin. The side effects included acne, excess hair, breast pain, weight gain, insomnia, voice deepening and migraine. "Significant numbers" of women placed on a placebo patch reported an increase in sex drive.