The Australian Science Media Centre (AusSMC) is an independent, not-for-profit service for the news media, giving journalists direct access to evidence-based science and expertise.

We aim to better inform public debate on the major issues of the day by improving links between the media and the scientific community.

EXPERT REACTION (UK SMC): Antibiotic and risk of cardiac death (The BMJ*)

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EMBARGO LIFTED 08:30 AEST Wednesday 20 August, 2014

The antibiotic clarithromycin – widely used for treating common bacterial infections – is associated with an increased risk of heart deaths, say Danish scientists. Comparing patients taking three different antibiotics, they found the risk of death was twice as high among those taking clarithromycin, although the risk of death is still very small, they say.

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NEWS BRIEFING – Rewriting ancient history: the origins of Egyptian mummies (PLOS ONE)

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EMBARGO LIFTED 04.00 AEST Thursday 14 August 2014

NEWS BRIEFING – Wednesday 13 August 2014 at 10:30 AEST Online

The origins of mummification may have started in ancient Egypt 1,500 years earlier than previously thought, according to a new Australian-led study to be published on Thursday*. Earlier research suggested mummification began around 2200 BC with the previous method being to leave bodies to dry out in the hot Egyptian sun. Now researchers, studying bodies in tombs from between 4500 BC and 3350 BC, have found evidence of the use of complex embalming agents in linen wrappings. Join us for this online media briefing where experts including the lead author will take us through the potentially history defining discovery. read more

EXPERT REACTION: PSA testing risks and benefits (The Lancet*)

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EMBARGO LIFTED 09.01 AEST Thursday August 7, 2014

Screening for prostate cancer could reduce deaths from the disease by about a fifth, according to long-term results of a major European study involving over 162,000 men. Despite this new evidence for the efficacy of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing in reducing mortality, doubts as to whether the benefits of screening outweigh the harms remain, and routine PSA screening programmes should not be introduced at this time, conclude the authors.

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BRIEFING – Ebola: is Australia next?

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BACKGROUND BRIEFING – Tuesday 5th August 2014 at 11:00 am AEST Online

The outbreak and growing spread of Ebola over the past few weeks has left health officials in Africa scrambling to control the disease as it continues to cross borders into highly populated areas, killing over 50% of infected victims in its path. Controlling the virus has proven a difficult task, with highly-trained medical personnel also falling victim to the deadly disease. So what exactly does the Ebola virus do to kill its victims, and why has it proven so hard to control and treat? Join us for this online media briefing where experts will be discussing the signs and symptoms of those infected with the virus, what the virus actually does on a molecular level to incite such dire effects in its host, and Australia’s role in developing a life-saving Ebola vaccine.

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BRIEFING: PIN codes to replace credit card signatures

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BACKGROUND BRIEFING – Wednesday 30 July 2014 at 11:00 AEST Online

From Friday 1st August, signatures will be phased out as a form of Australian credit and debit card authorisation, following an industry-wide push to expand the use of PIN numbers at the point of sale. Behind the move is the Industry Security Initiative, a collective of Australia’s major financial institutions and card schemes, which has argued that it is much safer to use your PIN code than signing to verify your identity when using your credit card. Join us on Wednesday as cyber security experts discuss the security implications of turning to PIN as a primary form of credit card verification. read more

BRIEFING – Future foods: improving our diet at the source

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NEWS BRIEFING – Tuesday 29 July 2014 at 10:00 AEST Online
From the 5th International Conference on Plant Cell Wall Biology, Palm Cove, Queensland

Australian and international researchers are aiming to improve the human diet, by returning to the source. The scientists are looking inside plants, specifically their cell walls, to try and improve the dietary content. One project is aiming to produce ‘super spaghetti’ – high fibre pasta with improved health benefits. Another project aims to uncover how the plant Plantago, used to make fibre supplement Metamucil, can be optimised to improve its health benefits. Join us as researchers at this week’s 5th International Conference on Plant Cell Wall Biology, hosted by the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Walls, explain just how close we are to healthier foods of the future. read more

NEWS BRIEFING: Space oddities: advances in Australian space research

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Exactly 45 years after the historic involvement of Australia’s Parkes Observatory in relaying the images of the moon landing to the world, Australian astronomers are set to unite again to discuss the future of space science at the Annual Scientific Meeting for The Astronomical Society of Australia, being held from Sunday 20th to 25th July in Sydney. Join us for this online media briefing where researchers from the meeting will discuss discoveries from current space research programs, including results from the galaxy and star imaging Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP), the new Sydney Australian Astronomical Observatory Multi-object Integral Field Spectrograph (SAMI), as well as Australia’s involvement in future space research using the Giant Magellan Telescope, currently under construction in Chile.

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NEWS BRIEFING: Australian scientists clear the AIDS virus in two men

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Embargo lifted at 01.00 AEST Saturday July 19  

NEWS BRIEFING – 11:00 AEST Friday July 18

Two HIV positive men have been cleared of the virus and remain virus-free more than three years after bone marrow transplants in Sydney.

One of the two patients, treated at St Vincent’s Hospital in partnership with UNSW’s Kirby Institute, is the first known case of HIV being cleared without the use of bone marrow from a donor with a natural genetic resistance to the virus. read more

EXPERT REACTION: Carbon tax repealed

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The Carbon Tax, introduced in 2011 by the Gillard Government, has been repealed. The Senate voted 39-32 to end the carbon pricing scheme after the Coalition government secured the support of the Palmer United Party senators and other independent crossbenchers.

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