World Health Day is a global health awareness day celebrated every year on 7 April.

Researchers at Stirling have an international reputation for delivering world-leading research that addresses the needs of society and helps shape the future – impacting on people’s health, education and well-being worldwide.

Saving African lives from a Stirling laboratory

Ebola made headlines across the world in 2015 with people coming together to share expertise and help tackle the epidemic in West Africa.

Stirling Virologist Dr Manfred Weidmann was the only British University scientist behind a successful rapid Ebola detection test. Dr Weidmann, from the University’s Faculty of Natural Sciences, was part of a Wellcome Trust project led by the Pasteur Institute of Dakar. Together, they developed a sophisticated point-of-care saliva test, all contained within a suitcase-sized mobile laboratory. Three mobile labs are now deployed in Senegal and Guinea, the regions worst affected by Ebola, and a test evaluation of 928 samples showed it performs exceptionally run on field conditions.

Dr Weidmann is also the only British university scientist involved in a new international collaboration focused on developing a point-of-care detection method for immediate use in fighting the Chikungunya virus, a mosquito-borne virus currently transmitted in about 60 countries after having spread to the Americas in recent years. The rapid point-of-care blood and saliva test detects the nucleic acid of the Chikungunya virus in 15 minutes and could help to provide diagnostics and care to people who live in rural areas with no access to modern medical infrastructure.

Dr Weidmann developed a suitcase-sized point-of-care test kit for Ebola

Informing tobacco packaging policy

Stirling academics conducted a systematic review of plain tobacco packaging which led to the laws around tobacco packaging changing. From May 2017, UK legislation on standardised packaging for all tobacco packs comes into full effect.

The decision to make these changes as a public health measure to protect children’s health was informed by the work of the University of Stirling’s Institute for Social Marketing (ISM). A systematic review of evidence of standardised packaging carried out by the Institute showed that standard packs are less appealing, make health warnings more effective, and reduce the ability of the packaging to mislead consumers about the harms of smoking.

Under the new regulations, all tobacco products will be sold in dark green packages, with brand features and bright colours replaced with large graphic images of the effects of smoking and health warnings.

Image credit: en.mercopress.com

Uncovering the true impact of heading a football

Stirling researchers have explored the true impact of heading a football, identifying small but significant changes in brain function immediately after routine heading practice. The study from Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence is the first to detect direct changes in the brain after players are exposed to everyday head impacts, as opposed to clinical brain injuries like concussion. Football players headed a ball, fired from a machine designed to simulate the pace and power of a corner kick, 20 times. Before and after the heading sessions, scientists tested players’ brain function and memory.

It has been suggested the study could result in changes to rules around the types of heading drills performed at children’s football sessions in the UK.

Heading a football results in small but significant changes in brain function.

Breast cancer research wins international award

Policy decisions made by governments across the world have been informed by international health research conducted by the University of Stirling, looking at the scale and cost of occupational cancers – especially asbestos-related and breast cancers.

Research led by Stirling’s Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group (OEHR) has also contributed to prevention strategies and support materials for cancer patients. These have also been used by Macmillan Scotland, the Alliance for Cancer Prevention, the Cancer Prevention Society and World Health Organisation.

The two studies on breast cancer and occupational exposures led by Dr James Brophy and Dr Margaret Keith, of Stirling’s OEHRG and the University of Windsor, Ontario, won the American Public Health Association (APHA) Occupational Health Section’s Scientific Research Award.