May Issue summary: Sexual health policy; reducing premature birth risk; tobacco control; and more

PLoS Medicine publishes weekly, but the articles are also compiled into a monthly issue on the last Tuesday of the month. Here are some of the highlights from the most recent issue:

May Issue of PLoS MedicineMay 2009 in PLoS Medicine

The May issue is illustrated by the two intertwined hands on the homepage, a Creative Commons photograph on flickr.com entitled “Intimacy” that seemed appropriate for our editorialWhere the Most Private Becomes Public: Policy Making for Sexual Health“. The editorial discusses how clinical research could help to promote better sexual health for all.

The most viewed paper in the May issue was by Radek Bukowski and colleagues, which showed an association between taking folic acid supplements and a reduction in the risk of premature birth. The paper and an accompanying Perspective by Leonie Callaway, Paul Colditz and Nick Fisk were widely reported in the media, including a report on Voice of America, and an article in USA Today.

Our ability to respond quickly to global developments in health was tested in May with our rapid publication of an article by Joseph Wu and colleagues in response to the swine flu crisis. The paper models an influenza pandemic and demonstrates and predicts that by using small stockpiles of a secondary drug early in local outbreaks, the effectiveness of the primary stockpiled drug could be extended. A real team effort enabled us to post the pre-publication files on May the 1st, over two weeks ahead of the official publication date. We also hosted another early publication on the PLoS blog: a Perspective by Paul Klenerman on recent Hepatitis C research was posted in time for World Hepatitis Day (you can find the formally published article on the PLoS Medicine homepage this week). The related research by Christian Drosten and colleagues was published in PLoS Medicine in February.

Elsewhere in the May issue, we published research by Zitta Harboe and colleagues on invasive pneumococcal disease and research examining the efficacy of corticosteroids in allergic diseases by Peter Barnes and colleagues. Highlights in the Magazine section included a Policy Forum by Thomas Novotny and Joshua Yang calling the Obama administration to go beyond FDA regulation in forming a coherent tobacco control policy.

An Essay on surgical task shifting in sub-Saharan Africa by Kathryn Chu and colleagues was one of a number of papers that have comments from readers. The functionality allowing readers to comment, rate and annotate articles has taken off since it was introduced in April. In May there were 21 comments on papers and replies to comments this month, including this exchange on a research paper by Joachim Scholz and colleagues assessing a tool for the standardized evaluation of pain (StEP) that distinguishes between radicular and axial low back pain.

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