Shorts

* Pregnant women who eat large amounts of liquorice may be raising their risk of a preterm delivery. That's the view of the Finnish scientists who studied more than 1000 women and found that consuming at least 250 g of black liquorice sweets a week more than doubled the risk of giving birth before 38 weeks. Liquorice contains natural steroids and the researchers believe it may boost prostaglandin production (Am J Epidemiol, 2001; 153: 1085-8).

* The analgesic oxycodone hydrochloride (OxyContin) is believed to be responsible for more than 120 fatal overdoses among drug misusers. The best selling drug contains a synthetic form of morphine in a sustained release tablet for chronic pain. The deaths have led the US Drug Enforcement Administration to ask manufacturers Purdue Pharma to limit the drug's distribution to those doctors who specialise in treating chronic or severe pain (BMJ, 2001; 322: 1143).

* When a child falls off a bicycle, the most common injury is to the head. But, says a new report, abdominal injuries resulting from collision with the handlebars account for 5-14 per cent of trauma in bicycle accidents. While injuries to the spleen, kidney and liver are often obvious, injury to the bowel or pancreas are just as serious, but less obvious and often go undiagnosed. Reports of severe symptoms due to such trauma suggest that doctors need to be more vigilant when examining children after bike accidents (BMJ, 2001; 322: 1288-9).