Computer labelling error on prescription bottle led to fatal dose of painkillers

A computer labeling error on prescription drugs caused a 30-year-old man with a slipped-disk to take a fatal amount of painkillers, an inquest heard.

Hamish Hardie, who worked as a public relations consultant, was prescribed the powerful drugs last August while he was waiting for surgery on two prolapsed lumbar vertebral discs.

But his mother, Mary-Anne Hardie, told an inquest said her son had been ‘badly let down’ after a computer error meant the medication was only marked with ‘use as directed’ instead of the correct amount.

Mrs Hardie took responsibility for administering the medication, but the uncertainty about the label on the bottle of oramorph and reliance on Hamish for dosage details meant that more frequent and higher doses were given.

As a result the Leeds University graduate died at the family home in Wisborough Green, West Sussex, last August — just two days after he started taking the incorrectly labelled medication.

While it was initially a computer error which led to the vague instruction, this was not fixed by trainee GP Dr Carlos Novo, nor was it picked up on by the dispensing practitioner within the pharmacy at the Loxwood Medical Practice in Billingshurst, West Sussex, the inquest at Crawley Coroner’s Court heard 

A post-mortem confirmed that the primary cause of death was a prescription drug overdose.

Giving her conclusion at the inquest, in which she offered her condolences to the Hardie family, assistant coroner for West Sussex Karen Henderson, gave a verdict of accidental overdose on prescribed medication.

She said: "This was a clinical error, compounded by a further lack of clarity in how much was given."

However, Ms Henderson noted there was no evidence to suggest that the surgery had been negligent, due to the "prompt assessment and thorough treatment" given to Hamish.

On the subject of preventing future deaths, the coroner said she was satisfied the surgery had implemented procedures to ensure the same mistakes would not be repeated.

Supreme Court justices grill Trump lawyer in illegal immigrant census case | Reuters

6 Min Read

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — U.S. Supreme Court justices on Monday grilled a lawyer for President Donald Trump’s administration over its plan to exclude illegal immigrants from the population totals used to allocate congressional districts to states, a facet of Trump’s hardline immigration policies being pursued in his final weeks in office.

FILE PHOTO: A general view of the U.S. Supreme Court building at sunset in Washington, U.S. November 10, 2020. REUTERS/Erin Scott/File Photo

The court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority including three justices appointed by Trump, was hearing a scheduled 80-minute argument by teleconference. The justices are due to decide the case on a expedited basis, with a ruling expected before the end of the year. That would make it difficult for Democratic President-elect Joe Biden, set to take office on Jan. 20, to revisit Trump’s plan if it is upheld.

The challengers to Trump’s July directive include various states led by New York, cities, counties and immigrant rights groups. They have argued that the Republican president’s move could leave several million people uncounted and cause California, Texas and New Jersey to lose seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

House districts are based on a state’s population count in the decennial national census.

The challengers have said Trump’s plan would dilute the political clout of states with larger numbers of illegal immigrants, including heavily Democratic California, by undercounting their true populations and depriving them of House seats. If California loses House districts, that likely would mean Democrats lose House seats, benefiting Republicans.

There are an estimated 11 million immigrants living in the United States illegally. Until now, the government’s practice was to count all people regardless of their citizenship or immigration status. The U.S. Constitution requires the apportionment of House seats to be based upon the “whole number of persons in each state.”

The challengers have argued that Trump’s policy violates both the Constitution and the Census Act, a federal law that outlines how the census is conducted. Trump’s lawyers said in court papers that he acted within his authority and that the challengers lacked the necessary legal standing to bring the case.

The justices wrestled with whether it is premature for the court to rule now when it is not clear whether the administration will be able to implement its plan.

Conservative Justice Samuel Alito, in questioning Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall during the argument, said that for the administration to exclude all of the illegal immigrants living in the United States from the population count “seems to me a monumental task.”

“I would think you would be able to tell us whether that remains a realistic possibility at this point,” Alito said.

After conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a Trump appointee, asked about the fact that the government during the entire history of the United States has included illegal immigrants in the population count, Wall acknowledged that this was the case and added that this represented “the best argument for the other side.”

Barrett told Wall that a lot of the historical evidence and longstanding government practice “really cuts against your position.”

Wall suggested that the court allow Trump’s administration to proceed with its plans and then rule on the legality after the fact if there are legal challenges at that time.

“Isn’t that going to be like unscrambling the eggs?” conservative Chief Justice John Roberts asked.

Even if the administration can exclude some groups of immigrants, such as those held in detention, it may not be enough to alter apportionment, Wall conceded.

“Based on my understanding from the Census Bureau there is a real prospect that the numbers will not affect the apportionment,” Wall said in response to a question by liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

LOWER COURT DECISIONS

A three-judge panel in New York ruled against the administration in September. Federal courts in California and Maryland have reached the same conclusion in other cases though one court in Washington ruled for Trump.

By statute, the president is due to send Congress a report in early January with the population of each of the states and their entitled number of House districts.

Once states are allocated their districts, they themselves draw the boundaries for the districts, which will be used first in the 2022 congressional elections. The number of House seats for each state also determines how many votes that state gets in the Electoral College, the system used to determine the winner of presidential elections. In a close election, one or two electoral votes could swing the outcome.

Census data also guides the allocation of billions of dollars a year in federal funding to states.

The census itself does not gather data on a person’s citizenship or immigration status. Trump’s administration would base its numbers on data gathered elsewhere, though it has not explained the methods being used.

Wall during the argument did not detail the methods the administration planned to use.

The Supreme Court last year ruled 5-4 against Trump’s effort to add a citizenship question to the census. Critics said the question was intended to frighten immigrants from taking part in the population count and artificially reduce population numbers in heavily Democratic areas, also to benefit Republicans.

Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Cornwall police patrols will stop drinkers travelling to Tier 1 pubs

Police have launched extra patrols to stop drinkers from Devon travelling into Cornwall to take advantage of new tier rules for pubs.

Cornwall on Wednesday will become the only place in mainland England where people can go drinking in a pub without ordering a ‘substantial meal’.

But this has led to fears that people will flock from higher-risk coronavirus areas to abuse the freedoms on offer.

The government has confirmed it is against the rules for anyone not living in Cornwall to travel into it, either by road or sea, to go to the pub.

Now a fleet of ten extra cars will be used by Devon and Cornwall Police to target anyone flouting the Government’s rules.

A spokesperson for Devon and Cornwall Police said its patrols would be "solely used for Covid-related matters" to ensure the new tier-based rules were all adhered to.

They said: "Following their successful use earlier in the year and as part of the Covid Surge Funding that the Force has received from the Government, Devon and Cornwall Police have made up to ten additional dedicated double-crewed units to be available to patrol at various locations across the force area.

"Their sole purpose will be to respond to Covid-related matters and these vehicles are additional to current response levels.

"Our policing approach from those working within these vehicles is the same as our wider approach, and that is to engage, explain and encourage people to comply, and as a last resort consider enforcement via a fixed penalty notice."

Alongside the Isle of Wight and the Isles of Scilly, Cornwall has been placed in Tier-1 meaning they face less restrictions.

And pubs just over the border in Cornwall say they have already been fielding calls from people in Devon asking when they will open and are fearful of what may happen.

Landlady Amy Newland at the White Hart in Chilsworthy, Cornwall, which is right on the Devon border, said: "People have been ringing me up from across the border in Plymouth already saying they are going to be popping over for a beer and asking what time we open.

"It’s scary as we are just a small country pub and it is going to be very difficult for us to police.

"You don’t know where people are coming from."

Craig Howe, owner of The Rising Sun just over the border in Gunnislake, Cornwall, added: "We do think people are going to be jumping over the border and we might have to put on extra staff to make sure everybody is sticking to the rules."

U.S. Congress races to avoid December government shutdown amid pandemic | Reuters

4 Min Read

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The U.S. Congress on Monday began a two-week sprint to rescue the federal government from a possible shutdown amid the coronavirus pandemic, the first major test since the election of whether Republicans and Democrats intend to cooperate.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) departs after her weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., November 20, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

Government funding for nearly all federal agencies expires on Dec. 11. Congressional negotiators have made progress on how to divvy up around $1.4 trillion to be spent by Sept. 30, 2021, the end of the current fiscal year, according to a House of Representatives Democratic aide.

But more granular details are still unresolved and votes by the full House and Senate on a massive funding bill may come close to bumping up against that Dec. 11 deadline.

Still unclear is whether Republican President Donald Trump, who was defeated in the Nov. 3 election, will cooperate with the effort underway in Congress.

If the post-election ‘lame duck’ session of Congress fails to produce any sort of budget deal, the new Congress convening in January would have to clean up the mess just weeks before the inauguration of Democratic President-elect Joe Biden.

Trump already has warned that he would veto a wide-ranging defense authorization bill Congress aims to pass if a provision is included stripping Confederate leaders’ names from military bases.

Failure by the Democratic-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate to pass a spending bill could have dire consequences. Some healthcare operations could be short-staffed or otherwise interrupted at a time when COVID-19 cases in the United States have been spiking. Nearly 267,000 people have died in the United States as a result of the virus.

The massive spending bill could be the vehicle for providing billions of dollars to state and local governments to help them handle coronavirus vaccines that are on track to be available in coming weeks and months.

Beyond pandemic worries, if government funds were allowed to run out next month, airport operations could slow, national parks would close, some medical research would be put on hold and thousands of other programs would be jeopardized as government workers are furloughed, further hurting the struggling U.S. economy.

Washington suffered record-long partial shutdowns between Dec. 22, 2018 and Jan. 25, 2019, the result of a standoff between Democrats and Trump over funding the U.S.-Mexico border wall that was a centerpiece of his presidency.

This time around, Republicans are seeking $2 billion for the southern barrier that most Democrats and some Republican lawmakers claim is an ineffective remedy to halting illegal immigration.

Negotiators also have been battling over the amount of money Republicans want for immigrant detention beds.

Disagreements over abortion and family planning, education, and environment programs also have been simmering. If they cannot be resolved by Dec. 11, agency shutdowns could be avoided only by Congress passing a stop-gap funding bill.

Also hovering over the budget debate will be warnings that emergency funds must be allocated in separate coronavirus aid legislation following months of deadlock.

Democrats’ most recent offer was a wide-ranging $2.2 trillion bill to help state and local governments deal with the health and economic crisis, expand COVID-19 testing and supplies, and renew federal direct payments to individuals and families during the pandemic.

Their goal is to provide a significant shot of stimulus to an economy that many experts fear could take a second dive in coming months if the pandemic shuts down more businesses.

Republicans have deemed that proposal exorbitant and have been sticking with calls for a scaled-down $500 billion menu of initiatives.

So far there have been no signs of serious negotiations, leaving many to believe a stimulus bill will be the first order of business in Biden’s presidency, which begins on Jan. 20.

Reporting by Richard Cowan, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Supreme Court hears Trump bid to bar illegal immigrants from U.S. census count | Reuters

5 Min Read

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — U.S. Supreme Court justices on Monday began hearing arguments on President Donald Trump’s move to exclude illegal immigrants from the population totals used to allocate congressional districts to states, a facet of his hardline stance toward immigration being pursued in his final weeks in office.

Slideshow ( 2 images )

The court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority including three justices appointed by Trump, was hearing a scheduled 80-minute argument by teleconference. The justices are due to decide the case on a expedited basis, with a ruling due before the end of the year. That would make it difficult for Democratic President-elect Joe Biden, set to take office on Jan. 20, to revisit Trump’s plan if it is upheld.

The challengers to Trump’s July directive include various states led by New York, cities, counties and immigrant rights groups. They have argued that the Republican president’s move could leave several million people uncounted and cause California, Texas and New Jersey to lose seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

House districts are based on a state’s population count in the decennial national census.

The challengers have said Trump’s plan would dilute the political clout of states with larger numbers of illegal immigrants, including heavily Democratic California, by undercounting their true populations and depriving them of House seats. If California loses House districts, that likely would mean Democrats lose House seats, benefiting Republicans.

There are an estimated 11 million immigrants living in the United States illegally. Until now, the government’s practice was to count all people regardless of their citizenship or immigration status. The U.S. Constitution requires the apportionment of House seats to be based upon the “whole number of persons in each state.”

The challengers have argued that Trump’s policy violates both the Constitution and the Census Act, a federal law that outlines how the census is conducted. Trump’s lawyers said in court papers that he acted within his authority and that the challengers lacked the necessary legal standing to bring the case.

New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, said in a statement that “despite this lame-duck president’s repeated attempts to politicize the census and strip immigrant-rich states, like New York, of representation, the simple truth is that no one ceases to be a person because they lack documentation or ceases to live here because the president would prefer them to leave.”

A three-judge panel in New York ruled against the administration in September. Federal courts in California and Maryland have reached the same conclusion in other cases though one court in Washington ruled for Trump.

By statute, the president is due to send Congress a report in early January with the population of each of the states and their entitled number of House districts.

Once states are allocated their districts, they themselves draw the boundaries for the districts, which will be used first in the 2022 congressional elections. The number of House seats for each state also determines how many votes that state gets in the Electoral College, the system used to determine the winner of presidential elections. In a close election, one or two electoral votes could swing the outcome.

Census data also guides the allocation of billions of dollars a year in federal funding to states.

The census itself does not gather data on a person’s citizenship or immigration status. Trump’s administration would base its numbers on data gathered elsewhere, though it has not explained the methods being used.

The Supreme Court last year ruled 5-4 against Trump’s effort to add a citizenship question to the census. Critics said the question was intended to frighten immigrants from taking part in the population count and artificially reduce population numbers in heavily Democratic areas, also to benefit Republicans.

Conservative Chief Justice John Roberts joined the liberal justices in that ruling. But the addition of Trump’s third appointee Amy Coney Barrett to the court changes its dynamics, as seen in action by the justices on Wednesday in a case in which they backed Christian and Jewish houses of worship that challenged New York state’s latest restrictions in novel coronavirus hot spots.

Roberts dissented along with the court’s three liberals but Barrett’s vote in favor of the religious groups proved decisive.

Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Alcohol ban for pubs and restaurants in Wales from Friday

Pubs and restaurants across Wales will be banned from selling alcohol and forced to close by 6pm under new coronavirus restrictions due to come into force from Friday evening. 

Mark Drakeford, the Welsh First Minister revealed on Monday that hospitality venues, including bars and cafés, would have to switch to takeaway services for the rest of the evening. 

The blanket restrictions are less draconian than those imposed on Tier 3 areas of England, but are more restrictive than the rules for Tier 1 and Tier 2 areas, which account for more than half the population. 

It comes just three weeks after Wales ended its 17-day ‘firebreak’ lockdown, with the Welsh Government arguing further restrictions were necessary amid a spike in cases among those aged under 25. 

The new regulations that come into force on December 4 will also require cinemas, bowling alleys and other indoor entertainment venues forced to shut their doors until they are reviewed on December 17.

To help businesses survive the latest measures, the Welsh Government has established a £160 million ‘restrictions business fund’, which will provide an estimated 60,000 hospitality, tourism and leisure firms with grants worth up to £50,000. 

A further £180 million ‘economic resilience’ scheme will also provide grants of up £100,000 for small to medium-sized businesses, while larger firms will be able to apply for up to £150,00

Speaking at a press conference in Cardiff on Monday, Mr Drakeford said the country’s scientific experts had warned that without additional measures the number of people in Welsh hospitals could rise to 2,200 people by mid-January.

Modelling suggests another 1,600 people could also lose their lives over the winter period, he said.

"The measures we are taking are based on what the UK Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (Sage) tells us has worked best elsewhere,” he added.

"From 6pm on Friday, our national measures will be amended to introduce new restrictions for hospitality and indoor entertainment attractions.

"Pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes will have to close by 6pm and will not be allowed to serve alcohol. After 6pm they will only be able to provide takeaway services."

Biden names his picks for top economic advisers, signaling more diverse White House | Reuters

4 Min Read

WILMINGTON, Del. (Reuters) — President-elect Joe Biden named his choices for several top economic positions on Monday, including former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen as nominee for Treasury Secretary and three other women, setting the stage for a more diverse White House.

Slideshow ( 2 images )

While Biden’s transition to the presidency on Jan. 20 appeared to be hitting its stride, he was hobbling after fracturing his foot while playing with his dog on Saturday and will wear a protective boot for several weeks, his doctors said.

The incoming administration has been hampered for weeks by Republican President Donald Trump, who has refused to concede to Biden, a Democrat. Trump has said without providing evidence that the Nov. 3 vote was fraudulent, claims that state and federal election officials have dismissed.

Biden named leading members of an economic team that will have to combat the crushing blows to workers and businesses from the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 266,000 people in the United States in nine months.

In contrast to Trump, who largely picked white men for key positions, Biden’s early appointments were shaping up to be highly diverse, including an all-women communications team unveiled on Sunday night. He named campaign spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield as White House communications director and veteran Democratic spokeswoman Jen Psaki as press secretary.

“This team looks like America and brings seriousness of purpose, the highest degree of competency, and unwavering belief in the promise of America,” Biden said in a statement. “They will be ready on day one to get to work for all Americans.”

Yellen, 74, chaired the U.S. central bank from 2014 to 2018 and had served as the chair of President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers.

Biden said he would nominate Wally Adeyemo as Yellen’s deputy. Adeyemo had been a deputy national security adviser under President Barack Obama, then was the president of the Obama Foundation, which is overseeing the planning for the Democratic former president’s library.

And Biden said he would nominate Neera Tanden to head the Office of Management and Budget. Tanden helped the Obama administration create the Affordable Care Act, the sweeping healthcare overhaul popularly known as Obamacare that was one of the former president’s central accomplishments and whose demolition became a central goal for Republicans.

Tanden, chief executive of the progressive Center for American Progress think tank, would be the first woman of color to lead the OMB if she is confirmed by the Senate.

Biden selected Cecelia Rouse, dean of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, to chair the Council of Economic Advisers. She was a member of the council under Obama from 2009 to 2011.

Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris were also set to receive their first classified presidential daily briefing on Monday, which the Trump administration had previously refused to provide. The briefing is the first step toward transfer of responsibility for the most sensitive intelligence to a new administration.

Trump, for his part, kept up his unfounded fraud claims in an interview with Fox News on Sunday and with Sunday evening Tweets that the social media service flagged as disputed. Trump, who on Thursday said he would vacate the White House if Biden were formally declared winner by the Electoral College on Dec. 14, appeared to retreat from his combative legal stance, telling Fox that he did not see a path toward making his case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

While most of Trump’s fellow Republicans have followed his lead and refused to refer to Biden as president-elect, one Republican member of the House of Representatives appeared on Twitter late on Sunday to have lost patience.

In a tweet addressing Trump, Representative Paul Mitchell said: “Please for the sake of our Nation, please drop these arguments without evidence or factual basis. #stopthestupid.”

Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw in Wilmington, Delaware, additional reporting by Brad Heath, Trevor Hunnicutt, Simon Lewis and Patricia Zengerle; Writing by Patricia Zengerle and Grant McCool; editing by Scott Malone, Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Wall Street retreats, S&P 500 still set for best November ever | Reuters

3 Min Read

(Reuters) — Wall Street’s main indexes dipped on Monday as investors paused to take stock of a stellar month ahead of crucial economic reports this week.

FILE PHOTO: The front facade of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) is seen in New York, U.S., November 24, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

Nine of the 11 major S&P 500 sectors were trading lower, with energy the biggest decliner in early trading. Oil majors including Exxon Mobil, Chevron and ConocoPhillips fell between 1.8% and 2.5%, tracking a decline in crude prices.

IHS Markit topped gains on the benchmark S&P 500 after data giant S&P Global agreed to buy the financial information provider in a $44 billion deal, which will be the biggest corporate acquisition of 2020.

Analysts said the month-end rebalancing of portfolios also played into on Monday’s weakness as investors cash in on gains after a strong month marked by updates of COVID-19 vaccines making headway and hopes of a swift economic rebound next year.

A rotation into sectors deemed to provide better returns coming out of a recession such as energy, industrials and financials have powered the S&P 500 for its best November ever. The Dow is on track for its biggest monthly gain since 1987.

“Markets can, and have, looked through the strain that the virus’ resurgence is putting on the economy through to a vaccine where the population can start to get back to normal,” said Keith Buchanan, senior portfolio manager at GLOBALT in Atlanta.

“The question is if the market’s forward looking mechanism is strong enough to outweigh what seems to be an unrelenting virus and the challenges it presents to the day-to-day activities of the economy.”

At 10:13 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 291.37 points, or 0.93% to 29,619.00 and the S&P 500 lost 17.63 points, or 0.48% to 3,622.08. The Nasdaq Composite lost 25.15 points, or 0.22% to 12,182.56 after hitting an all-time early in the session.

Technology and healthcare were the only two sectors trading higher.

U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar on Monday said the first two vaccines against the novel coronavirus could be available to Americans before Christmas.

Moderna unveiled plans to apply for U.S. and European emergency authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine after full results from a late-stage study showed it was 94.1% effective, sending its shares up 16%.

After an explosion in infections and business restrictions this month that undermined the U.S. labor market recovery, focus will be on the monthly employment report and the Fed’s Beige Book, as well as an address by Fed Chair Jerome Powell before the Senate Banking Committee.

Macy’s Inc and Kohl’s Corp slipped about 4% each as masked shoppers turned up in smaller numbers at major U.S. retailers on Black Friday as early online deals and concerns about a spike in COVID-19 cases dulled enthusiasm for mall trips.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers ones by 2-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and on Nasdaq a 0.6-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted eight new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 222 new highs and five new lows.

Reporting by Shriya Ramakrishnan and Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Arun Koyyur

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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‘Once in a generation advance’ as Google AI researchers crack 50-year-old biological challenge

A "50-year-old biological challenge" has been cracked by AI researchers at Google, which could “significantly accelerate” drug development for cancer and other diseases.

The so-called "protein folding problem" has long been one of biology’s biggest hurdles, as researchers have sought to predict the shape of proteins to understand how they perform specific tasks in the body.

Proteins start off in a cell as a long chain and then fold upon themselves into a 3D shape in order to perform their biological function.

But sometimes this folding process fails, which can impact the health of the cell or cause other misfolded proteins to clump together.

This failure can cause several known diseases, scientists say.

There are 200 million known proteins at present but only a fraction have been “unfolded” to fully understand what they do and how they work.

Google-owned AI lab DeepMind, based in London, says its AlphaFold program has solved the issue and is capable of predicting the shape of many proteins.

They say the system is able to determine “unparalleled levels of accuracy” in the structures in a matter of days.

DeepMind has worked on the AI project with the 14th Community Wide Experiment on the Critical Assessment of Techniques for Protein Structure Prediction (CASP14), a group of scientists who have been looking into the matter since 1994.

"Proteins are extremely complicated molecules, and their precise three-dimensional structure is key to the many roles they perform, for example the insulin that regulates sugar levels in our blood and the antibodies that help us fight infections," Dr John Moult, chair of CASP14, said.

"Even tiny rearrangements of these vital molecules can have catastrophic effects on our health, so one of the most efficient ways to understand disease and find new treatments is to study the proteins involved.”

During the latest test, DeepMind said AlphaFold determined the shape of around two-thirds of the proteins with accuracy comparable to laboratory experiments.

The discovery could change the way we approach biology, the researchers said, by speeding up drug development for certain diseases and "opening up new avenues of exploration".

Arthur D. Levinson, founder and CEO Calico, said: “AlphaFold is a once in a generation advance, predicting protein structures with incredible speed and precision.

"This leap forward demonstrates how computational methods are poised to transform research in biology and hold much promise for accelerating the drug discovery process.”

But researchers behind the project say there is still more work to be done, including figuring out how multiple proteins form complexes and how they interact with DNA.

DeepMind is planning to submit a paper detailing its system to a peer-reviewed journal to be scrutinised by the wider scientific community.

Dormice in danger as warn autumn sees them delay hibernation

Dormice are in danger this year as a warm autumn has meant they are still awake, and will be late to hibernate.

Rangers checking for the rodents in their strongholds across the country has found them to be wide awake, rather than settling down to snooze through winter.

This is also because the unsettled summer weather caused the blackberry season to start too early, and finish before the dormice had a chance to gorge on the fruit and gain weight.

In order to hibernate, the mice need to double in size by eating large amounts of berries and nuts.

Experts have warned that the already endangered mice could be put under more pressure if they fail to hibernate in time. Those which settle down for winter late also tend to wake up early and starving — at a time of year when there is no food to be found.

Stuart Edmunds from the Shropshire Wildlife Trust told The Telegraph that this could be a bad year for the little rodents.

He explained: " I surveys for dormice in Shropshire, and we have seen a warmer and milder autumn and winter, normally at this time of year we would have frosts which would put dormice and hedgehogs into hibernation mode. 

At the moment there is also less food around for them so they aren’t able to hibernate. Lots of berries came out earlier than they usually would, blackberries were out in berry right in the middle of the summer and the berry season has already passed so they haven’t had a chance to put weight on. It’s largely due to climate change."

The mammal expert added that this has been a weather pattern which is becoming more common due to climate change.

He said: "There’s always been examples throughout of weather being inconsistent in periods but we are seeing more abnormal weather conditions in recent years".

David Wells, a dormouse expert at the Mammal Society said it has been difficult to get a full picture of the hibernation this year as fewer volunteers have been out due to Covid-19.

However, he added that climate change is likely making a difference to hibernating animals, and the warm weather could have delayed dormouse hibernation.

Mr Wells explained: "Although it’s difficult to interpret reasons for behaviour of individual dormice, we do know that on a national scale dormice are potentially at risk of being affected by climate change."

"Climate change induced wetter summers, which reduce dormouse feeding activity, and milder or more variable winters, which wakes dormice them up from hibernation more often and depletes their stored body fat, could be contributing to the alarming decline of this species."