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Measles Erases Immune ‘Memory’ for Other Diseases

October 31, 2019

(Nature) – Measles infections in children can wipe out the immune system’s memory of other illnesses such as influenza, according to a pair of studies. This can leave kids who recover from measles vulnerable to other pathogens that they might have been protected from before their bout with the virus. The findings, published on 31 October in Science and Science Immunology, come at a time when measles cases are spiking around the world. Globally, there were more measles infections in the first six months of 2019 than in any year since 2006, according to the World Health Organization.

Massachusetts General Hospital Oversaw Trial That Led to the First Death from a Fecal Transplant, a New Paper Shows

October 31, 2019

(STAT News) – This spring, a 73-year-old man with a rare blood condition became the first person to die from drug-resistant bacteria found in a fecal transplant. New details about that unprecedented incident emerged on Wednesday. The man was a participant in a clinical trial run at Massachusetts General Hospital and received fecal transplant capsules made in November with fecal material from one stool donor, according to a paper published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. Tests after the man’s death revealed that material contained a rare type of E. coli bacteria.

The DNA Database Used to Find the Golden State Killer Is a National Security Leak Waiting to Happen

October 31, 2019

(MIT Technology Review) – A private DNA ancestry database that’s been used by police to catch criminals is a security risk from which a nation-state could steal DNA data on a million Americans, according to security researchers. Security flaws in the service, called GEDmatch, not only risk exposing people’s genetic health information but could let an adversary such as China or Russia create a powerful biometric database useful for identifying nearly any American from a DNA sample. GEDMatch, which crowdsources DNA profiles, was created by genealogy enthusiasts to let people search for relatives and is run entirely by volunteers. It shows how a trend toward sharing DNA data online can create privacy risks affecting everyone, even people who don’t choose to share their own information.

Controversial ‘Gay Gene’ App Provokes Fears of a Genetic Wild West

October 31, 2019

(Nature) – The app’s creator, Joel Bellenson, a US entrepreneur living in Kampala, Uganda, based the test on the findings of a massive study on the genetics of same-sex sexual behaviour — even though the analysis, published in Science in August, concluded that a person’s genes cannot predict their sexuality. Vitti, a computational geneticist at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, thinks the app was misleading — even dangerous. “There are vulnerable queer people all over the world,” says Vitti, “and this app stands to hurt them.” On 11 October, he started an online petition to remove the test. Within two weeks, more than 1,660 people had signed it.

Realizing the Promise of Prescription Digital Therapeutics

October 31, 2019

(STAT News) – Smartphones and tablets have transformed almost every facet of our daily lives, making it nearly impossible to imagine a world without being connected. That same technology has now crossed into health care. Prescription digital therapeutics, or PDTs, are reimagining the way we think about treating disease by using smartphones and tablets to deliver treatment anytime and anywhere.

Ethical Research–The Long and Bumpy Road from Shirked to Shared

October 29, 2019

(Nature) – Darwin’s transformative theory inspired modern biology; Galton’s attempt to equate selection and social reform spawned eugenics. The ethical dilemmas engendered by these two late-nineteenth-century visions of biological control proliferate still. And, as older quandaries die out, they are replaced by more vigorous descendants. That there has never been a border between ethics and biology remains as apparent today as it was 150 years ago. The difference is that many of the issues, such as the remodelling of future generations or the surveillance of personal data, have become as everyday as they are vast in their implications. To work out how to move forward, it is worth looking at how we got here.

For Afghan Health Workers, a Gauntlet of Making Do

October 29, 2019

(Undark) – Inside the hospital, Dr. Zamaryalai Ghafori, 34, moved calmly among the patients, helping to bandage a shrapnel wound on an officer before moving swiftly to dress the bleeding head of a young boy involved in a motorcycle crash. For all his calm, Ghafori and his small team toil daily against absurdly high odds. Long hours and low pay had recently driven another surgeon at the hospital to quit — a common occurrence. This has left Ghafori in the middle of a 72-hour shift and, on this morning, the only surgeon available at a hospital that — like so many in Afghanistan — faces chronic shortfalls of personnel, beds, and even standard medical equipment. 

California Fires Illuminate Trauma And Resilience

October 29, 2019

(Kaiser Health News) – Peggy Goebel, a nurse from Windsor, was helping oversee the medical operation, run largely by volunteers who had responded to calls from Goebel or their employers to lend their services. They provided basic care (like making sure Hammack’s incision was clean) and helped people fill prescriptions or get medical equipment such as walkers and wheelchairs. There were also licensed therapists trained to counsel people during disasters.

U.S. Pitted Against Britain, France, South Africa, Others at U.N. Over Abortion

October 29, 2019

(Reuters) – The United States told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday that it opposed references to sexual and reproductive health and the safe termination of pregnancies, pitting Washington against Britain, France, South Africa and others. While the United States joined its 14 council counterparts to unanimously adopt a resolution on women, peace and security, U.S. Ambassador Kelly Craft said Washington was unhappy that the text mentioned previous resolutions that promote sexual and reproductive health.

Neural Stem Cell Transplantation Crawls Toward the Clinic

October 29, 2019

(The Scientist) – Gupta’s study is the latest report in a series of clinical trials on neural stem cell transplantation, in which pluripotent neural cells taken, in most cases, from the brains of aborted fetuses are expanded in the lab and then injected into the brains or spinal cords of patients with incurable neurological disorders. These include stroke, multiple sclerosis, ALS, spinal injury, and Parkinson’s disease. But for all the effort that has gone in to testing these cells, none have been able to work themselves out of trials and into clinical practice.

Facebook Vows Strict Privacy Safeguards as It Rolls Out Preventative Health Tool

October 28, 2019

(STAT News) – Facebook on Monday took a step into preventive medicine, rolling out a new tool to encourage users to get flu shots as well as appropriate cancer screenings and heart health tests. But the success of the new product may depend on whether the social media giant can regain consumers’ trust. The company is asking people to use its site to make and record decisions about their health care — such as logging completion of a cholesterol test — at a time when it is trying to contain the fallout from months of controversy around privacy, sharing of user data, and misinformation.

Medicine May Work Better if Your Doctor Seems to Believe It Will Work, New Study Suggests

October 28, 2019

(STAT News) – A doctor’s subtle facial cues — an encouraging smile, or perhaps a wince — can influence a patient’s own beliefs about whether a treatment will work and can even help induce a placebo effect, a new study suggests. The study, published last week in Nature Human Behaviour, suggests that patients will report that a treatment works better when their doctor’s expression conveys their belief in the treatment, even when the medicine is a placebo. It offers a new potential explanation for how patients’ pick up on placebo effects — and raises questions about the ways in which factors beyond basic biology can influence people’s health outcomes.

Sex-Selective Abortions: Reproductive Rights Are Being Pitted Against Gender Equality

October 28, 2019

(NBC News) – Under the law, a doctor is banned from performing abortions when they are based solely on sex selection. While the measure is billed by anti-abortion advocates as ensuring gender equality since females have been the target of feticide and infanticide in other countries, reproductive rights advocates say that there is no evidence of the practice happening in the United States and that the ban plays on racial stereotypes and has discriminatory medical effects that could result in restricting access to abortion.

Direct-to-Consumer Genetic Test Results May Be Unreliable

October 28, 2019

(Reuters) – Genetic tests sold online or in stores may produce false results, warn genetics experts in the UK. When one of these tests indicates a “health risk,” it doesn’t necessarily mean someone will develop the health problem, and conversely, “reassuring” results may be unreliable, they caution in the medical journal BMJ. 

Late Chicago Abortion Doctor Under Fire After Thousands of Fetal Remains Found in His Garage, Trunk

October 28, 2019

(TIME) – Dr. Ulrich Klopfer competed so avidly in the 1970s to perform the most abortions each day at a Chicago clinic that it was said he would set his coffee aside, jump to his feet in the break room and rush to the operating table whenever his chief rival in the macabre derby walked by. That early emphasis on speed helped him go on to perform at least 50,000 abortions over the next 40 years, making him one of the Midwest’s most prolific abortion doctors and a target of weekly protests at his primary clinics in Gary, South Bend and Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Los Angeles Vape District a Black Market Gateway

October 25, 2019

(Kaiser Health News) – A five-block section of downtown Los Angeles that used to be part of the city’s Toy District has become ground zero for the nation’s counterfeit cannabis trade. While a few remaining stores sell fidget spinners and stuffed animals, the majority are hawking vape cartridges, e-juice flavors, vaporizers and other wholesale smoking and vaping supplies — including knockoffs that originated in China. The vaping industry is under scrutiny as more people fall ill with a mysterious respiratory illness linked to e-cigarette use. Health officials are investigating more than 1,600 cases in 49 states and the District of Columbia, including 34 deaths.

Facial-Recognition Software Was Able to Identify Patients from MRI Scans

October 24, 2019

(The Wall Street Journal) – Facial-recognition software correctly matched photos of research volunteers to unidentified medical scans of their heads, in a new study of images that are commonly used in brain research. The finding draws attention to a privacy threat that will increase with technology improvements and the growth of health-care data, experts in medical imaging and facial recognition said.

A Health Care Algorithm Affecting Millions Is Biased Against Black Patients

October 24, 2019

(The Verge) – A health care algorithm makes black patients substantially less likely than their white counterparts to receive important medical treatment. The major flaw affects millions of patients, and was just revealed in research published this week in the journal Science. The study does not name the makers of the algorithm, but Ziad Obermeyer, an acting associate professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who worked on the study says “almost every large health care system” is using it, as well as institutions like insurers. Similar algorithms are produced by several different companies as well. “This is a systematic feature of the way pretty much everyone in the space approaches this problem,” he says. 

Two Strains of Polio Down, One to Go

October 23, 2019

(Scientific American) – The international effort to achieve this goal passed a major milestone this week with the worldwide eradication of wild poliovirus type 3. The announcement, due Thursday from the Global Commission for the Certification of the Eradication of Poliomyelitis comes just four years after eradication of wild poliovirus type 2. It leaves only a single strain, wild poliovirus type 1, on the loose. Type 1 is now holed up in the smallest area in the history of the disease—though that area comprises politically and geographically fraught regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

 

Behind the Scenes of a Radical New Cancer Cure

October 23, 2019

(Undark) – Today, two FDA-approved CAR-T products called Kymriah and Yescarta are available in more than 100 hospitals collectively across the U.S. Hundreds of clinical trials are tinkering with dosages, patient populations, and types of cancer. Some medical centers are manufacturing the cells on-site. The FDA approved CAR-T with a drug safety program called a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS). As I cared for these patients, I quickly realized the FDA’s concerns. Of the 10 or so patients I’ve treated, more than half developed strange neurologic side effects ranging from headaches to difficulty speaking to seizures to falling unconscious. We scrambled to learn how to manage the side effects in real time.

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