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‘Truly Remarkable’ Drug Helps Motor Neuron Disease

September 23, 2022

(BBC) – Scientists say they have slowed and even reversed some of the devastating and relentless decline caused by motor-neurone disease (MND). The treatment works in only 2% of patients but has been described as “truly remarkable” and a “real moment of hope” for the whole disease.  One leading expert said it was the first time she had seen patients improve – but this is not a cure. The MND Association said there was “mounting confidence” in the therapy. (Read More)

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Shakeup with Optum’s Health Data Licensing Sparks an Outcry Among Scientists

September 23, 2022

(STAT News) – A move by Optum to change longstanding practices for licensing data to academic institutions has sparked an outcry among researchers, who argue the move will make accessing data so costly and difficult that universities will scale back their research programs. Optum notified users that future projects must access insurance claims data through an enclave hosted by another unit of the company. Optum is the data and pharmacy benefits arm of the insurance giant UnitedHealth Group. (Read More)

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Pakistan Deploys More Doctors to Fight Disease After Floods

September 23, 2022

(Associated Press) – Pakistan has deployed thousands of additional doctors and paramedics in the country’s worst flood-hit province to contain the spread of disease, which has killed at least 300 of the flood victims, officials said Friday. Some of the doctors who refused to work in Sindh province have been fired by the government, according to the provincial health department there. Floods have killed 724 people, including 311 children and 133 women in the province since July. (Read More)

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After Students’ Death, LA Schools to Carry Overdose Antidote

September 23, 2022

(Associated Press) – The Los Angeles Unified School District will provide all its schools with a medication that can reverse opioid overdoses, after at least seven teenagers overdosed on pills likely laced with fentanyl in recent weeks, including a 15-year-old girl who died on a high school campus. (Read More)

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4.4 M Americans Roll Up Sleeves for Omicron-Targeted Boosters

September 23, 2022

(Associated Press) – U.S. health officials say 4.4 million Americans have rolled up their sleeves for the updated COVID-19 booster shot. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted the count Thursday as public health experts bemoaned President Joe Biden’s recent remark that “the pandemic is over.” The White House said more than 5 million people received the new boosters by its own estimate that accounts for reporting lags in states. (Read More)

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We’ve Only Just Begun to Examine the Racial Disparities of Long Covid

September 22, 2022

(MIT Technology Review) – Of the many people who have had covid, about one in five develop chronic symptoms. The term “long covid”—credited to Elisa Perego, a University College London archeologist who used it in a tweet—refers to a condition, formally known as post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2, defined by symptoms that can last weeks or months after a person contracts covid. It doesn’t appear to matter how severe the infection was. And it can manifest in many ways—common symptoms include inability to concentrate, difficulty breathing, and stomach problems. Many researchers are working to better understand long covid and determine who is most at risk, how the illness progresses, and how to treat it. But they are also seeking to understand the extent to which it places a particular burden on people of color.  (Read More)

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Hackathon Finds Dozens of Ukrainian Refugees Trafficked Online

September 22, 2022

(Ars Technica) – “All relevant stakeholders have recognized that the threat of trafficking in human beings is high and imminent,” EU’s human trafficking plan states. Since women and children represent the majority of refugees fleeing, the plan says they are believed to be most at risk. To respond, the EU began monitoring online and offline human trafficking risks, and experts called for countries across Europe to start working together to shield refugees during this uncertain time of conflict. This week, the EU’s law enforcement agency focused on cybercrimes, Europol, reported that it had done exactly that by coordinating the first online EU-wide hackathon. (Read More)

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The Ungodly Surveillance of Anti-Porn ‘Shameware’ Apps

September 22, 2022

(Wired) – But Covenant Eyes and Accountable2You do much more than just police pornography. When WIRED downloaded, decompiled, and tested Covenant Eyes and Accountable2You, we found that both apps are built to collect, monitor, and report all sorts of innocent behavior. The applications exploited Android’s accessibility permissions to monitor almost everything someone does on their phone. While the accessibility functionalities are meant to help developers build out features that assist people with disabilities, these apps take advantage of such permissions to either capture screenshots of everything actively being viewed on the device or detect the name of apps as they’re being used and record every website visited in the device’s browser. (Read More)

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The Heartbreak and Cost of Losing a Baby in America

September 22, 2022

(NPR) – More than 300,000 U.S. families have infants who require advanced medical attention in the newborn intensive care units every year. Some babies stay for months, quickly generating astronomical fees for highly specialized surgeries and round-the-clock care. The services are delivered, and in U.S. health care, billing follows. But for the smaller fraction of families whose children die, the burden can be too much to bear. (Read More)

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The ‘End’ of COVID Is Still Far Worse Than We Imagined

September 22, 2022

(The Atlantic) – I keep returning to the flu because, back in early 2021, with vaccine excitement still fresh in the air, several experts told my colleague Alexis Madrigal that a reasonable threshold for lifting COVID restrictions was 100 deaths a day, roughly on par with flu. We largely tolerate, the thinking went, the risk of flu without major disruptions to our lives. Since then, widespread immunity, better treatments, and the less virulent Omicron variant have together pushed the risk of COVID to individuals down to a flu-like level. But across the whole population, COVID is still killing many times more people than influenza is, because it is still sickening so many more people. (Read More)

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Why Omicron Might Stick Around?

September 22, 2022

(New York Times) – But 10 months have passed since Omicron’s debut, and the next letter in line, Pi, has yet to arrive. That does not mean SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes Covid-19, has stopped evolving. But it may have entered a new stage. Last year, more than a dozen ordinary viruses independently transformed into major new public health threats. But now, all of the virus’s most significant variations are descending from a single lineage: Omicron. “Based on what’s being detected at the moment, it’s looking like future SARS-CoV-2 will evolve from Omicron,” said David Robertson, a virologist at the University of Glasgow. (Read More)

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CRISPR Infusion Eliminates Swelling in Those with Rare Genetic Disease

September 22, 2022

(Science) – In a medical first, an infusion of the CRISPR gene editor into the blood of three people with a rare genetic disease is easing their symptoms, a biotech company reports. The experimental treatment tamped down a liver protein that causes painful and potentially life-threatening bouts of swelling in the throat and limbs. Two people in the company’s trial are doing so well after a single CRISPR injection that they no longer need drugs to control their condition. (Read More)

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NIH Launches the Next Stage of Its ‘Human Genome Project’ for the Brain

September 22, 2022

(STAT News) – The National Institutes of Health on Thursday announced more than $600 million in fresh funding for an expansive and ongoing push to unravel the mysteries of the human brain, bankrolling efforts to create a detailed map of the whole brain, and devise new ways to target therapeutics and other molecules to specific brain cell populations. (Read More)

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Secret Vaccinations Help Zimbabwe Mothers Protect Children

September 22, 2022

(Associated Press) – Dozens of women holding babies rushed to take their places on wooden benches at a clinic in Zimbabwe while a nurse took a separate group of anxious mothers and their children through a back door and into another room. The nurse quickly closed the door behind them. The women were all at the Mbare Polyclinic in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, to get their children vaccinated against measles amid a deadly outbreak in the southern African country. But those who were taken to the back room were getting their children vaccinated in secret, and in defiance of religious doctrine that forbids them from using modern medicines. (Read More)

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DOJ: States Can’t Penalize VA Doctors and Nurses For Legal Abortions

September 22, 2022

(Axios) – States cannot impose civil or criminal penalties on Department of Veterans Affairs doctors and nurses who provide abortion services that are allowed by federal law, a Department of Justice task force said in a new memo released Thursday. Why it matters: The memo comes after the VA said earlier this month it plans to provide abortions to beneficiaries when pregnancy is the result of rape or incest and when birth may present a danger to a pregnant person’s health. (Read More)

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Genetic Tests Create Treatment Opportunities and Confusion for Breast Cancer Patients

September 21, 2022

(Kaiser Health News) – The past decade has witnessed a rapid expansion of genetic tests, including new instruments to inform patients who have been diagnosed with breast cancer about the risk of recurrence and to guide their treatment. But the clinical significance of many of the inherited mutations that can now be identified remains unclear, and experts are torn on when and how to deploy all the new tests available. Patients are sometimes left paying out-of-pocket for exams that are not yet the standard of care, and even the most up-to-date oncologists may be uncertain how to incorporate the flood of new information into what used to be standard treatment protocols. (Read More)

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Uganda’s Transplant Revolution Brings Hope to Thousands

September 21, 2022

(BBC) – Uganda’s parliament is scrutinising a proposed law that would enable organ transplants to happen in the country for the first time, transforming the lives of thousands hoping for operations. Annita Twongyeirwe had pictured a different future for herself. But since being diagnosed with kidney failure three years ago, the 28-year-old is preoccupied either by having dialysis or thinking about the next session. (Read More)

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Galvinized by Dobbs, More Doctors Are Distributing Abortion Pills By Mail

September 21, 2022

(Politico) – Doctors at online and brick and mortar primary care companies are slowly starting to prescribe medication abortion pills via telemedicine in states where it’s still legal following the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision ending the constitutional right to the procedure. The FDA has yet to update its rules to make way for large retail pharmacies to dispense medication abortion, limiting how patients can get pills. In the meantime, these companies are leaning on two mail-order pharmacies to fill their prescriptions. (Read More)

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The Controversial Embryo Tests That Promise a Better Baby

September 21, 2022

(Nature) – “She has her mother’s eyes,” begins the advertisement, “but will she also inherit her breast cancer diagnosis?” The smooth voice in the video is promoting the services of Genomic Prediction, a US company that says it can help prospective parents to answer this question by testing the genetics of embryos during fertility treatment. (Read More)

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Judge Lifts U.S. Ban on Mexicans Entering Country to Sell Blood Plasma

September 21, 2022

(ProPublica) – A federal district judge in Washington, D.C., has ordered immigration officials to allow Mexican citizens with visas to sell their blood plasma in the U.S. U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan granted a preliminary injunction overturning a policy announced last year by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials that barred Mexican visitors from participating in what had become a multibillion-dollar business along the border. (Read More)

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