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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.

Deaf Couple May Edit Embryo’s DNA to Correct Hearing Mutation

October 23, 2019

(Science) – Yevgenievna and her husband, who is partially deaf, want to have children who will not inherit hearing problems. There is nothing illicit about our discussion: Russia has no clear regulations prohibiting Rebrikov’s plan to correct the deafness mutation in an in vitro fertilization (IVF) embryo. But Yevgenievna is uneasy about publicity. “We were told if we become the first couple to do this experiment we’ll become famous, and HBO already tried to reach me,” Yevgenievna says. “I don’t want to be well known like an actor and have people bother me.” She is also deeply ambivalent about the procedure itself, a pioneering and potentially risky use of the CRISPR genome editor.

Women Giving Birth in Low-Income Countries Often Endure Abuse

October 22, 2019

(Reuters) – Women are often mistreated during labor and delivery at hospitals in low-income countries, a new study suggests.  During in-person observations of births at urban hospitals in Ghana, Guinea and Nigeria, researchers found that more than 40 percent of women experienced physical or verbal abuse, stigmatization or discrimination related to race or ethnicity, according to a report in The Lancet. Surveys of women who had recently given birth in those countries and in Myanmar yielded similar findings.

‘The Worst Public Health Crisis in Decades’: First Federal Opioid Trial Slated to Begin Monday

October 22, 2019

(USA Today) – The landmark opioid litigation pitting state and local governments against makers and distributors of the highly addictive painkillers is set to go to trial Monday after attempts at a settlement broke down last week. An offer of $48 billion in cash, treatment drugs and services was rejected as lawyers for the 2,400 cities and counties involved clashed with states attorneys general over the distribution of the settlement.

A New Crispr Technique Could Fix Almost All Genetic Diseases

October 22, 2019

(Wired) – A few months later, his idea found a home in the lab of David Liu, the Broad Institute chemist who’d recently developed a host of more surgical Crispr systems, known as base editors. Anzalone joined Liu’s lab in 2018, and together they began to engineer the Crispr creation glimpsed in the young post-doc’s imagination. After much trial and error, they wound up with something even more powerful. The system, which Liu’s lab has dubbed “prime editing,” can for the first time make virtually any alteration—additions, deletions, swapping any single letter for any other—without severing the DNA double helix. “If Crispr-Cas9 is like scissors and base editors are like pencils, then you can think of prime editors to be like word processors,” Liu told reporters in a press briefing.

Evidence Links Poliolike Disease in Children to a Common Type of Virus

October 21, 2019

(Science) – Researchers seeking the cause of mysterious cases of childhood paralysis seem to be closing in on a culprit. Since 2014, more than 500 children in the United States have suddenly lost muscle control in their arms and legs, a condition called acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), which can cause permanent disability. But the leading explanation—that a normally mild viral infection occasionally results in AFM—has been hard to prove. A new analysis of young patients’ spinal fluid now offers evidence linking a group of common viruses known as enteroviruses to AFM. But questions remain about how such viruses damage nerves and why they seem to do so only rarely.

The Ebola Outbreak Is Finally Slowing Down

October 21, 2019

(Nature) – The Ebola outbreak in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is finally waning, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on 18 October. The good news came as a vaccine that has helped to contain the virus’s spread moved a step closer to regulatory approval. Fifty people were diagnosed with Ebola in the DRC between 25 September and 15 October, the WHO said. At the outbreak’s peak in April, roughly 300 new infections were reported in three weeks. Since the outbreak began in August 2018, almost 3,250 people have been infected and more than 2,150 have died.

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