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Teen Girls Don’t Need Routine Pelvic Exams. Why Are Doctors Doing So Many?

January 10, 2020

(NPR) – An estimated 1.4 million adolescent girls and young women in the U.S. might have received an unnecessary pelvic exam between 2011 and 2017, according to a new study. And an estimated 1.6 million might have received an unnecessary Pap test. The authors of the study, which was published this week in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, say the overuse of these procedures — which can cause false-positives and anxiety — led to an estimated $123 million annually in needless expenses in 2014 alone.

A Rare Outbreak of Polio Reflects the Philippines’ Poor Health Care

January 9, 2020

(The Economist) – FOR NINETEEN years the Philippines was free from polio. But in September the announcement came that two children living in provinces 900 miles apart had been paralysed by a vaccine-derived strain of the disease. The strain was also found in sewage and in a waterway. Foreign and domestic health authorities have since jumped into action. The next in a series of immunisation drives starts on January 20th on the southern island of Mindanao.

Second Baby in the US Born from Transplanted Uterus of Deceased Donor

January 9, 2020

(CNN) – Now, Jennifer is the mother of the second baby in the United States to ever have been born from the transplanted uterus of a deceased donor. Gobrecht, 33, successfully gave birth via cesarean section to Benjamin Thomas Gobrecht in November as part of an ongoing trial to study uterine transplantation as a treatment option for women facing infertility, Penn Medicine in Philadelphia announced on Thursday.

DR Congo Jail: Inmates Starve to Death in Makala Prison

January 9, 2020

(BBC) – At least 17 prisoners have died over the past week in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s biggest prison, a charity says. Aid workers say the deaths were caused by a lack of food and medicine, as well as poor hygiene. Makala Prison in the capital, Kinshasa, has received no food supplies in the last two months, state officials say.

The Sneaky Genius of Facebook’s New Preventative Health Tool

January 8, 2020

(The Atlantic) – But for Facebook, the real value of the tool isn’t in direct monetization. It’s in becoming an integral part of yet another facet of users’ lives. Historically, this appears to be Facebook’s operating strategy: Move into a largely unregulated space, leverage the platform’s unmatched ubiquity to create a highly convenient product within that space, and then turn convenience into dependence into more time spent on the platform.

Genetic Markers Not Very Good for Predicting Disease Risk

January 8, 2020

(Reuters) – Many people worry about inheriting health problems from their parents, but a new approach to analyzing genetic contributions to disease risk suggests that for most diseases, commercial DNA tests are not the best way to assess the odds. For the study, researchers analyzed data from almost 600 earlier studies that found associations between common variations in the DNA sequence, known as single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), and more than 200 medical conditions. Usually, genetics explained no more than 5%-10% of the risk for several common ailments including certain cancers, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

‘Against All Odds’: The Inside Story of How Scientists Across Three Continents Produced an Ebola Vaccine

January 8, 2020

(STAT News) – The reality was that, for years, scientists who studied Ebola, which belongs to a family of viruses called filoviruses, had poured their hearts into work to develop vaccines and drugs to combat these deadly scourges. And for years, they had seen promising work smash up against unscalable walls. There was no potential for drug makers to recoup development costs; and, with outbreaks only sporadic, there was little opportunity to subject experimental vaccines to rigorous tests.

WHO Says Mysterious Illness in China Likely Being Caused by New Virus

January 8, 2020

(STAT News) – The World Health Organization confirmed on Wednesday that Chinese authorities believe a new coronavirus — from the family that produced SARS and MERS — may be the cause of mysterious pneumonia cases in the city of Wuhan. The Chinese government has not yet publicly stated that a coronavirus is the cause of the illness, which has infected at least 59 people. But the Wall Street Journal reported that was the case earlier Wednesday, citing unnamed sources.

The Risks Behind the Hype of Stem-Cell Treatments

January 8, 2020

(BBC) – Some private clinics are charging UK patients thousands of pounds for unproven and unregulated treatments using the “healing powers” of stem cells, the BBC has found. And experts are warning some of these “therapies” can cause significant harm. Stem cells can become many types of cells in the body, from muscle to brain, and can repair damaged tissue. But they are approved only for treating some blood conditions, for skin grafts and the repair of damaged corneas

The Americans Dying Because They Can’t Afford Medical Care

January 7, 2020

(The Guardian) – Despite millions of Americans delaying medical treatment due to the costs, the US still spends the most on healthcare of any developed nation in the world, while covering fewer people and achieving worse overall health outcomes. A 2017 analysis found the United States ranks 24th globally in achieving health goals set by the United Nations. In 2018, $3.65tn was spent on healthcare in the United States, and these costs are projected to grow at an annual rate of 5.5%t over the next decade. High healthcare costs are causing Americans to get sicker from delaying, avoiding, or stopping medical treatment.

Analysis of Commercial DNA Tests Finds Inconsistent Coverage

January 7, 2020

(Reuters) – Once strictly the domain of research labs, tests that sequence large swaths of the human genome called the exome have become increasingly popular among medical specialists as a way to understand the genetic causes of rare disease. But a sampling of a dozen tests from each of three commercial laboratories has found they often fail to adequately analyze large segments of DNA that could be contributing to disease, researchers report this week in the journal Clinical Chemistry.

WHO: Death Toll from Measles Outbreak in Congo Hits 6,000

January 7, 2020

(ABC News) – The death toll from a measles epidemic in Congo has surpassed 6,000, the World Health Organization said Tuesday as it warned that more funds are needed to save lives during the world’s worst outbreak of the infectious disease. Measles has killed nearly three times as many people in Congo than an Ebola outbreak in the country that has garnered far more international attention, particularly after health teams came under attack from armed militias operating in the area. 

Switzerland Grapples with Assisted Suicide for Prisoners

January 7, 2020

(Yahoo! News) – A request by a convict behind bars for life is testing Switzerland’s support for assisted suicide, raising complex questions over whether ill prisoners can seek help to end their own lives. The unprecedented case has exposed a legal vacuum in the country which has long been at the forefront of the global right-to-die debate and an official decision is due in the coming months.

What CRISPR-Baby Prison Sentences Mean for Research

January 6, 2020

(Nature) – There has been much speculation about whether other scientists would follow in He‘s footsteps, especially given the ease of using the most popular gene-editing tool, CRISPR-Cas9. But the punishments are “definitely a deterrent to similar misconduct in China”, says Wei Wensheng, a gene-editing researcher at Peking University in Beijing. On 30 December, the People’s Court of Nanshan District of Shenzhen announced that, in the pursuit of “fame and profit”, He and two colleagues had flouted regulations and research and medical ethics by altering genes in human embryos that were then implanted into two women, according to Xinhua News Agency.

China Pneumonia Outbreak: Mystery Virus Probed in Wuhan

January 3, 2020

(BBC) – Chinese authorities have launched an investigation into a mysterious viral pneumonia which has infected dozens of people in the central city of Wuhan. A total of 44 cases have been confirmed so far, 11 of which are considered “severe”, officials said on Friday. The outbreak has prompted Singapore and Hong Kong to bring in screening processes for travellers from the city. It comes amid online fears the virus could be linked to Sars, or severe acute respiratory syndrome.

China Confirms Three Gene Edited Babies Were Born Through He Jiankui’s Experiments

January 3, 2020

(Newsweek) – China has confirmed that He Jiankui’s gene editing experiments led to the birth of three babies. Previously, only two babies were known to have been born—twin girls named Lulu and Nana. State news agency Xinhua announced that three scientists involved—He, Zhang Renli and Qin Jinzhou—had been jailed for their involvement earlier this week. The report said He was sentenced to three years in prison “for illegally carrying out human embryo gene-editing intended for reproduction, in which three genetically edited babies were born.”

AI System Is Better Than Human Doctors at Predicting Breast Cancer

January 2, 2020

(New Scientist) – An artificial intelligence system is better at predicting breast cancer than radiologists, according to a UK-US study led by Google Health. The team behind the technology hopes it can be widely deployed to improve cancer care. Catching cancer early improves the chances of treatment succeeding. That is why many countries routinely screen women for signs of breast cancer using an X-ray scan called a mammogram.

Americans Love Its Unregulated Wellness Chemicals

January 2, 2020

(The Atlantic) – Regulations on the manufacture and sale of cannabinoids haven’t kept up with their newly widespread availability. Hemp might be legal, but the Food and Drug Administration has so far not issued any guidance on how CBD—by far the most widely available cannabinoid—should be quality-tested or labeled, what claims can be made about its use, or who can sell it. In the agency’s view, CBD is still illegal to market as a dietary supplement, even though one of the plants from which it is derived is legal to grow and the substance is sold widely and in a variety of forms. The FDA also says it’s illegal to sell as an additive in foods, even though those, too, are widely available, including CBD sodas and gummy bears.

Marketing Psychiatric Drugs to Jailers and Judges

December 31, 2019

(The Atlantic) – Since then, the relationship between drug companies and the criminal-justice system seems to have intensified: free samples to detention facilities; comped lunches during which jail and prison doctors learn about medications; and payments to physicians to tout certain medications at conferences for criminal-justice professionals, including those without health-care licenses such as sheriffs and drug-court judges. At recent conferences about correctional health care, Merck, Gilead, AbbVie, and other big pharmaceutical companies have staged “product theaters” or “education luncheons” that show how their products could help treat inmates. The criminal-justice system isn’t just a lucrative market because of current inmates; it also introduces incarcerated people to medication that they might continue using after they’re released. 

Chinese Court Sentences ‘Gene-Editing’ Scientist to Three Years in Prison

December 31, 2019

(Reuters) – A Chinese court sentenced the scientist who created the world’s first “gene-edited” babies to three years in prison on Monday for illegally practising medicine and violating research regulations, the official Xinhua news agency said.  In November 2018, He Jiankui, then an associate professor at Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, said he had used gene-editing technology known as CRISPR-Cas9 to change the genes of twin girls to protect them from getting infected with the AIDS virus in the future.

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