(Reuters) – Former Philippine President Benigno Aquino defended on Thursday his decision to implement a controversial immunization program using a new dengue vaccine in 2016, saying it was justified with millions of people at risk of being infected by the virus.
(CNN) – At least 6,700 Rohingya were killed in attacks during the first month of a military crackdown in Myanmar in late August, Médecins Sans Frontières estimates. The aid group interviewed several thousand Rohingya refugees in four camps in Bangladesh in late October and early November, asking how many members of their families had died and how, both before and after the violence began. The survey showed that a minimum of 6,700 Rohingya — including 730 children — were killed by shooting and other violence between August 25 and September 24, and that at least 2,700 others died from disease and malnutrition, according to MSF.
(STAT News) – Hospice care aims to provide compassionate care for people near the ends of their lives. This type of team-oriented medical care focuses on controlling pain and other symptoms and meeting the emotional and spiritual needs of patients and their family members. Although some hospice care is provided in special centers, most is provided in patients’ homes. Hospice workers visit daily to help their patients die with dignity and free from pain. That should have been what happened with Mrs. M (not her real name). But her son called 911 and now she is in the emergency department. I ask the medics for any hospice-related paperwork. They raise empty hands. There’s no advanced directive or POLST form, either, meaning no documentation telling me what kind of end-of-life care Mrs. M wanted — or didn’t want.
(New York Times) – As the first babies born with brain damage from the Zika epidemic become 2-year-olds, the most severely affected are falling further behind in their development and will require a lifetime of care, according to a study published Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study, the first to comprehensively assess some of the oldest Zika babies in Brazil, focused on 15 of the most disabled children born with abnormally small heads, a condition called microcephaly. At about 22 months old, these children had the cognitive and physical development of babies younger than 6 months. They could not sit up or chew, and they had virtually no language.
(ABC News) – Two couples that gave birth to children with a genetic defect later traced to donated eggs have won a lawsuit against a New York fertility doctor and his clinic. The two children have Fragile X, which causes intellectual impairments. The egg donors were supposed to be screened for genetic conditions.
(STAT News) – Akbari loves them unabashedly; he feeds them fish flakes, mouse blood, and sugar water and calls some of them “beautiful.” But they’re not pets: Akbari’s lab here at the University of California, Riverside, is at the leading edge of a revolutionary technology — gene drive — that could one day deploy mosquito mutants to rid the world of scourges like malaria, dengue, and Zika. The technology is moving faster than anyone dreamed. Just three years ago, the idea of disabling or destroying entire populations of disease-causing mosquitoes using gene drives seemed a distant theoretical possibility. But advances in gene-editing have shoved the field into overdrive. And that vision is now very much in reach.
(The Atlantic) – Previously, another team found that Ebola patients retain some immunity against the virus after 14 years, but Rimoin’s team have shown that this protection extends for decades more. All of the 14 people they studied still carry antibodies that recognize at least one of the Ebola virus’s proteins, and four had antibodies that could completely neutralize the virus. “Those are the kinds of responses you’d like to see in a vaccine—long-lasting and robust,” says Rimoin, “which means that these antibodies are of great value to science.”
(NPR) – When a pregnant woman finds out that she’s likely to give birth to a baby with Down syndrome, she’s often given the option to terminate the pregnancy. But families affected by the genetic disorder, which causes developmental delays, are conflicted over whether such abortions should be legal. Ohio could soon become the latest state to restrict abortions based on a Down syndrome diagnosis. A bill that would make it a felony for doctors to perform abortions after a Down syndrome diagnosis is moving through the state legislature and could be ready for Gov. John Kasich’s signature as soon as this week.
(Quartz) – A free health-care program in an impoverished part of the world sounds like a welcome development. But the “Physicals for All” project in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region is not what it seems, according to a Human Rights Watch report published today. Starting in 2016 and running annually from July through November, the project, though operated by health departments, is actually used by police to collect citizens’ DNA samples and blood types. This year, the program gathered such data on over 18 million residents in the region.
(Reuters) – At least half the world’s population is unable to access essential health services and many others are forced into extreme poverty by having to pay for healthcare they cannot afford, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday. Some 800 million people worldwide spend at least 10 percent of their household income on healthcare for themselves or a sick child, and as many as 100 million of those are left with less than $1.90 a day to live on as a result, the WHO said.
(CNN) – The attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder drug methylphenidate is associated with an increased risk of heart defects in infants whose mothers take the medication during pregnancy, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Psychiatry. Specifically, the researchers found a 28% increased prevalence of cardiac malformations after first-trimester exposure to the stimulant, which is the active ingredient in Ritalin, Concerta, Daytrana, Methylin and other ADHD medications.
(MIT Technology Review) – During menopause a woman’s ovaries stop working—leading to hot flashes, sleep problems, weight gain, and worse, bone deterioration. Now scientists are exploring whether transplanting lab-made ovaries might stop those symptoms. In one of the first efforts to explore the potential of such a technique, researchers say they used tissue engineering to construct artificial rat ovaries able to supply female hormones like estrogen and progesterone.
(Nature) – During embryonic development, cells differentiate into particular lineages according to information about their position in the embryo. This adoption of a particular cellular identity often triggers changes in the organization of the embryo, which, in turn, results in new positional information. These cycles of differentiation and morphogenesis are key to normal development — but how do embryos coordinate them? One way is to implement checkpoints, similar to those in place during the cell cycle, to block progression until specific criteria are met. In a paper online in Nature, Shahbazi et al. report just such a checkpoint during early development in mammals.
(Nature) – Antimicrobials alone won’t be able to mitigate the threat. The supply of naturally occurring antibiotics seems thin. And efforts to engineer new ones have floundered. We think that vaccines could be a key way to stem the crisis. To launch a global strategic effort to prioritize their development, scientists, policymakers and key stakeholders need to see antibiotics and vaccines as complementary tools. Here we focus on antibiotic-resistant bacteria, for which the need for solutions is most urgent.
(Reuters) – Shift-work nurses who have sleep problems are more likely to experience career burnout that has the potential to compromise their job performance, a small Italian study suggests. Researchers studied 315 nurses who worked rotating shifts in 39 wards of seven Italian hospitals. Each week, nurses worked an average of 36 hours and typically had at least one shift starting in the morning, the afternoon and the evening.
(Nature) – One of the largest-ever clinical trials into whether acupuncture can relieve pain in cancer patients has reignited a debate over the role of this contested technique in cancer care. Oncologists who conducted a trial of real and sham acupuncture in 226 women at 11 different cancer centres across the United States say their results — presented on 7 December at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in Texas — conclude that the treatment significantly reduces pain in women receiving hormone therapy for breast cancer.
(Bloomberg) – A half-century ago, Canadian scientists discovered transplantable stem cells, which can grow into any kind of human tissue. Now, a government-backed research facility in Toronto wants to create a partially automated factory that would mass-produce these human building blocks into disease-fighting cells — a process that is currently slow and labor-intensive.
(Washington Post) – One practical solution is to bring the philosophy and ethics toolbox to the floor of the lab itself, to the point where the lines begin to be drawn in the first place. I’m a philosopher and ethicist working in a genomics lab, and I have witnessed the early development of genome editing and the debates over its applications. The prospect of gene therapy revived old discussions on interventions in the body of the treated individual only (somatic) versus interventions that via the germline (eggs and sperm) will be inherited by future generations.
(Medical Xpress) – Epidemiological studies show that in utero fetal infection with the Zika virus (ZIKV) may lead to microcephaly, an irreversible congenital malformation of the brain characterized by an incomplete development of the cerebral cortex. However, the mechanism of Zika virus-associated microcephaly remains unclear. An international team of researchers within the European consortium ZIKAlliance (coordinated by Inserm in France) has identified a specific mechanism leading to this microcephaly. Their findings are published this week in Nature Neuroscience.