(Reuters) – The world’s worst yellow fever outbreak in decades took hold in an Angolan slum because its early victims were Eritrean migrants whose false vaccination papers sent doctors off on the wrong path for weeks, international health officials said. The flare-up of the mosquito-borne disease has killed 325 people in Angola, spread as far as China – which has close commercial links with oil-rich Angola – and raised fears of the world running out of vaccine, but it might have been stopped in its tracks if it had been identified quickly in Luanda.
(New York Times) – More older adults are becoming addicted to powerful pain pills like OxyContin and Percocet to drown out the aches and pains of aging. Women may end up becoming dependent on pain relievers more quickly than men, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and their overdoses have been rising rapidly. As prosperous baby boomers age, their prescription drug use is increasing, too, said Indra Cidambi, medical director at the Center for Network Therapy, an outpatient detox facility in Middlesex, N.J. It is mostly pain pills, Xanax and Valium, she said. But though wealth provides many boomers with financial freedom, she explained, retirement often gives them anxiety, too.
(Reuters) – A new type of cancer drug that takes the brakes off the body’s immune system has given drugmakers some remarkable wins against the deadly disease, but a top U.S. regulator says too many companies are focused on the same approach. Dr. Richard Pazdur, head of the Food and Drug Administration’s office of oncology products, was referring to therapies designed to disable the PD-1 protein that tumors use to evade the immune system.
(Dallas Morning News) – After the Ebola crisis in Dallas two years ago, Texas Health Resources pledged to share what it learned about how the disease spread from a single patient who died to two nurses who cared for him at its Dallas hospital. The company, which owns Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas hospital where the nurses worked, says it delivered on its promise. But attorneys for one of the nurses, Nina Pham, who is suing THR, say the company isn’t living up to the promise it made to the city, medical community and Congress.
(Reuters) – Scientists unpicking the gene faults behind an aggressive blood cancer called acute myeloid leukemia (AML) have found it is not a single disease, but at least 11 different ones with important differences for patients’ likely survival chances. The findings, from the largest study of its kind, could improve clinical trials for testing and developing new AML drugs and change the way patients are diagnosed and treated in future, according to the international team of researchers.
(Los Angeles Times) – Oregon was the first state to allow patients with terminal illnesses to request medications that would end their lives. Though other states have since adopted similar laws, Oregon remains the best guide for what to expect in California when physician-assisted death becomes legal in the state Thursday. Here are some statistics about who has taken advantage of Oregon’s aid-in-dying law since it took effect in 1998.
(PhysOrg) – As the promise of using regenerative stem cell therapies draws closer, a consortium of biomedical scientists reports about 30 percent of induced pluripotent stem cells they analyzed from 10 research institutions were genetically unstable and not safe for clinical use. In a study published June 9 by the journal Stem Cell Reports, and funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the multi-institutional research team reports on the comprehensive characterization of a large set of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). Specialized iPSCs are reprogrammed from adult skin or infant cord blood cells and can become any cell type in the body – a condition called pluripotency that mimics the function of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs).
(Washington Post) – This month, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule in the first landmark abortion case in decades, Whole Woman’s Health vs. Hellerstedt. The ruling could have an immediate effect not only in Texas, but in more than half a dozen other states that have recently passed laws restricting access to abortion clinics. In 2013, Texas passed a law that included two key provisions requiring abortion clinics to upgrade into ambulatory surgical centers and abortion doctors to have hospital admitting privileges. It’s that law that abortion provider Whole Woman’s Health sued to block. (It operates three clinics and a surgical center in Texas.)
(Washington Post) – The United Nations Human Rights Committee announced a ruling Thursday on a case brought by Amanda Mellet, an Irish woman who after being told that her fetus would not survive her pregnancy, traveled to the United Kingdom for an abortion, because of Ireland’s laws prohibiting abortions in all cases except in which the mother’s life is in danger. In a 29-page report, the committee said Mellet’s human rights had been violated. The language the report used to castigate the Irish government was strong.
(Reuters) – Police have charged the suspected ringleader of an organ trafficking network accused of luring poor people to one of Delhi’s top hospitals to have their kidneys removed and sold, a police official said on Wednesday. T. Rajkumar Rao was arrested late on Tuesday after police traced him to a house on the outskirts of Kolkata where he was living with his wife and infant son.
(Australian Broadcasting Co) – A Victorian cross-party state committee has delivered a groundbreaking report recommending the State Government legalise assisted dying for people suffering from serious and incurable conditions. The controversial recommendations were handed down by Parliament’s Legal and Social Issues Committee, which has been investigating options for the terminally ill over the past 10 months. The report makes 49 recommendations covering assisted suicide and amending the Crime Act, to protect doctors who act within the assisted dying legislation.
(NPR) – A powerful new technique for changing genes in insects, animals and plants holds great promise, according to a report from an influential panel of scientists released Wednesday. But the group also says it’s potentially very dangerous. As such, the report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine concludes that it’s far too soon to release any organisms altered with the technique, known as a gene drive, into the environment.
(New Scientist) – Another day, another study casting doubt on antidepressants. The latest says that for children and teenagers, nearly all these drugs don’t work. So why do prescriptions for antidepressants in the UK continue to climb? Previous research suggests that for adults too, the Prozac class of antidepressants – selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) – is no better than a placebo, at least in people with mild or moderate depression. Confusingly, other research finds that these drugs do work, for example, a recent study that found that SSRIs work better than placebo for major depression in adults. But there’s reason to think that we may not be able to trust most studies unless the researchers have no links to pharmaceutical firms, and have access to all trial data.
(Reuters) – One in nine children in foster care in the U.S. are medicated with antipsychotics, despite efforts to curb the use of these potentially dangerous drugs, a new study found. Moreover, the analysis in Health Affairs showed that more than one-third of foster children given antipsychotic drugs failed to receive counseling or other psychosocial interventions, such as anger-management training, which doctors and policymakers believe should have been the first line of treatment.
(The Scientist) – Utilizing the bacterial CRISPR/Cas adaptive immune system, researchers at Harvard have developed a method for permanently recording molecular events in living cells, according to a report published in Science today (June 9). The system integrates specific synthetic DNA elements into the bacterial genomes in temporally-ordered arrays, which, once sequenced, can provide a readout of the bacteria’s timeline of DNA events.
(USA Today) – Somewhere in California on Thursday, a terminally ill person may lift a glass and drink a lethal slurry of pulverized prescription pills dissolved in water. And then die. That’s the day the nation’s most populous state implements a law, passed in 2015, making physician-assisted dying accessible to 1 in 6 terminally ill Americans, according to its national backers, Compassion & Choices. Similar laws are already in effect in Oregon, Washington and Vermont. In Montana, the state Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that assisted dying was legal under the state’s Rights of the Terminally Ill Act.
(Medical Xpress) – A new IVF-based technique is likely to lead to normal pregnancies and reduce the risk that babies born will have mitochondrial disease, according to researchers at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Mitochondrial Disease at Newcastle University. Published today in the journal Nature, scientists report the first in-depth analysis of human embryos created using a new technique designed to reduce the risk of mothers passing on mitochondrial disease to their children, which is debilitating and often life-limiting. The new technique, called “early pronuclear transfer”, involves transplanting the nuclear DNA from a fertilised egg into a donated egg, which contains healthy mitochondria, on the day of fertilisation.
(Science Magazine) – Researchers who want to treat diseases by ferrying a gene into cells often face the hurdle of safely introducing the DNA into enough of them to make a difference. Now, scientists have come up with a novel way to make gene-modified cells in the liver take over much of that organ: They cripple the unmodified cells. This seemingly risky strategy, which relies on the liver’s exceptional regenerative skills, has passed its first test in mice. If equally successful in people, it could be a boon for treating many inherited diseases involving the liver.
(Reuters) – A federal judge in Los Angeles has dismissed a lawsuit brought by a surrogate mother of triplets seeking to overturn California’s surrogacy law and name her as the children’s mother. U.S. District Judge Otis Wright on Monday acknowledged the “gravity” of the claims brought by the surrogate mother, Melissa Cook, but said they should be decided by California’s state courts, which have so far ruled against her.