(Washington Post) – Today, bed nets and insecticides help control the mosquito-borne disease transmission, and drugs prevent infection or blunt malaria’s symptoms. But the disease continues to take its toll. In 2015, there were roughly 212 million cases of malaria and 429,000 deaths. And the disease has become increasing resistant to drugs. In recent years, one new tool — genetic modification — has appeared especially promising. Two studies published Thursday in the journal Science illustrate the potential of genetic engineering for fighting the disease. Both studies were conducted at Johns Hopkins University’s Malaria Research Institute.
(The Guardian) – Researchers in China have used a procedure described as “chemical surgery” to mend harmful mutations in human embryos for the first time. The scientists found that it was possible to repair a faulty gene that gives rise to a serious blood disorder called beta thalassemia which can be caused by one misspelling in the DNA code. None of the embryos treated in the experiments were used to produce babies, and doing so would be illegal in the UK and many other countries. But the work proves that the method, known in genetics as “base editing”, could be an effective way to prevent inherited diseases.
(CNBC) – The outcomes for Kaitlyn and Justin are part of the mysteries of medicine: why a cutting-edge therapy works for years for one person, and just months for another. Notably, this situation has been worked into Kymriah’s pricing. If the treatment is controlling patients’ cancer after a month, its price tag is $475,000. “The CAR-T therapy is administered to all patients who need it,” Novartis’ Bradner explained. “If the medicine is working at a fixed period of time, then Novartis is compensated. And if it doesn’t, then we feel good at having provided this chance for that patient.”
(New York Times) – It has been four years since the federal government lifted the age limit for the morning-after pill, but college students across the country say gaining access to it remains fraught with confusion and difficulty. Now some colleges think they have found a solution: vending machines stocked with the morning-after pill. Stanford University unveiled one this month, following in the footsteps of several other colleges, including the University of California, Santa Barbara and the University of California, Davis, which made headlines after it installed a “wellness” machine this year that sells the generic version of Plan B, as well as pregnancy tests, feminine hygiene products, Advil, Claritin and other items.
(The Guardian) – Anthony Levandowski, who is at the center of a legal battle between Uber and Google’s Waymo, has established a nonprofit religious corporation called Way of the Future, according to state filings first uncovered by Wired’s Backchannel. Way of the Future’s startling mission: “To develop and promote the realization of a Godhead based on artificial intelligence and through understanding and worship of the Godhead contribute to the betterment of society.”
(Quartz) – For more than a century, alchemists tried to graft the attributes of gold—yellow, fusible, inert, malleable—onto a single substance. Modern AI advocates are doing just the same, taking the attributes of “intelligence”—raw computational power, recognizing faces, mapping spaces, processing language, spotting patterns—and hoping that if we smush them together in a very powerful computer, somehow it will magically add up to what we call “intelligence.” But you can’t make gold from lead. And you can’t make intelligence from code.
(NBC News) – The ceramide nanoliposome is infused into the body. Because of the tiny size and structure, the nanoparticles travel easily through the body and can slip into tumors, killing the deadly cells and leaving healthy cells intact. James Adair formed a separate company, Keystone Nano, to continue the research, especially for cancers that have few other effective treatments, like liver cancer.
(TIME) – Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Myanmar’s authorities on Thursday to immediately end military operations that have sent over 500,000 Rohingya Muslims fleeing to Bangladesh, calling the crisis “the world’s fastest developing refugee emergency and a humanitarian and human rights nightmare.” The U.N. chief warned that the humanitarian crisis is a breeding ground for radicalization, criminals and traffickers. And he said the broader crisis “has generated multiple implications for neighboring states and the larger region, including the risk of inter-communal strife.”
(Kaiser Health News) – Access to powerful new cholesterol-lowering drugs is so tightly controlled and patients’ out-of-pocket costs are so high that fewer than a third of people whose doctors prescribe the drugs get them, a new study found. While highly effective, the new drugs cost as much as $14,000 annually, leading some insurers and pharmacy benefit managers to require doctors to get preapproval for them.
(Wired) – Hurricane Maria left a ruined island and 16 Puerto Rico residents dead. But public health experts worry that figure could climb higher in the coming weeks, as many on the island fail to get medicines or treatment they need for chronic diseases. Roads are blocked, supplies are stuck at the ports, and only 11 of Puerto Rico’s 69 hospitals are open. Doctors at one children’s hospital were forced to discharge 40 patients this week when their generator ran out of diesel fuel.
(Reuters) – The humanitarian situation in Yemen is a “catastrophe”, and cholera cases could reach a million by the end of the year, the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Friday. Warring parties in Yemen – including the western-backed Saudi-led coalition – are all using disproportionate force, leading to “very excessive” civilian casualties, said Alexandre Faite, the head of the Red Cross delegation in Yemen. In addition, suspected cases of cholera have reached 750,000, with 2,119 deaths, Faite said, and the Red Cross expects at least 900,000 cases by the end of the year.
(Quartz) – In the past few years, thousands of Ugandans, mainly domestic workers and laborers have sought greener pastures, mainly in the Middle East. Many of them, particularly female maids, have ended up being mistreated and exploited by employers. Health workers have joined this exodus: according to a 2014/2015 report by the Ministry of Health, one third of the country’s 81,000 health workers were unemployed or had emigrated. Botswana and South Africa were the main destinations for those who had left.
(The Conversation) – Health Canada recently sought public input into new regulations for the use of assisted human reproduction. The consultation process covered everything from in-vitro fertilization (IVF) to egg and sperm donation and surrogacy. The consultation document prioritizes the health and safety of men and women engaged in family-making projects using assisted human reproduction. It also prioritizes the health and safety of children born of reproductive technologies. Meanwhile, the interests of those who contribute substantially to family-making — egg donors, sperm donors and surrogates — are repeatedly overlooked.
(Kaiser Health News) – Perhaps the most distressing of those checkups for many conservative Muslim women is a Pap smear, a screening test for cervical cancer. The test is rare in the developing world, according to global health experts, and for traditional Muslim women, like Manty, who are expected to be virgins until they marry, the invasive procedure is a profound threat.
(BBC) – Precise “chemical surgery” has been performed on human embryos to remove disease in a world first, Chinese researchers have told the BBC. The team at Sun Yat-sen University used a technique called base editing to correct a single error out of the three billion “letters” of our genetic code. They altered lab-made embryos to remove the disease beta-thalassemia. The embryos were not implanted. The team says the approach may one day treat a range of inherited diseases.
(Medscape) – Delirium at the end of life is common, and many patients with delirium become agitated and restless, causing distress for the patient as well as the patient’s family and caregivers. The main treatment options are neuroleptics and benzodiazepines, but use of the latter is controversial. Now, there is evidence from a placebo-controlled trial that the addition of the benzodiazepine lorazepam (Ativan, Pfizer) to the neuroleptic haloperidol (Haldol, Ortho-McNeil) may control agitation better than haloperidol alone. The study was conducted in 90 hospitalized patients with advanced cancer and persistent delirium.
(Reuters) – Nearly two-thirds of children and teens with terminal cancer receive intense care at the end of life, often in hospitals and intensive care units, a U.S. study suggests. Certain patients, including kids under age 5 and teens aged 15 to 21 as well as ethnic minorities and patients with blood malignancies were more likely to receive aggressive care than other children, the study also found.
(TIME) – In a study published in JAMA, researchers say they have come up with the most accurate figure to date for the role that genes play in autism. Led by Sven Sandin, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, the scientists re-analyzed existing data from all children born in Sweden between 1982 and 2006. The team had looked at the same data previously, focusing on pairs of siblings, both of whom were diagnosed with autism. But this time, they applied a different method for tracking the diagnosis.
(Vogue) – There has long been controversy surrounding the ethics of certain surrogacy arrangements abroad, but even in Britain surrogacy is far from straightforward, with laws being dubbed outdated and confusingly complex by many in the field. For example, surrogacy is legal in this country, but it is illegal to pay someone to do it. “Reasonable expenses”, however, are permissible, as are “gifts”. But what is a reasonable expense? Can someone give up work to focus full-time on the pregnancy and have the intended parents pay? Yes. What about massages and private healthcare? Also admissible.
(UPI) – More than 25 million unsafe abortions are performed worldwide each year, a new study says. That means nearly half of the 55.7 million abortions that take place annually aren’t safe, said researchers led by the World Health Organization, or WHO, and the Guttmacher Institute in New York City. The vast majority of these dangerous pregnancy terminations occur in Africa, Asia and Latin America, they found.