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Yemen’s Cholera Epidemic Hits 600,000, Confounding Expectations

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 15:13

(Scientific American) – Yemen’s cholera outbreak has infected 612,703 people and killed 2,048 since it began in April, and some districts are still reporting sharp rises in new cases, data from the World Health Organization and Yemen’s health ministry showed on Tuesday. The overall spread of the epidemic has slowed in the past two months, with the daily number of new suspected cases cut to around 3,000 in recent days.

Drug Overdose Deaths Skyrocketed in 2016–And Traditional Opioid Painkillers Weren’t the Cause

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 15:11

(Vox) – The federal government just put out new statistics for drug overdose deaths in 2016 — and they are very, very grim. The preliminary figures from the National Center for Health Statistics suggest that there were more than 64,000 drug overdose deaths in 2016. And in a shocking — but not quite surprising — reveal, synthetic opioids like fentanyl overtook both heroin and prescription painkillers in terms of overdose deaths.

Novartis Charged Much More in the U.S. for Some Drugs Than in Other Countries

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 15:06

(STAT News) – In 2014, the most recent year for which data was available, Novartis (NVS) headquarters in Switzerland charged its U.S. subsidiary significantly more for four medicines than what its subsidiaries paid in roughly a dozen other countries. These included several well-to-do nations such as the U.K., Germany, and France. And the difference in pricing ranged anywhere from 45 percent to 176 percent, after adjusting for currency fluctuations and packaging.

Why Giving Birth Is Safer in Britain Than in the U.S.

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 15:04

(Pro Publica) – Today, the average mother in the U.K. receives more comprehensive and consistent care, ranging from earlier prenatal appointments to closer monitoring after she gives birth, than does her American counterpart. And if a mother dies, the U.K. investigates and tries to learn from it. Medical authorities in the U.K. view maternal deaths as public health failures that underscore deficiencies in health care systems. In the U.S., maternal deaths are too often treated as disconnected, private tragedies. If they are scrutinized by hospitals or regulators at all, the findings typically prompt institutional rather than national reforms.

Will Privacy Rights Shut Down the World’s Largest Biometric Database?

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 14:56

(The Atlantic) – In 2009, with little attention from abroad, the government of India launched a new identification program that has gone on to become the largest biometric database in the world. The program, known as Aadhaar, has collected the names, addresses, phone numbers—and perhaps more significantly, fingerprints, photographs, and iris scans—of more than 1 billion people. In the process, Aadhaar has taken on a role in virtually all parts of day-to-day life in India, from schools to hospitals to banks, and has opened up pathways to a kind of large-scale data collection that has never existed before.

Another Way for Anti-Vaxxers to Skip Shots for Schoolkids: A Doctor’s Note

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 14:51

(Kaiser Health News) – Families who oppose mandated immunization for schoolchildren may be seeking medical exemptions to get around the new state law, which requires kindergartners entering public and private schools to be fully vaccinated regardless of families’ personal beliefs, according to a study published Tuesday in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Mobile Apps for Diabetes Patients Need Careful Review

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 14:47

(Reuters) – Diabetes patients who use smartphone applications to manage their condition should know that not all apps are reliable, researchers say. “We have more than 165,000 health and fitness apps in app stores right now and little control over what’s being published,” said study author Francois Modave of the University of Florida in Gainesville.

Traces of Crime: How New York’s DNA Techniques Became Tainted

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 14:22

(New York Times) – Now these DNA analysis methods are under the microscope, with scientists questioning their validity. In court testimony, a former lab official said she was fired for criticizing one method, and a former member of the New York State Commission on Forensic Science said he had been wrong when he approved their use. The first expert witness allowed by a judge to examine the software source code behind one technique recently concluded that its accuracy “should be seriously questioned.” Earlier this year, the lab shelved the two methods and replaced them with newer, more broadly used technology.

US Overdose Deaths from Fentanyl and Synthetic Opioids Doubled in 2016

Mon, 09/04/2017 - 12:26

(The Guardian) – The number of drug overdose deaths in the US increased by 21% last year, according to new statistics – with synthetic-opioid fatalities more than doubling in number. The National Center for Health Statistics, a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC) estimates that drug overdoses killed 64,070 people in the US last year, a rise of 21% over the 52,898 drug overdose deaths recorded in 2015. The epidemic of drug overdoses is killing people at almost double the rate of both firearm and motor vehicle-related death. The statistics posted on the CDC website are the latest available on the gathering opioid crisis. The agency says they will be updated on a monthly basis.

Prisoner with Schizophrenia Has Bid for Termination of Twins Rejected

Mon, 09/04/2017 - 12:22

(ABC News) – A reproductive rights group has raised concerns about Queensland’s health system after a mentally ill prisoner with a drug problem was barred from having an abortion. The 33-year-old woman, referred to by the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) as “QDB”, applied for special consent to terminate her high-risk twin pregnancy at 20 weeks because she did not want anymore children. QDB has a history of mental illness, drug use, has outstanding criminal matters and is hepatitis C positive.

Researchers Build First Functional Vascularized Lung Scaffold

Mon, 09/04/2017 - 12:16

(UPI) – Researchers at Columbia University have become the first to successfully bioengineer a functional vascularized lung scaffold to treat disease. The scaffold allows the removal of the pulmonary epithelium while maintaining the viability and function of the vascular network and the lung matrix. The study, published today in Science Advances, aimed to overcome the issue of finding new ways to promote lung repair and increase the number of donor lungs to treat end-stage lung disease.

Hurricane Harvey’s Public-Health Nightmare

Mon, 09/04/2017 - 12:08

(The Atlantic) – Every flood disaster is also a public-health disaster, and even as Harvey dissipates over the Gulf Coast, the beginnings of that secondary calamity were on display in the Houston area. During the worst of the flooding, hospitals faced critical shortages of food and medicine, people with serious chronic diseases had to make difficult decisions between evacuation and sheltering in place, and hundreds of victims faced prescription shortages and mental-health issues. And based on the health problems people in New Orleans and elsewhere in the region faced after Hurricane Katrina, experts expect major public-health emergencies, environmental illnesses, and outbreaks will only intensify in the aftermath of Harvey.

Artificial Intelligence Could Predict Alzheimer’s Years Before Doctors

Mon, 09/04/2017 - 12:06

(US News & World Report) – Doctors may be no match for computers when it comes to Alzheimer’s. A study published in July in the journal Neurobiology of Aging found that artificial intelligence could detect signs of the disease in patient brain scans before physicians. The computer-based algorithm was able to correctly predict if a person would develop Alzheimer’s disease up to two years before he or she actually displayed symptoms. It was correct 84 percent of the time.

Dr Con Man: the Rise and Fall of a Celebrity Scientist Who Fooled almost Everyone

Mon, 09/04/2017 - 11:48

(The Guardian) – Scientific pioneer, superstar surgeon, miracle worker – that’s how Paolo Macchiarini was known for several years. Dressed in a white lab coat or in surgical scrubs, with his broad, handsome face and easy charm, he certainly looked the part. And fooled almost everyone. Macchiarini shot to prominence back in 2008, when he created a new airway for Claudia Castillo, a young woman from Barcelona. He did this by chemically stripping away the cells of a windpipe taken from a deceased donor; he then seeded the bare scaffold with stem cells taken from Castillo’s own bone marrow. Castillo was soon back home, chasing after her kids. According to Macchiarini and his colleagues, her artificial organ was well on the way to looking and functioning liked a natural one.

Sanofi Quietly Pulls the Plug on Its Zika Vaccine Project

Mon, 09/04/2017 - 11:42

(STAT News) – Vaccine giant Sanofi Pasteur has quietly pulled the plug on its Zika vaccine project, a move that underscores how difficult it may be at this stage to develop a vaccine against the virus. The company announced the move in a statement posted on its website at 3 p.m. Friday, pointing to a decision by a federal funding body to scale back spending on Zika-related research. Sanofi said BARDA — the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, an arm of the Department of Health and Human Services — informed the company in mid-August that it was reducing its financial assistance for Sanofi’s Zika vaccine project.

Offshore Herpes Vaccine Trial under Investigation

Mon, 09/04/2017 - 11:39

(Scientific American) – The government of St. Kitts and Nevis has launched an investigation into the clinical trial for a herpes vaccine by an American company because it said its officials were not notified about the experiments. The vaccine research has sparked controversy because the lead investigator, a professor with Southern Illinois University, and the U.S. company he co-founded did not rely on traditional U.S. safety oversight while testing the vaccine last year on mostly American participants on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts.

In a Sign of Gene-Editing Frenzy, Startup Pitches Editing without CRISPR

Mon, 09/04/2017 - 11:33

(MIT Technology Review) – The gene-editing system CRISPR is the hottest subject in biology because of the technique’s ability to change DNA letters and potentially cure genetic disease. So what could be better? What about a way to edit genes with no CRISPR at all. A startup called Homology Medicines says it has a way to do that. The Bedford, Massachusetts, company has raised an impressive $127 million to treat genetic diseases using viruses it claims are capable of efficiently repairing human genes, all on their own.

Human Stem Cells Fight Parkinson’s Disease in Monkeys

Mon, 09/04/2017 - 11:23

(Scientific American) – Scientists have successfully used “reprogrammed” stem cells to restore functioning brain cells in monkeys, raising hopes the technique could be used in future to help patients with Parkinson’s disease. Since Parkinson’s is caused by a lack of dopamine made by brain cells, researchers have long hoped to use stem cells to restore normal production of the neurotransmitter chemical. Now, for the first time, Japanese researchers have shown that human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) can be administered safely and effectively to treat primates with symptoms of the debilitating disease.

Sierra Leone Mudslides: UK Team Races to Stop Disease

Fri, 09/01/2017 - 11:35

(BBC) – As families desperately clawed through red earth and debris that had buried their communities within just a few hours, another fear was already taking hold. Gushing muddy waters had poured into poor communities, killing at least 500 people, leaving many more homeless and wrecking what were already very basic water and sanitation systems. Although tragedy has already struck, things could get a lot worse.

Harvey Evacuees Leave Their Belongings–And Health Records–Behind

Fri, 09/01/2017 - 11:21

(Wired) – Most of the time, siloed medical information is more of a nuisance than anything else. But when Hurricane Harvey hit the Houston area last week, evacuations and rescue efforts forced patients to seek treatment anywhere they could. And most of the time, their health records didn’t go with them. That information void can be almost as catastrophic as the catastrophe itself.