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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Covid-19 cases near 100,000 worldwide

There are near-constant developments with the coronavirus outbreak, so here's a roundup of where things stand: 

  • Worldwide cases: More than 95,000 people have been diagnosed with Covid-19, and nearly 3,300 people have died. South Korea, Italy, and Iran are the hardest hit outside China — with upwards of 3,000 cases — and Italy has even banned fans from soccer matches for a month. 
  • The U.S. situation: California reported its first fatality yesterday, bringing the death toll in the U.S. to 11. Several states, including Washington and New York, are continuing to see a spike in cases. 
  • What else to know: The WHO has stated that the new coronavirus is deadlier than the flu, but what's unclear is whether, like the flu, it will dissipate once warm weather arrives with spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Watch this video from STAT's Hyacinth Empinado and Alex Hogan to learn more

Female physicians, but not males, more likely to die by suicide than other professionals

Female physicians are more likely than their non-physician peers to die by suicide, while the opposite is true for male physicians, new research finds. Reviewing data gathered for nine previous studies from 1980 to the present, the authors found that the suicide rate for female doctors was 46% higher than for women in other professions. For male physicians, the rate was 33% lower compared to men who held other jobs, though suicide deaths in both groups decreased over time. Poisoning, suffocation, and firearms were the most common methods of suicide; firearms and poisoning were especially common in the U.S., Brazil, and South Africa. Future studies ought to look more closely at the reasons driving physician suicides and the gender difference, the authors suggest. 

'Third-hand' smoke lingers in movie theaters, study finds

Movie theaters, along with hotels, rental car companies, and other industries, have implemented strict no-smoking policies to prevent "third-hand" smoke contamination, where potentially harmful residue from cigarettes lingers on objects. But a new study finds that smokers who enter a non-smoking movie theater are capable of bringing in a large amount of cigarette residue that can affect air quality for extended periods of time. Researchers assessed the air quality of theaters and observed a spike in the concentration of chemicals found in cigarette smoke after moviegoers walked in for screenings. The scientists found that the gas emissions were akin to being exposed to secondhand smoke from 1 to 10 cigarettes for an hour, and nicotine was the most abundant substance they found. Movie theaters are usually well-ventilated, the authors write, suggesting that other public places that are poorly ventilated have a higher risk of transmitting third-hand smoke. 

Inside STAT: Labs scramble to find right animals for coronavirus studies


Ferrets are among the animals researchers are infecting with the Covid-19 virus as they search for a suitable species to use in tests of vaccines and drugs. (ETER PARKS/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES)

Mice, ferrets, marmosets, and African green monkeys. Besides all being mammals that therefore share a lot of similar features, these creatures are now among another group: possible animal models to test a new coronavirus vaccine. As the Covid-19 outbreak rages on and companies race to develop a vaccine and antiviral drugs, it's clear that any candidates can't jump directly from test tubes to people, which is where the animals come in. But not every virus infects every animal in the same way — and even if the animal is infected, it may not show illness like humans do. So in addition to figuring out which vaccine and drug candidates to pursue, scientists have to figure out which animal will offer the most precise glimpse into how people will respond. STAT's Eric Boodman has more here

Q&A: Surgery and AI give amputees better control of prosthetic hand

People with amputated limbs have few options to regain meaningful function in their arms or legs. In a new study, scientists describe a procedure that uses an implant and machine learning algorithm to capture and interpret electrical signals from severed nerves, enabling four patients to pick up small toy blocks and food cans with a prosthetic hand, as well as make a fist or pinch fingers together. I spoke with Cynthia Chestek, a biomedical engineer at the University of Michigan and an author of the new paper, to learn more. 

Why is it difficult to integrate prosthetic control interfaces with nerves?
During amputation, a nerve is cut and while that nerve continues to carry signals about intended movements, it’s really hard to get those signals out. It’s very hard to record these very small [nerve] signals, and it’s hard to put anything inside the nerve because it causes a lot of scarring. 

Did patients have trouble using this system?
It works on the first try. We were able to just ask people to make a bunch of movements that we’re showing them on the screen and then they’re able to replicate that with the hand. 

Read the rest of our conversation here

Alex Trebek shares one-year update on pancreatic cancer treatment

Here's some news from my favorite game show to round out this edition: Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek, who has been undergoing treatment for advanced pancreatic cancer, shared an update yesterday in a heartwarming video. "The one-year survival rate for stage 4 pancreatic cancer patients is 18%," Trebek began, adding, "I'm very happy to report I've just reached that marker." Still, he added that the journey hasn't been easy: "There were moments of great pain, days when certain bodily functions no longer functioned, and sudden, massive attacks of great depression that made me wonder if it really was worth fighting on." Trebek is now looking to reach the two-year mark, which has an even bleaker 7% survival rate. "If we take it just one day at a time, with a positive attitude, anything is possible," he said. 

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (Español: 1-888-628-9454; deaf and hard of hearing: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

What to read around the web today

  • In its first use inside the human body, CRISPR genome editing tested as blindness therapy. Associated Press
  • One twin got cancer in the U.K. The other got it in the U.S. Vice
  • Oh, Canada! Vertex battles another country over access to cystic fibrosis treatments. STAT Plus
  • Trump administration announces new scrutiny of nursing homes. NPR
  • Supreme Court justices voice clashing views as they weigh Louisiana abortion law. The Wall Street Journal

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

Shraddha

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Thursday, March 5, 2020

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