Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking

Good morning, folks, and welcome to Morning Rounds! I'm here to get you ahead of the day's health news. 

Trump declines to declare opioid crisis an emergency

President Trump has decided against declaring the nation's opioid crisis a public health emergency, despite a recommendation made by the White House's commission on the opioid epidemic to do so. Governors of six states — Maryland, Massachusetts, Alaska, Arizona, Virginia, and Florida — have already declared the crisis an emergency, opening up access to millions of dollars in funding and more regulatory leeway in their response to opioid misuse. For more on how states have used emergency declarations to fight the opioid epidemic, read this

Left without funding, Yemen's blood bank may close

Yemen's national blood bank may be shuttered without new funding and supplies while the country's two-year civil war continues. Doctors Without Borders, which has been supporting the National Blood Transfusion Center in Sana'a for two years, recently withdrew its support, passing the baton to the World Health Organization. The WHO is still trying to get supplies to the center, but they haven't reached Yemen yet. "According to officials from the center, the current supplies are only enough for two days and if there is no support, the center will shut down," Tarik Jasarevic of the WHO tells me. 

Illinois lets teens join organ donor registry

Illinois has opened its organ donor registry to 16- and 17-year-olds, becoming one of the last states in the U.S. to allow teens under 18 to sign up. Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a measure into law yesterday that'll allow teens to join the donor registry when they get their driver's license or state identifications. Illinois joins 47 other states that give 16- and 17-year-olds the choice to donate. But since those teens are still legally minors, their parents can make the final decision about whether their organs can be donated before they turn 18. 

Inside STAT: Summer camp becomes a clinical trial

participants make potato puffballs during a cooking class. (Willie J. Allen Jr. for stat)

Cecily Vammino was not a fan of the fresh carrot, potato, and zucchini pie prepared for her at a summer camp of sorts in Florida. It was like every other meal she shared with 19 other children and their parents this month: organic and free of gluten, dairy, salt, and processed sugar. The kids were part of a grand medical — and in some ways, social — experiment. They all have a rare kidney disease called focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, or FSGS, and haven't responded to treatments like steroids. For years, the disease has remained a stubborn medical mystery. Now, researchers are testing out the idea that a change in diet might force the disease into remission. This crew of kids traveled to Orlando to participate in the study — and sneak in regular trips to water parks. STAT's Bob Tedeschi has more here

Sponsor content by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Keeping the promise of immunotherapy for cancer

Driven by discoveries over the last 25 years, immunotherapy is proving to be a potent treatment for a variety of cancers. Today, scientists whose work first generated skepticism are celebrated as visionaries, as researchers race to expand the anti-cancer arsenal. “This is really a different strategy,” says Dana-Farber’s Gordon Freeman, PhD, who led the discovery of the critical protein, PD-L1. “Instead of poisoning the cancer cell, we are letting the immune system directly kill it.”

Cases of this parasitic infection seem to be on the rise

Health officials are eyeing a reported increase in cases of cyclosporiasis, an intestinal infection caused by a parasite that’s often found in tropical parts of the world and can spread through contaminated food or water. The infection causes diarrhea, stomach pain, and fatigue. There were 206 cases of cyclospora infection in the U.S. between May 1 and August 2, according to the CDC. That’s a substantial jump: There were just 88 cases during that window of time last year. There haven’t been any deaths reported from the infection this year, though 18 people have been hospitalized. CDC and local health officials are investigating the uptick in cases, but haven’t pinpointed any particular culprit just yet.

Cherokee Nation works to cut hepatitis C cases

Cherokee Nation is making headway in cutting hepatitis C cases among tribal members. Doctors with the tribe have been working in recent months to screen many of the 130,000 tribal citizens who live within the tribe’s territory in Oklahoma, where the prevalence is about three times higher than in the general population. Adults who visit the tribe’s hospital or rural health centers are now offered a screening test. Two years into the program, they’ve tested 46,000 people, 760 of whom required treatment for hepatitis C. Those patients can get medical care without paying out of pocket under a treaty between the tribe and the federal government. Doctors for Cherokee Nation are discussing their progress today at a global indigenous peoples’ meeting.

Music therapy doesn't lessen autism severity

Music therapy doesn’t ease the severity of symptoms for kids with autism spectrum disorder, according to new research just published in JAMA. It’s been thought that music therapy might be a way to help children with ASD — some of whom have limited social communication — develop their skills communicating with others. Researchers randomly assigned kids between ages 4 and 7 with ASD to receive either enhanced standard care — which is typical care for ASD combined with extra counseling for parents — or enhanced standard care along with music therapy. They tested one of two treatments on 182 children across nine countries, and found that there wasn’t any significant difference in the severity of symptoms between the two groups. 

What to read around the web today

  • The exodus of Puerto Rico's doctors adds health care strain to financial crisis. NBC News
  • Rapid malaria tests work, but with unexpected drawbacks. New York Times
  • Why some psychiatric beds are going unused. Boston Globe

More reads from STAT

The latest from STAT Plus

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