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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking

Good morning, everyone! Welcome to Morning Rounds. 

The CDC's planned nuclear prep talk is now a flu prep talk

The CDC has postponed plans to hold a teaching session today on the public health response to a nuclear detonation. It was part of the agency’s monthly grand rounds talks targeted at health professionals and was set to include talks titled "Preparing for the Unthinkable" and "Roadmap to Radiation Preparedness." Now, the agency has switched gears. Today’s grand rounds session will instead focus on the severe flu season. Health officials want to prep public health professionals on how to reduce the spread of seasonal flu and deal with medicine shortages due to high flu rates in some communities. Hospitals in many parts of the country have been swamped in recent weeks as a severe flu season has taken hold, spurring concerns about whether hospitals are prepared for the next flu pandemic. 

The statue of a surgeon who practiced on slaves is being removed

A 14-foot-tall statue of Dr. J. Marion Sims is being moved out of Manhattan after fierce controversy over the South Carolina doctor. Sims was long hailed as a pioneer in gynecology, but he practiced surgical procedures on women who were enslaved, hadn’t given consent, and weren’t given anesthesia. A New York City commission has now recommended that the bronze monument be moved from Central Park to Sims’s grave in Brooklyn.

How can the FDA become more transparent?

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb is joining doctors and public health leaders today to talk about how the agency can be more transparent about its work — and how that can actually boost the development of new drugs and medical devices. The FDA has come under fire for not being transparent enough about problems with products on the market and drugs in development. A STAT investigation last year raised questions about the agency’s response to hundreds of troubling reports tied to Hyland’s homeopathic teething tablets. Today’s forum will tackle everything from better data sharing to opportunities for health officials to intervene when there’s incorrect information about medical products already on store shelves. The talks run between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. ET, and you can watch live here.

Sponsor content by MilliporeSigma

Bio-logic: A new way of thinking is disrupting the life sciences

In an "armchair interview" during the official opening of MilliporeSigma's M Lab™ Collaboration Center, executives Stefan Oschmann and Udit Batra discussed the more collaborative, biological paradigm that's sweeping the life sciences. The two touched on topics including cell-based therapies, greater cooperation between researchers and regulators and the importance of enabling "by-chance interaction" among scientists. Read here.

Inside STAT: A mission to end harmful skin lightening

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 Amira Adawe inside Karmel Square, unofficially known as the Somali Mall, in Minneapolis. (sarah stacke for stat)

Karmel Square, home to a hodgepodge of vendors and restaurants, is a hub of the Somali community in Minneapolis. Amira Adawe often stops by to chat with friends and relatives. But the public health advocate is also there scanning the shelves for skin lightening creams that may contain harmful toxins, sold under names such as Fair & Lovely, Prime White, and Miss Beauty 7 Days White. Some women rub the creams all over their bodies multiple times each day in hope of lightening their brown skin. During graduate school, Adawe discovered many of the creams for sale in Minnesota markets contain far more mercury than what the U.S. government considers safe. Now Adawe has made it her mission to end the use of skin lightening creams. STAT contributor Sheila Mulrooney Eldred has the story — read here.

Scientists dig into ancient DNA 

With the help of ancient DNA, researchers have pinpointed the possible cause of a massive epidemic that swept through Mexico in the 16th century, killing an estimated 7 million to 17 million people. It’s been difficult to determine the cause and reach of many epidemics during that time using solely historical texts. But archaeogeneticists — scientists who study centuries-old DNA — can deploy new tools to analyze the bacterial DNA present in skeletons. They found the same kind of microbe in 10 of the 29 skeletons excavated from a cemetery linked to the deadly outbreak, which is thought to have contributed to the decline of the Aztec Empire. The culprit: a type of salmonella that causes a serious fever. The researchers say their work shows it’s possible to dig into ancient DNA to find signs of the diseases that plagued populations many centuries ago.

Federal officials take on cancer treatments that aren't backed by science

Federal officials have settled charges against a company touting two unapproved treatments for cancer patients. The complaint against Cellmark Biopharma was about two products: CellAssure, marketed for cancer-related malnutrition, and Cognify, marketed to treat cognitive problems related to chemotherapy. The company claimed CellAssure had “anti-cancer and anti-tumor properties” and described Cognify as “the world’s first product designed specifically to alleviate ... chemo fog.” But the Federal Trade Commission says there isn’t actually any scientific evidence to back up those claims. The settlement bans the company from making claims without any evidence going forward.  

What to read around the web today

  • Smart thermometers aim to track flu season in real time. New York Times
  • Meet the 24-year-old Trump campaign worker appointed to help lead the government’s drug policy office. Washington Post
  • Mapping how the opioid epidemic sparked an HIV outbreak. NPR

More reads from STAT

The latest from STAT Plus

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

Megan

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