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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

The latest STAT report, on the microbiome's vast therapeutic potential, is now out. Written by STAT's Kate Sheridan, the report delves into the industry behind microbiome-based products, the challenges these therapies face before they can be a clinical reality. Read more and download the report here

FDA announces it will ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars

The FDA yesterday announced a much-anticipated ban on menthol cigarettes and all flavored cigars. The ban, which the agency first explicitly promised back in 2018, comes after nearly a decade of the FDA stating that menthol-flavored products played an outsized role in hooking young people onto cigarettes and smoking in general. The FDA's announcement didn't include a specific date for when the ban will go into effect, but the agency said it would work toward procedures for banning these products "within the next year." 

Lander fends off controversy, pledges broader access to STEM careers during Senate hearing

Eric Lander, President Biden's nominee to lead the new Cabinet position as head of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, weathered intense questioning from the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee yesterday. As expected, Lander was asked about past controversies, including his brief contact with Jeffrey Epstein. “Jeffrey Epstein was an abhorrent individual, and my heart goes out to his victims,” he said. Lander, who has served as the leader of the Broad Institute, also apologized for inadvertently downplaying the contributions of Nobel laureates Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier in the development of CRISPR for gene editing, and promised that, if confirmed, he would work to broaden opportunities for a scientific career. 

Adolescents with autism more likely to have physical and mental health needs, study finds

A new CDC study of adolescents with autism underscores how they are likely to have more physical difficulties and mental health conditions compared to neurotypical individuals. Comparing survey data from nearly 150 parents of autistic adolescents ages 12-16 to responses from nearly 250 parents of kids without autism, researchers found that autistic kids were more likely to have physical challenges including difficulty holding a spoon. They were also more likely to have trouble sleeping, ADHD, or anxiety, and their overall health was less likely to be reported to be excellent. Health care providers for this age group ought to be trained more to recognize the needs of autistic adolescents, the authors of the CDC report write.

Inside STAT: An HIV crisis raises the question: Should health officials be activists?

Amid Covid-19, though, politics became a central element of health experts’ job descriptions. In Washington, government researcher Anthony Fauci publicly feuded with former President Trump. (SUSAN WALSH-POOL/GETTY IMAGES)

The Covid-19 pandemic has heightened tensions between health officials and politicians — Anthony Fauci's feuds with former President Trump being a prime example — as the two groups have tried to balance scientific recommendations against other considerations for a community. Such conflicts have raised the question of whether health officials, especially at the local level, ought to add politics to their daily list of responsibilities. The question is playing out in West Virginia, which is battling its worst HIV outbreak and where health officials are running up against politicians banning the effective strategy of state-run needle exchanges. “Working seven days a week on things that are outside our area of expertise, the political backlash against popular strategies — it has taken its toll nationwide on our public health workforce,” one county health official tells STAT's Lev Facher. Read more here

Immigrant health providers work longer hours than U.S.-born colleagues

A new study aims to quantify how health workers born outside the U.S. contribute to the workforce compared to those born in the U.S., and finds that immigrants tended to work longer hours and in underserved areas more than U.S.-born doctors. Here's more: 

  • The study: Researchers looked at 2010-2018 data from a community-based survey from the U.S. Census Bureau. 
  • The findings: Although only about 18% of the almost 660,000 health care providers included in the survey were born outside the U.S., these providers worked more hours per year (between 32 and 72 hours more) than their U.S.-born colleagues. Those born outside the U.S. were also much more likely to reside — and therefore likely serve in areas with health care shortages and to work in home health settings. 
  • The takeaway: Health providers born outside the U.S. often face immigration and licensure obstacles, and the authors of the study write that their findings should encourage policymakers to streamline both processes for these essential workers. 

Despite recommendations, study finds many women are screened for cervical cancer frequently

Medical societies recommend screening for cervical cancer and HPV every 3-5 years, but a new study finds that many women are being screened much more frequently. In the study, scientists analyzed data from nearly 2.3 million women ages 30-65 who underwent screening in 2013 and 2014. The study found that after the initial testing, nearly 18% of women had had another screening at the end of one year; about half had been screened again by year two, while 65% had been screened again by year 3. Older women were less likely to be screened repeatedly, while women living in the northeastern U.S. were more likely to have repeat screenings. Repeated testing could increase the psychological distress felt by patients — and drive up health care costs — the researchers warn.

Covid-19 in the U.S.

Cases yesterday: 58,199
Deaths yesterday: 854

What to read around the web today

  • Post-vaccination inertia is real. The Atlantic
  • Texas enabled the worst carbon monoxide poisoning catastrophe in recent U.S. history. ProPublica
  • Top Senate Democrat heads back to drawing board on drug pricing. STAT+
  • Biden administration seeks to build trust and diversity among federal scientists. NPR
  • India cases up as scientists appeal to Modi to release data. Associated Press

Thanks for reading! More on Monday,

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