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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Kratom caused more overdose deaths than previously reported

More people have overdosed on the herbal supplement kratom than previously reported, according to the CDC. Between July 2016 and December 2017, kratom — which people use to treat pain and and to wean off opioids — was the cause of 91 deaths across 27 states, up from 44 recorded deaths from the substance in 2017. Most who died also had other drugs in their system, but seven seemed to have only used kratom. More than 1,800 calls were made between 2011 and 2017 to the national poison center reporting database over concerns about kratom exposure, the report said. Although HHS has recommended that kratom be classified the same way as heroin or LSD and the FDA has called kratom an opioid, the drug is not scheduled as a controlled substance.

NASA twin study explores body’s response to long space travel

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly (left) and his identical twin, Mark. (Pat Sullivan/AP)

Final results from the twin study featuring astronauts Mark and Scott Kelly were just released, showing, for the most part, that biological changes from space travel return to normal within six months of returning to Earth. One of the most notable findings: During his 340-day stay in space, Scott Kelly had longer telomeres — the protective ends of chromosomes that shorten as we age — than his earthbound brother Mark, but the telomeres returned to their pre-flight length once he came back to Earth. He did, however, have a larger number of short telomeres, which could mean a heightened risk for age-related diseases.

The results of the study pave the way for doing the kind of research that’s necessary as NASA considers other long-duration space travel, including to Mars, the study’s authors said in a call with reporters.

AMA says medical science behind transgender military ban is ‘deficient’

There isn’t sufficient medical science to support the Trump administration’s ban on transgender people in the military, says the American Medical Association. The ban, which is set to go into effect today, will exclude some 14,700 military personnel from serving. The Defense Department has instructed the military to add gender dysphoria to a list of conditions that would disqualify people from serving. “The AMA is troubled that the DOD characterizes the need to undergo gender transition as a ‘deficiency,’” AMA President Barbara McAneny said, adding, “The only thing deficient is any medical science behind this decision.” A group of U.S. and military surgeons general have also criticized the ban.

Inside STAT: What ex-Pentagon chief Ash Carter learned about AI in combat

If someone gets hurt, you can’t blame it on the machine — that’s the message that former U.S. defense secretary Ash Carter had for the audience at an AI in medicine conference in Boston this week. Although Carter is not one to usually speak about health care, he has plenty of experience with the dilemmas of AI. He oversaw, for instance, the development of autonomous drones and other AI-enabled systems for use in combat, where algorithmic errors can result in the deaths of countless civilians. And given his experience, he emphasized the need for human oversight over AI, especially in health care. But what that oversight look like remains an open debate. STAT’s Casey Ross has more for STAT Plus subscribers here

1 in 3 cancer patients report using alternative therapies

A third of cancer patients have used alternative therapies such as herbal supplements and acupuncture, a new study finds. Researchers looked at data from a 2012 national health survey, and here’s what else they found:

  • Type of therapy: About 36% of those who used these therapies said they used herbal supplements, while 1 in 4 said that they went to a chiropractor or osteopath for help.

  • Disclosure to physicians: Some 30% said that they did not let their physician know about it, mostly because they weren’t asked.

  • Takeaway: The study only looked at broad trends in patients who used alternative therapies, and the authors say that more research is needed to know how using such therapies affects the health and quality of life of cancer patients.

South Korea court reverses 66-year law against abortion

A 66-year-old law that criminalized abortion in South Korea has been deemed unconstitutional by the country’s Constitutional Court. Although prosecutions have been rare, under the current law, those seeking an abortion can be punished with up to a year in prison, and doctors who provide the procedure could get up to two years in prison. The South Korean government has until 2020 to amend the law, the court said, at which point the current law will be null and void.  

What to read around the web today

  • The study of a cancer test seemed like a triumph. But some data were missing. STAT
  • New figures for autism prevalence in China point to previous neglect. Spectrum News
  • Scientists still don’t know what gives ketamine its antidepressant effect. Stressed mice might offer a clue. STAT
  • Opioid sales reps swarmed New York at height of crisis. The New York Times
  • Doctors' long-running advice: Get checked before a marathon. Associated Press

Thanks for reading! Have a great weekend! 


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Friday, April 12, 2019


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