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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

WHO unveils ambitious ‘triple billion’ plan

The WHO yesterday unveiled an ambitious five-year plan to benefit a “triple billion” more people. The agency has three targets: get 1 billion more people on universal health coverage, better protect 1 billion more against health emergencies, and improve the health and well-being of 1 billion more. In meeting this goal, the agency will restructure to include, among other things, the creation of an emergency preparedness division to complement and support its existing work in mitigating disease outbreaks. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement that the world has changed since the agency’s inception in 1948, “which is why we have articulated a new mission statement for what the world needs us to do now: to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable.”

Atul Gawande’s health care company finally has a name

The joint health care company from Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan Chase & Co. led by Dr. Atul Gawande now has a name: Haven. In its first extensive announcement since the Boston-based venture formed in January 2018, Haven says it will center on improving access to primary care, lowering prescription drug costs, and making insurance benefits easier to understand for the 1.2 million employees of the three companies. “We will be relentless. We will insure our work has high impact and is sustainable,” Gawande wrote in a letter on Haven’s newly launched website.

Ebola could persist in semen for much longer than previously thought

A new longitudinal study suggests that the window during which male survivors of Ebola may be able to infect sexual partners is longer than was previously thought. Of a sample of 267 survivors in Liberia, 30 percent had Ebola virus RNA in their semen in at least one test, with at least one positive test result 40 months after infection. The previous record had been nearly eight months shorter. However, it’s not known how frequently viral RNA signals the presence of infectious virus. Nearly half the men also had a positive test after two negative tests. “That was … a surprise to all of us,” says Cavan Reilly, one of the study’s authors, because the WHO currently says that a person can be considered Ebola-free if semen is tested every three months until two consecutive tests are negative. Given this, the authors also suggest that the WHO’s recommendation may need to be reevaluated.

Inside STAT: Gottlieb’s replacement? A roundup of possible contenders

Following FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb’s sudden resignation Tuesday, the speculation of who will replace him has already begun. There will likely be an acting commissioner who takes over when he departs in a month, followed by a permanent leader who must be confirmed by the Senate. Gottlieb has remained mum on his recommendations: “I’ve expressed my thoughts privately and I’ll keep them private,” he said at an event hosted by The Hill. But STAT has a roundup of likely, possible, you-never-know contenders. Read more.

New compound could help lessen IBD damage

Cells from the gut of a patient with a form of IBD. (Gerard Kaiko)

A new compound could provide relief to patients who have severe forms of irritable bowel disease and aren’t helped by anti-inflammatory drugs. More than 3 million people in the U.S. have some form of the disease, which is most often treated with drugs that dampen inflammation. Working with colon biopsies of patients with IBD, scientists found that a gene usually linked to blood clotting is also active where there is inflammation and intestinal damage. Mice with inflamed guts were then given a compound that inhibits the activity of the gene. More than 80 percent of the colons of the treated mice were healed following treatment compared to just about 60 percent of untreated mice. The authors note that mice don’t experience IBD in the same way as humans, and that large clinical trials are needed to properly assess how the gene in question responds to the new compound.

Dana-Farber launches one of the first colorectal cancer centers for young patients

Amid a rapid increase in cases of young-onset colorectal cancer, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston is launching one of the first centers to tackle the disease specifically in patients aged 50 and younger. According to the National Cancer Institute, rates of colorectal cancer in this age group have risen nearly 50 percent in the last two decades. And the American Cancer Society now recommends that colorectal screening start at age 45 instead of 50. But the problem is likely to get worse. “By the year 2030, colon cancer is estimated to rise 90 percent and rectal cancer to rise by a staggering 124 percent in these young patients,” Dr. Kimmie Ng, who will direct the new center, said in a statement.

What to read around the web today

  • The $100,000 dark-money mystery group behind a pharma-bashing Facebook campaign. STAT
  • Long overlooked by science, pregnancy is finally getting attention it deserves. The Washington Post
  • Mental health treatment denied to customers by giant insurer’s policies, judge rules. The New York Times
  • Neuroscience readies for a showdown over consciousness ideas. Quanta
  • Trump’s cuts to aid for Palestinians have totally disrupted women’s breast cancer treatments. Buzzfeed News

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


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Thursday, March 7, 2019


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