Friday, May 19, 2017

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking

We made it to Friday, everyone! The sun is out, the weekend is in sight, and I'm here to get you ahead of the top news in health and medicine this morning. 

Leaders face a long to-do list at G20 health summit

Health ministers from the world’s leading developing and developed nations are gathering today in Berlin for the G20 summit on health care. They’ve got a full plate: Doctors Without Borders is calling on the group to address attacks on medical facilities and emergency preparedness. A coalition of nonprofits wants them to increase funding for research and development of drugs, vaccines, and diagnostic tools. And seemingly everyone wants the group to talk about how to grapple with the issue of antibiotic resistance.

Research funders take on unreported trial results

Some of the world’s biggest medical research and philanthropy groups have come together to create a new set of standards that’ll govern the clinical trials they fund. The guidelines — created by Doctors Without Borders, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and others — would require any trial they fund to be registered and the results reported. About half of clinical trial results worldwide go unreported.

Researchers running clinical trials in the US are required by federal law to publicly report their results, but many research institutions frequently and flagrantly violate that law. That gap in reporting means doctors and patients don’t have the complete picture needed to gauge the risks and benefits of treatments. Now, the funders of some of those trials say they’re tired of hearing excuses about why results aren’t getting reported. The new guidelines give researchers who receive their funding a clear-cut deadline for turning in their data.

A dangerous infection seems to be spreading in the US

A dangerous and often multidrug-resistant fungal infection appears to be spreading in the US. The CDC reports that 77 people hospitalized for other issues turned out to be infected with Candida auris. The cases have cropped up in seven states — New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Oklahoma — with the bulk in New York and New Jersey. The first cases of C. auris infection in the US were only spotted last summer. C. auris often infects sick people, and about 30 percent of those who contract it end up dying. 

Also troubling: 45 contacts of the infected people were discovered to be carrying the fungus on their skin, either in their groin or their armpit. Though they were healthy, it's possible those people could spread the infection further if they had to go into the hospital for any reason, the report's author Dr. Sharon Tsay tells STAT. Some of the increase in C. auris cases may be due to growing awareness of the threat and the need to report cases, but the agency also believes the infection is spreading.

Inside STAT: Complicated endgame of polio eradication

The world seems to finally be on the verge of eradicating polio, but the endgame could get complicated. There has been a severe shortage of the injectable polio vaccine, or IPV, for more than a year. Manufacturers have been scrambling to deal with production problems and hope to be back on track in terms of output by early next year. But that shortage could repeat itself in a few years — which could be a more critical time in the effort, public health officials acknowledge. "We may not have enough IPV for the whole world to use [initially],” Michel Zaffran, the World Health Organization’s director of polio eradication told STAT's Helen Branswell. In the developing world where the risk of polio is higher, most children receive the much cheaper oral polio vaccine. But because of risks, that vaccine will need to be withdrawn at some point — at which point the need for injectable vaccine ​will surge again. More here.

Helping broken bones fuse back together

ultrasound waves deliver gene therapy. (m. bez et. al, science translational medicine)

Scientists trying to build a better bone graft have come up with a new method to deliver a gene therapy with the help of an ultrasound. If a broken bone doesn’t heal just right, patients might need a bone graft to fuse the bone back together again. But it’s invasive and painful to harvest a patient’s own bone for a graft, and donated bones don’t always integrate correctly. So researchers drummed up a new method to make graftable bone right in the lab.

They started by placing a collagen scaffold where the bone was broken. Then, they injected that scaffold with microbubbles mixed with the DNA coding for a bone growth factor. They waved an ultrasound wand over that scaffold to help native cells pick up that DNA and stimulate the growth of new bone. In a pig model, the method helped the bone heal better than a standard graft. While researchers continue honing the technique, they say it could be tested out for other types of tissue engineering too.

A bill in the Senate aims to protect science from politics

Scientists hoping to keep up the momentum after last month’s March for Science are throwing their weight behind a piece of legislation that hasn’t garnered much attention in the Senate. The measure, introduced by Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), aims to prevent political interference in scientific research. It’s designed to stop political officials from trying to suppress research that might undermine an administration’s stance on an issue such as climate change. The Scientific Integrity Act also includes a provision that would give government researchers the authority to approve press releases about their research before they’re made public. Now, advocates in the scientific community have started a petition to get the Senate Commerce Committee to hold a hearing on the bill.

Endometriosis patients weigh in on research priorities

Women with endometriosis are stepping up to steer the direction of future research into the disease. One in 10 women in the US have the painful condition, which occurs when tissue that's found in the lining of the uterus turns up elsewhere in the body, such as the abdomen or ovaries. It can cause chronic pain and infertility in some women. Researchers launched a project to ask women living with the condition what they'd like to see investigated in future endometriosis studies. A top priority: Finding a better way to diagnose the disease. It currently requires an invasive surgery and many women live for years with endometriosis without getting a diagnosis. Women also said they'd like to see researchers pinpoint the best ways to help patients manage the toll of the disease.

What to read around the web today

  • Science has begun taking gluten seriously. The Atlantic
  • Tom Price visits Liberia, where Ebola killed 4,800. AP
  • Hopes — and questions — are raised by new study of ALS drug. Forbes

More reads from STAT

The latest from STAT Plus

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend! Back first thing on Monday, 


Have a news tip or comment you want to send me?

Send me an email