Thursday, June 15, 2017

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking

Welcome to Thursday, and welcome to Morning Rounds, where I get you ahead of the day's news in health and medicine. 

Bill seeks remedies for vets exposed to mustard gas

Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill is pushing to get better care for veterans exposed to mustard gas, and today, her bill goes before the Senate committee that handles veterans’ affairs. An estimated 60,000 troops were used in classified experiments to test the effects of mustard gas — which can cause serious health issues, including leukemia, chronic respiratory diseases, and blindness. Those troops have been eligible to apply for compensation, but the Department of Veterans Affairs failed to notify many of them accordingly, and others who did apply were told they didn’t have enough evidence that they were test subjects. McCaskill’s bill directs the VA to set up a new policy for reviewing applications and to reevaluate every claim that’s been denied. She introduced the bill last year, too, but it never made it up for a vote.

Michigan's top health official charged over Flint crisis

Michigan’s top health official has been charged with involuntary manslaughter for his role in the 2016 contaminated water crisis in Flint. Nick Lyon, who ran the state health department, is accused of failing to warn the public about a Legionnaires' outbreak around Flint. There were nearly 100 cases of Legionnaires' in the Flint area, including 12 deaths, in 2014 and 2015. A law enforcement official told a judge yesterday that Lyon’s failure to act led to at least one death. Several others were charged, including Dr. Eden Wells, the state’s chief medical officer. The charges came amid the state attorney general’s investigation into lead-contaminated water in Flint.

Tricking bacteria to kick UTIs to the curb

e. coli launches an invasion on the bladder's surface. (Scott Hultgren and John Heuser)

Urinary tract infections can often recur, even when they’re treated with antibiotics. Most often, the infections happen when E. coli bacteria living in the gut make their way to the urinary tract. Now, scientists have found a potential new way to go after that bacteria without using antibiotics: Reduce the amount of E. coli in the gut.

Researchers already knew that E. coli have a set of tiny arms that latch on to a type of sugar known as mannose on the bladder surface. So researchers created a type of molecule that looks enough like mannose to convince E. coli to latch on, but doesn’t stick to the bladder wall, allowing both to be flushed out. Now they’ve tested that same treatment to flush E. coli from the gut — and it worked. The treatment almost entirely eliminated the presence of the disease-causing bacteria in the gut. The researchers were worried it might eliminate other bacteria too, like antibiotics do, but the impact on other types of microbes was minimal. Read more about the work in Nature.

Sponsor content by Hogan Lovells

Measures of success: How value-based pricing may change the pharmaceutical industry

As the pharmaceutical industry moves away from traditional pricing models, manufacturers are looking for new ways to engage with customers while managing legal and financial risks. Alice Valder Curran of Hogan Lovells and Bob Spurr of Novartis Oncology outline the challenges and share potential solutions to consider when entering into value-based arrangements. Watch here.

Inside STAT: China's rise as a biotech powerhouse

A Chinese biotech company became the talk of a big clinical oncology conference this month when it unveiled intriguing early results on a complicated new approach to cancer immunotherapy. It was a sign to biotech investors that China is ready to compete on the cutting edge of biotech development. The sector wasn't an overnight success — for years, local drug firms mostly provided contract services for the pharma giants like Merck and Pfizer. But as China's biotech sector continues to amass more money and talent, it's reminding the U.S. that its spot at the top of the drug industry's food chain isn't a guaranteed one. STAT's Damian Garde has the story.

Elder abuse is growing increasingly common

A new report out this week sounds a warning about the rising prevalence of elder abuse. Researchers compiled data from 52 studies in 28 countries on the rate of abuse among adults age 60 and over. Here’s a rundown of the report’s findings:  

  • Psychological abuse is the most common type of elder abuse. Nearly 12 percent of older adults have experienced psychological abuse, such as threats, humiliation, and social isolation.

  • Nearly 7 percent of elders have been financially abused. In some cases, that's theft of a senior's money or property. But the FBI warns seniors are also specifically targeted in scams that sell fake products, vacations, and services over the phone.

  • More than 4 percent of elders have been neglected, and another 3 percent physically abused. In cases of neglect, an elder’s basic needs — such as food, housing, and health care — aren’t being met.

Creating healthy human liver tissue in the lab

a little liver that's just three days old. (Cincinnati Children's/Max Planck)

Regenerative medicine researchers have taken a promising step in the race to create functional human liver tissues from scratch. The big-picture goal: Turn induced pluripotent stem cells into tissue that can organize itself to form the three buds of a liver, which could then be used to treat patients with liver disease. But to do that, it’s critical to replicate the chatter that happens between molecules and cells during development.

In a new study, researchers used RNA sequencing to monitor what happened when they combined vascular cells, connective tissue cells, and hepatic cells in a 3-D environment. They were able to listen in on the genetic-molecular conversations happening when they did, including particularly important crosstalk that helps produce blood cells that supply the growing liver. Next up? Diving into the differences they still see between natural liver tissues and their bioengineered tissues.

What to read around the web today

  • How a Philly OB-GYN ended up delivering a baby gorilla. The Atlantic
  • Proposed Medicaid cuts in Wisconsin would undermine training for adults with disabilities. NPR
  • Where the Obamacare exchanges might have zero insurance options in 2018. Washington Post

More reads from STAT

The latest from STAT Plus

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


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