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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Local Ebola transmission reported in family in Congolese city

The 1-year-old daughter and wife of the man who was announced as having Ebola in the Congolese city of Goma earlier this week now also have the disease. The man died on Wednesday, and the two new cases represent the first instances of transmission in Goma. The news is something that experts have feared since Goma is a transit hub and borders Rwanda. Health workers have begun tracking down others who may have come in contact with this family in order to vaccinate them, officials said, and Rwanda also briefly closed its borders with the DRC. Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of the ongoing outbreak, which was recently declared a public health emergency of international concern. The outbreak has since resulted in more than 2,600 cases and 1,700 deaths. 

A more diverse microbiome for lab mice

Lab mice are raised in sterile environments and using these mice for all research would be like recruiting clinical trial participants who had never spent time outside. In a newly published study, researchers created what they think is a better model: a mouse that is genetically a lab mouse, but that has the microbiome from a wild mouse. The scientists gave the new “wildling mice” two separate treatments that had shown promise in preclinical work but ultimately failed in human trials. The new mice failed to respond to the treatments, which had also been the case with humans. “Our mice, in this case, might have been able to predict people’s response,” study co-author Dr. Stephan Rosshart told me. A better mouse model could save billions of dollars and time spent pursuing clinical trials that may not pan out, the authors write. 

Drug overdose death rate nearly quadrupled in the past 20 years

New CDC data finds that the rate of deaths from drug overdoses nearly quadrupled in the two decades leading up to 2017. Here’s more from the study:

  • By geography: Rural areas saw the fastest growth in overdose death rates from 1999 to 2006, at which point rates slowed down in rural and urban areas. But urban areas have seen the fastest rates since 2014. 

  • By sex: Rates for men were significantly higher in urban areas, while rates for women were significantly higher in rural areas in 2017.

  • By drug: Heroin, synthetic opioids other than methadone, and cocaine were responsible for more urban deaths in 2017. Natural and semisynthetic opioids like morphine were more responsible for rural deaths. 

Inside STAT: Should patients get a say in deciding whether a drug is cost-effective?  

A seemingly perpetual question for pharma companies and patients alike is whether patients’ lived experiences ought to count toward assessing the cost-effectiveness of a drug. That question was once again brought to the forefront at a recent meeting of the nonprofit Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, which assesses a drug’s worth based on a number of factors, including value to patients. But asking a patient to assess value often takes a huge emotional toll, especially since the most expensive drugs are also for patients who have few other treatment options. “How am I supposed to make some comment on the value of my son’s life?” asked Mindy Leffler, a parent of a child with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, at the meeting. STAT’s Kate Sheridan has more here

How stem cell clinics in the Southwest stack up

Stem cell clinics are everywhere now, but little is known about these facilities. Researchers examined nearly 170 across six states in the southwestern U.S., where nearly a third of such clinics are. Here’s what they found: 

  • Conditions treated: Most of the clinics offered treatments for orthopedic and inflammatory conditions. Spinal conditions were the most common within the field of orthopedics, while autoimmune diseases were the most common among inflammatory conditions. 

  • Business models: A quarter of the clinics had more than one location. Three major stem cell clinic franchises — Cell Surgical Network, Regenexx/Regenerative Sciences, and R3 — have 40% of their locations in the Southwest. 

  • Medical expertise: Nearly 60% of employees in clinics offering only stem cell treatments had M.D.s. Fewer than 15% had other degrees such as doctor of osteopathy.

More white people are dying from dementia than other races

New statistics from the CDC find that more white people are dying from dementia than those of other races. Researchers looked at dementia-related deaths, including from vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s, and found that the rate of death among white people was nearly 71 out of every 100,000 people in 2017. That same figure was 65 deaths per 100,000 for black people and 46 deaths per 100,000 for Hispanic people. The same trends were observed when researchers looked at the data by sex: White women had higher rates of dementia-related deaths compared to other women of other backgrounds. Across all races, women also had higher rates of dementia-related deaths than men. 

What to read around the web today

  • North Carolina hospital found compliant but ‘significantly different’ after complaints. The New York Times
  • Major universities are starting to offer cannabis degree programs. Quartz
  • Blue-blooded crabs at heart of pharma dispute on drug testing. Reuters
  • Did CRISPR help—or harm—the first-ever gene-edited babies? Science
  • Mind the Staph: London is crawling with antibiotic-resistant microbes. Scientific American

Thanks for reading! Enjoy the weekend!

Shraddha

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Friday, August 2, 2019

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