Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking

Welcome to Wednesday, everyone, and welcome to Morning Rounds. An FYI: We have a new video with Bill Gates reviewing pandemic movies. (His take on "Inferno": The "badass guys" from the WHO made him laugh.)

Congo has declared a new Ebola outbreak

The WHO has announced there’s an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the country’s ninth known Ebola epidemic. There have been two confirmed cases so far, and the WHO is sending experts and talking with the health ministry about an experimental vaccine in development. There’s also some unexpected news from ​research led by Dr. Heinz Feldmann, who oversaw the original research for that Ebola vaccine. Here's a rundown:

  • The background: Scientists have theorized that the Makona strain responsible for the massive 2014-2015 Ebola outbreak might've been more virulent — meaning it might've become ​more dangerous as it infected more people — than earlier known strains.
  • The study: To test that theory, Feldmann’s group infected some mice and macaques with the Makona strain and others with the Mayinga strain, from the first known Ebola epidemic in 1976.
  • The finding: The Makona viruses — even those that had acquired mutations scientists worried might've made them more dangerous — weren't more lethal than the Mayinga strain. If anything, the Mayinga strain might have been more virulent, the team found. 

What to watch for in Alex Azar's speech today

HHS Secretary Alex Azar will push hospital executives to improve their health technology in a speech this morning with a decidedly personal anecdote: the story of his own recent hospitalization for diverticulitis. Azar's address at the American Hospital Association's annual meeting will focus broadly on the transition to so-called value-based care, one of his priorities for the agency. But the health industry is also watching to see what Azar might say about drug prices — he and other top health officials have used recent talks to hint at what's to come in President Trump's speech on drug prices Friday. One hospital representative says that while Azar's remarks won't be a follow-up to Trump's — which was originally scheduled for Tuesday — he's still expecting some surprises. 

Fundraisers for unproven stem cell treatments are misleading

Hundreds of patients have used crowdfunding to pay for unproven stem cell treatments — but their fundraising campaigns often oversell the treatments and underestimate the risks, researchers report in JAMA. They analyzed more than 400 crowdfunding campaigns, which received roughly $1.4 million in pledges from 13,000 donors. But despite the interventions being unapproved, 44 percent of campaigns suggested the treatment would likely work, and dozens claimed the interventions had little or no more risk than other treatments. That's sending a misleading message to donors, the authors say. 

Inside STAT: Can precision medicine do for depression what it's done for cancer?

(hyacinth empinado / stat)

At a growing number of research centers across the country, scientists are scanning brains of patients with depression, drawing their blood, asking about their symptoms, and then scouring that data for patterns. The goal: pinpoint specific subtypes of depression, then figure out which treatments have the best chance of success for each particular variant of the disease. The idea of precision medicine for depression is quickly gaining ground — but it’s not an easy task to break down the many factors that contribute to depression into clean categories with clear treatments. I have the story here

Drinking more water doesn't slow kidney disease

Coaching patients with chronic kidney disease to drink more water doesn't do anything to slow down the progression of the disease, according to new results from a randomized trial. A previous pilot study suggested that increased water intake might slow the decline in kidney function. So researchers tested the idea on 630 patients with stage 3 chronic kidney disease, some of whom were asked to chug at least one extra liter of water per day. More water didn't slow the decline of kidney function after one year. The authors say there might be several explanations: extra water doesn't help, it was too little water to make a difference, or the study might've needed more participants or a longer follow-up time. 

Interest group eyes animal drug restrictions to curb antibiotic resistance

There aren't any duration limits for some drugs used in animals that contain antibiotics used in humans. That means animals could get the drugs for far longer than they need them — and excessive antibiotic use in animals can fuel the development of drug-resistant bacteria. Now, a public interest research group sees an opening to push for new restrictions: the Animal Drug User Fee Act, which is up for reauthorization and is being reviewed by a House subcommittee today. U.S. PIRG is hoping to get Congress to include a provision in the act that would have the FDA require duration limits for all medically important antibiotics sold for use in animals. 

What to read around the web today

  • Novartis paid nearly $400,000 to a shell company controlled by Trump’s attorney. STAT
  • CDC director’s salary now set at $209,700 instead of $375,000. Washington Post
  • Congressman to drug distributors: ‘I just want you to feel shame.' STAT 
  • Takeda R&D chief says the Shire deal will accelerate plans by three to five years. STAT Plus
  • When credit scores become casualties of health care. Kaiser Health News

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


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