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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

 Good morning, and happy Friday. This is Kate Sheridan, filling in for Shraddha.

Trump tests positive for coronavirus

President Donald Trump announced early this morning that he and first lady Melania Trump have tested positive for coronavirus. “We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately,” he said. The news about Trump, who has rarely worn masks in public and has continued to hold large events despite social distancing recommendations, came after several outlets reported that Hope Hicks, a senior adviser to the president, was infected.

Hicks has travelled with Trump this week, including to Tuesday’s presidential debate in Ohio and to a Wednesday rally in Minnesota, where she reportedly began showing symptoms. At 74, Trump’s age puts him at higher risk for a severe case of Covid-19. A letter from his physician issued this morning said he and Melania Trump were “doing well.” 

New investigation finds that FDA regulators have gone easy on clinical trial violations

The Food and Drug Administration has the power to stop or slow clinical trials that aren’t following regulations. But over the past 11 years, the agency has rarely acted, according to a new investigation published in Science. The FDA has sent only 12 warning letters to clinical trial investigators in the last three years, compared with 36 such letters in the last three years of Obama’s second term — and rarely sanctions scientists. Even documented violations rarely result in follow-up, the investigation found. In response, the agency told Science that the number of warnings it issues can vary from year to year, and that it has focused its efforts on inspecting “higher-risk facilities” and identifying problems before they become serious enough to require a warning.

Who will win the medicine and science Nobels this year? It’s anyone’s guess

Choosing which groundbreaking biological discoveries ought to win a Nobel Prize is hard. Trying to predict winners ahead of time often involves subjective judgements about which sub-specialities are overdue for a day in the spotlight. However, Nobel prognosticators are considering other factors this year, too, STAT's Sharon Begley writes in her annual crystal ball story. Recent Nobels have gone to discoveries, and it’s been a long time since an inventive technique like DNA sequencing received science’s highest honor. This year’s winner of the prize for physiology and medicine will be revealed on Monday around 5:30 a.m. Eastern; early risers — and those of you who live in more advantageous time zones — can livestream the announcement here. The physics prize follows on Tuesday, with chemistry on Wednesday.

Inside STAT: A Black doctor returns to hard-hit Louisiana after treating, contracting Covid-19 in N.Y.


Joseph Gallien in the emergency room at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital in Louisiana. (Michael Starghill for STAT)

Joseph Gallien was finishing his emergency medicine residency in March when Covid-19 hit and overwhelmed his hospital and the rest of New York City. He soon contracted a severe case of the disease and was hospitalized for days. In June, he moved back to his hometown of Lake Charles, La., for a new job. As the virus overtook the state and Hurricane Laura made landfall nearby, Gallien treated hundreds of patients with far fewer resources than in the hospitals where he trained. Looking back on this tumultuous year, Gallien, who is Black, says he is struck most by the stark racial inequalities of the U.S. health care system, a system in which only 5% of doctors are Black. “That persistent disparity is always on my mind,” Gallien tells STAT contributor Gabrielle Glaser. “It just surrounds you.” Read more.

New data shows fecal transplants are effective to treat common infection

About 90% of people who received fecal microbiota transplants to treat potentially fatal Clostridium difficile infections were cured, according to new, partial results from a 10-year study of the procedure also known as FMT. The results are based on the American Gastroenterological Association’s national, voluntary registry of people who have had the procedure. The new analysis included data from more than 250 people; the study hopes to eventually include data from 4,000 participants. Over the last year, FMT has been dogged by uncertainty about its regulatory status, challenges from industry players developing microbiome drugs, and questions about its safety. According to the paper, 11 people in the registry reported infections after the procedure — including two people whose infections may have been linked to the transplant itself.

Meeting on disparities in cancer care and research starts today

The American Association for Cancer Research is kicking off a three-day virtual meeting today on disparities in cancer care and research. Racial differences in cancer death rates have narrowed over the last two decades in the U.S., according to the organization’s first report on the topic. But while Black people have the highest risk of dying from cancer compared to other racial or ethnic groups, they remain underrepresented in clinical trials for cancer drugs. The meeting will delve into how to increase diversity and inclusion in these studies. Other sessions will focus on cancer risk and treatment among LGBTQ+ individuals and how younger people’s cancer risk might change if they have already survived one form of the disease.

Yesterday’s newsletter included a broken link to an NEJM paper on the gender pay gap among primary care doctors. The correct link is here.

What to read around the web today

  • Pfizer CEO: ‘Disappointed’ in presidential debate, vows no political pressure on Covid shot Politico
  • Amid pandemic, May was Ohio's deadliest overdose month in more than a decade Columbus Dispatch 
  • The bold attempt to grow a Covid-19 vaccine in plants Future Human
  • ‘Are you an American, sir?’: Lawmakers interrogate Amgen, Novartis, Mallinckrodt executives on why U.S. prices are so high STAT
  • So many communities are testing poop for Covid-19, equipment is running out Quartz

Thanks for reading! Shraddha will be returning on Monday with your regularly scheduled programming.


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Friday, October 2, 2020


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