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Morning Rounds Megan Thielking

Jury convicts former employees of pharmacy involved in deadly 2012 outbreak

A federal jury has convicted the co-owner and four former employees of a Massachusetts compounding pharmacy at the center of a deadly fungal outbreak in 2012. It's the latest in a string of criminal trials involving former employees of the New England Compounding Center, which prosecutors say produced contaminated drugs that killed 76 people and sickened hundreds. The jury convicted the pharmacy's co-owner and its former director of operations on charges of conspiring to defraud the FDA about the center's operations before the outbreak. Three pharmacists were also convicted on charges of mail fraud, racketeering, and filling prescriptions under a fake name.

A 'miracle' newborn baby survives Ebola in DRC

An baby girl named Benedicte who contracted Ebola in DRC has survived her infection, with health workers calling her “the young miracle of Beni.” The little girl’s mother, a confirmed case of Ebola, died during childbirth on Oct. 31. Six days later, Benedicte was admitted to an Ebola treatment center in Beni, where she received around-the-clock care. The little girl’s discharge from the treatment center was an emotional moment for the people who cared for her, Jessica Ilunga, of the DRC Ministry of Health, told STAT. The fatality rate among children in this outbreak is upward of 70 percent, according to UNICEF. Kids under of 15 make up one-quarter of cases in this outbreak, which now stands at 515 cases and 303 deaths.

ACA signups lag ahead of enrollment deadline

Tomorrow marks the last day of open enrollment — and so far, the numbers suggest that sign-ups are lagging. As of Wednesday, nearly 20 percent fewer new people signed up for health insurance through ACA marketplaces than at the same time last year. Active renewals are also down 8 percent. It's not clear what, exactly, might be behind the lower enrollment numbers so far this year. But the low unemployment rate, the repeal of the individual mandate, less marketing spending, and Virginia's newly expanded Medicaid program could all play a role. Some caveats about the sign-up data: A few states have later deadlines and sign-ups can surge right before the deadline.

More scientists are using female animals in their studies

A growing number of scientists are using female animals in their research — but new research suggests the people who review grant applications aren't always taking inclusion into account. The NIH put a new policy in place in 2016 that's supposed to make sure scientists are including both male and female animals and cells in their preclinical studies. To see how that policy is playing out in the funding process, researchers polled NIH grant reviewers. The majority said they consider sex inclusion an important variable, but some said they didn't usually consider it when scoring a grant application. The authors say that points to a need for more awareness about the role sex plays in health and disease.

Inside STAT: China's history with AIDS explains a puzzling aspect of the 'CRISPR babies' story

The first time reporter Kathleen McLaughlin met someone in China dying from complications of AIDS, it was 2007 and the patient had never heard of the illness. That lack of understanding among some people with the condition, particularly in parts of the country where people are most likely to have it, reflects China’s complex history with AIDS. That might help explain a puzzling question about the news last month that a Chinese scientist had edited embryos that led to the world’s first “CRISPR babies”: Why did He Jiankui try to edit a gene that might protect the babies from AIDS? McLaughlin has more in a new story for STAT — read here.

This task force will scour the evidence on preventing opioid use disorder 

A prominent expert panel on preventive medicine just announced plans to review the research on preventing opioid use disorder for the first time. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force — which scours scientific research and provides recommendations on health interventions like cancer screenings — published a draft plan to tackle the evidence on opioid use disorder. The task force is taking public comments on its blueprint from now until Jan. 16. It's the first step in a yearslong process, which will culminate in a recommendation on the issue. 

New studies explore origins of psychiatric diseases



The genetic roots of psychiatric diseases are notoriously difficult to unravel — but a sweeping new set of studies on the molecular underpinnings of schizophrenia, autism, and bipolar disorder make a dent in that mystery. The 10 studies are the product of a unique, nationwide collaboration known as the PsychENCODE Consortium. The foundation of the work: a sample of roughly 2,000 post-mortem brains. Researchers who aren’t a part of the consortium can now tap into the data from that sample and start asking other questions about brain development, genetics, and psychiatric disease. “It’s a huge resource for the community,” Lilia Iakoucheva, a consortium member, tells me.

What to read around the web today

  • Court: Trump can’t let companies deny birth control coverage. Associated Press
  • E. coli outbreak traced to California farm; some romaine lettuce safe to eat. CNN
  • Startup Spotlight: PanTher’s drug-delivery patch aims to knock down the ‘wall’ of pancreatic cancer. STAT Plus
  • Why you shouldn't be afraid of your aging brain. Boston Globe Magazine
  • NIH report scrutinizes role of China in theft of U.S. scientific research. STAT

Thanks for reading! Have a wonderful weekend, 


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Friday, December 14, 2018


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