Monday, July 31, 2017

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking

Welcome to the work week, folks! I'm here to get you ahead of the day's health and medicine news. 

Can cutting nicotine in cigarettes help people quit?

The FDA now plans to start regulating the level of nicotine in cigarettes for the first time ever. It’s an attempt to reduce the health harms of smoking by bringing cigarettes down to “non-addictive” levels. Public health experts praised the decision to more strictly regulate the industry. But there’s no real scientific consensus on what makes for a “non-addictive” level of nicotine, and the FDA hasn’t offered any specific information on the new requirements. Some experts say cutting the level of nicotine in tobacco — which can be done the same way coffee beans are decaffeinated — by at least 95 percent would be a good start. More here

The agency also announced it would delay its safety review of e-cigs currently on the market. That’s a big victory for e-cig manufacturers, who took a hit after the FDA announced last year it would start regulating e-cigarettes like other traditional tobacco products.

Campaign to combat global gag rule raises $305 million

A fundraising campaign to boost access to birth control, abortions, and sexual health care in developing nations has raised more than $305 million, according to Dutch officials helping coordinate the effort. The “She Decides” initiative was launched in response to President Trump’s decision to cut federal funding for global aid groups that provide those services. The campaign’s organizers held a conference in February that brought in more than $211 million, and the donations have kept coming in the months since.

New report pushes dentists to identify child abuse

A new report this morning lays out red flags to help dentists better identify potential child abuse or neglect. Children who are abused may have injuries or infections around their mouths, and dentists are uniquely positioned to recognize those issues and warn authorities. Those symptoms include bruises around or inside the mouth, fractures to the teeth, or damaged teeth from old injuries. The new report also equips providers to recognize dental neglect, such as untreated cavities or gum disease, which can get in the way of a child’s ability to eat and communicate. For more on a similar push to help dentists recognize signs of domestic abuse, read this.

Inside STAT: Midwives change birth practices in Mexico


Juana Lopez prepares to give birth in chiapas. (ALICE PROUJANSKY)

There’s a growing movement in Mexico to recognize the potential of midwives to help improve maternal health. In Chiapas, the southernmost state of Mexico, the rate of maternal death is four times higher than in the U.S. and 20 times higher than in Finland or Iceland. There are very few health professionals to care for the more than 3 million people living in the state. Chiapas also has one of the highest C-section rates in Latin America — almost 50 percent. Midwife Carolina Menchú is part of an organization that aims to reduce the number of unnecessary C-sections in the region while promoting evidence-based, respectful maternal health care. Read more about her work here.

Scientists create a catalog of cancer's weaknesses

Scientists have created a new catalog of the genetic vulnerabilities of cancer cells to accelerate research on how to target those genes to combat cancer. Researchers from the Broad Institute and Dana-Farber conducted genetic screens on hundreds of cell lines that represent more than 20 types of cancer. They turned up 769 genes that cancer cells depend on to grow and survive.

“The prospect of 'cancer precision medicine' seems alluringly simple — read the genomic profile of a patient's tumor and infer its weaknesses,” the Broad Institute's Jesse Boehm tells me. Some of that information can be gleaned from clinical trials, Boehm says, but the pace of the research overall is too slow. The new catalog can help make that research more efficient. “This serves both as guide for cancer drug hunters and a stimulus for the scientific community to finish this laboratory mapmaking for every type of cancer,” he says.

Alternative med school takes a swing at one of its fiercest critics

The conflict between a prominent naturopathic medical school and one of its chief critics is escalating. Bastyr University — an alternative medical program based in Washington — has sent a cease-and-desist letter to Britt Hermes, a former naturopath who now sharply criticizes the practice and her alma mater, Bastyr. Lawyers for the university allege that Hermes has defamed Bastyr in a number of blog posts and presentations by denouncing its curriculum as dangerous and unscientific. Hermes says she’s working with an attorney to respond to those claims. 

What to read around the web today

  • 'Social camouflage' may lead to underdiagnosis of autism in girls. NPR
  • Maternal deaths prompt state probes. Boston Globe
  • The NFL's partnership with the NIH ends with $16 million unspent. ESPN

More reads from STAT

The latest from STAT Plus

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


Have a news tip or comment you want to send me?

Send me an email