Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Facebook is changing how posts with misleading health claims are shared

Posts with dubious health claims flourish on Facebook and other social media sites. For instance, Ethan Lindenberger, the 18-year-old who gained notoriety as he caught up on vaccinations against his parents’ wishes, said his mother got much of her anti-vaccination beliefs after reading Facebook posts. Now, the social media giant is taking steps to combat such misinformation. In a new blog post, one of Facebook’s product managers said the company had made updates to its algorithms to reduce posts with sensational or exaggerated claims as well as posts that aim to sell a product based on a health-related claim, such as weight loss. The company will be looking for commonly used phrases to classify posts with questionable health claims, and encouraged people to no longer include exaggerated or misleading claims in posts.

Researchers use CRISPR to eliminate HIV in mice

Scientists have been able to eliminate the HIV virus from the blood of mice, according to new research. Using a combination of long-lasting HIV drugs and CRISPR, scientists were able to first keep the virus from replicating and then used the gene-editing tool to clear remaining virus from the mice. The technique cleared the virus in about a third of the animals used in the study. Using CRISPR in humans still poses several challenges, but current drugs for treating HIV are only able to suppress the presence of the virus in the blood and missing doses could mean the virus will reemerge. Replicating the study’s findings in people is still far off, but scientists now hope to test the approach in larger animal models.

Warren blasts Gottlieb for joining Pfizer board

Following last week’s news that former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb was joining Pfizer’s board of directors, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren yesterday called for Gottlieb to resign from his new post. Even though such moves from government to the pharma industry are fairly typical for departing FDA leaders, Warren said in a letter that Gottlieb’s decision “smacks of corruption.” Gottlieb — who said he learned about Warren’s letter through reporters — also said he would respond “promptly, directly, and privately.” Warren, in turn, shared on Twitter that she looks forward to a response and reiterated his call to resign, saying it would “send a strong message about the importance of integrity of current [and] former federal officials.” 

Inside STAT: Health tech companies often flop. Here’s what’s behind the successes

Dr. Paul Yock, a cardiologist and bioengineer who runs Stanford's Byers Center for Biodesign. (COURTESY PAUL SAKUMA)

From a heartbeat-tracking patch to a startup dedicated to monitoring asthma, Stanford’s Dr. Paul Yock has been behind a slew of medical technologies and companies hoping to deliver the next big idea in health tech. And Yock, who heads the university’s Byers Center for Biodesign, has a great track record, too: He has mentored 161 fellows who have gone on to found 50 companies, only two of which have failed. He spoke to STAT’s Megan Thielking about the “secret sauce” behind making a startup a success. From making smart hiring decisions to really knowing the clinical need, read more of his tips here

Vast majority of college campuses aren’t smoke-free

A pair of newly published studies points to how smoking — whether tobacco or e-cigarettes — may continue to be a problem among young people. In one study, researchers found that about 17% of U.S. colleges and universities have 100% smoke-free policies or tobacco-free protected areas. Only about a quarter of students and faculty in the U.S. benefit from such protections, which leaves a lot more room for improvement, the study’s authors write.

Another study finds that content related to Juul’s e-cigarettes on Instagram is likely to influence young people. Searching for hashtags, researchers found nearly 15,000 posts related to the vaping devices, with more than a third of the posts being promotional and over half of the posts being related to youth or lifestyle. 

California’s youth vaccination efforts appear to have worked

Some of California’s efforts aimed at keeping kids up to date with their vaccinations seem to have worked, according to a new study. Since 2014, California has passed two laws to restrict personal exemptions for vaccinations and implemented a campaign to better educate school staff on admitting kids who weren’t up yet to date on vaccinations. Following those measures, more kindergarteners were caught up on their vaccinations than in 2013: Nearly 10% in 2013 were missing some of the required shots, and that number dropped down to less than 5% in 2017. The study only included schools with 10 or more students, however, which could be a limitation because schools with fewer students tend to have the most kids without the necessary vaccinations.  

What to read around the web today

  • Newly blue Maine expands access to abortion. Kaiser Health News
  • FDA enforcement actions plummet under Trump. Science
  • Does psychology have a conflict-of-interest problem? Nature
  • How to speak to someone who’s suffering. The Atlantic
  • Juul-backed initiative to overturn SF e-cigarette ban one step closer to November ballot. San Francisco Chronicle

Thanks for reading! Just a reminder that there won't be any newsletters tomorrow or Friday. If you find yourself missing Morning Rounds and are looking for some fun news over the holiday, check out the winners of Wellcome's photography prize, who will be announced later today. 

Have a good — and safe — holiday. See you next week!


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Wednesday, July 3, 2019


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