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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Happy Friday! STAT reporter Andrew Joseph here, filling in for Shraddha. To the health and medicine news we go:

Health officials unveil ambitious addiction initiative

Top federal health officials have outlined their plans for a $350 million study that aims to cut overdose deaths by 40 percent in three years in select communities and establish an integrated model for tackling addiction that can be applied nationally. As part of “the HEALing Communities Study,” researchers from the University of Kentucky, Ohio State University, Boston Medical Center, and Columbia University have received grants to study which combination of interventions works best in more than a dozen communities in each of their states. The project will focus on expanding the availability of naloxone, routing people into evidence-based treatment, and improving pain care. “We can start saving lives now, and we can do it in a way that will provide dividends for communities everywhere,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said.

Is the age to buy tobacco headed to 21?

The campaign to raise the minimum age to buy tobacco products has added a major booster: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Kentucky Republican said yesterday in his home state that he would introduce a bill next month that would make tobacco and e-cigarettes available only to people 21 and older. The move follows scrutiny by the Trump administration, led largely by former FDA chief Scott Gottlieb, of tobacco products. Some Senate Republicans have criticized the administration’s initiatives, such as the proposed ban on menthol cigarettes, but McConnell said he expects bipartisan support for his bill. About a dozen states have set the minimum age for tobacco at 21, measures that tobacco and vaping companies largely support. 

Tracking the health of face transplants long term

More than 40 facial transplants have been performed around the world, and as more patients are undergoing the procedure, researchers are trying to figure out how to gauge the long-term health of the transplants. While transplant teams look for certain clues, such as redness and swelling, to check for rejection in the period following the surgery, they haven’t had enough evidence to know if those signals are valid ways of detecting rejection over time. In a new study, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital looked at the cases of seven facial transplant recipients with up to eight years of follow-up. Overall, the researchers found that the signs of acute rejection seem not to have much value after two years, so transplant teams will need to continue with skin biopsies in the long run to monitor for rejection.

Inside STAT: A malaria vaccine faces a pivotal test


A child with malaria sleeps under a mosquito net in a hospital in western Kenya. (Karel Prinsloo/AP)

The world’s first vaccine that offers partial protection against malaria is facing a prime-time test. Starting this month, the vaccine — called RTS,S — will be rolled out in Ghana’s immunization program for children, with Malawi and Kenya to follow. RTS,S, which is made by GSK, cut infections by about 40 percent in a Phase 3 trial, but it has not been deployed widely in the field. Experts will be looking to see if it’s feasible to give the four-dose vaccine in resource-limited and rural areas, and what impact the vaccine has on the burden of malaria, which is caused by a parasite spread through the bite of Anopheles mosquitoes. Progress against malaria has slowed in recent years, with the infection still causing about 445,000 deaths each year. STAT's Helen Branswell has the story here

Hickory dickory dock, the mouse ran on a treadmill

We often look to scientific studies for conclusions. But in the latest example of how ill-advised that can be, two research teams that studied how time of day affects the benefits we reap from exercise arrived at different findings. One group observed that morning exercise offers “a more robust impact” than an evening workout, whereas the other group “found exercise performance is better in the evening,” according to the papers, both published in Cell Metabolism. The studies underscore the role of the circadian clock in exercise efficiency, but they examined changing levels of different molecules and body processes — only capturing some of the ways the body responds to exercise. Plus, most of the research was done in mice, and trying to draw conclusions about human fitness by forcing a mouse onto a treadmill is not the best route for trying to decide whether to go for your run in the morning or evening.

Swim goggles could protect eyes in space travel

Astronauts returning from lengthy trips to space face eye and vision problems for years, so researchers have been trying to come up with ways to protect the eyes. One possible tool, according to a new study: swimming goggles. In a small study conducted at NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, researchers found that participants who wore goggles as they exercised in a way that simulated being in space had higher intraocular pressure than those who didn’t wear goggles — an indication that their eyes were being safeguarded somewhat. The researchers noted it was a small study and needed additional investigation.

What to read around the web today

  • Opinion: What my polio-stricken mother would tell parents today about the importance of immunization. STAT
  • Judge upholds New York City's mandatory measles vaccination order. Reuters
  • Pricing is taking a toll on the reputation of the pharmaceutical industry. STAT Plus
  • AG Mike Hunter’s son got a job with the university program that's reaping most of opioid settlement, but AG's office says there's no connection. Tulsa World
  • A new genetic test can offer clues — and only clues — to a person’s risk of obesity. STAT

Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!

Shraddha

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Friday, April 19, 2019

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