Monday, February 27, 2017

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking

Good morning, folks, and welcome to Morning Rounds! I'm here with what you need to know about health and medicine today. 

CDC convenes meeting on mosquito-borne disease

The CDC is bringing together experts this morning to swap strategies for how best to track and control the mosquitoes that spread Zika, yellow fever, dengue, and chikungunya. The two-day meeting will convene more than 150 scientists to talk about what works and what doesn’t in current methods to control Aedes aegypti. They’ll also be discussing the design of large-scale studies to evaluate how well new tools might work to reduce mosquito-borne illness. This morning’s opening speech will be broadcast online at 9 a.m. ET — find the details here

Congress returns to debate over Obamacare repeal

Congress is back from a weeklong recess, and Republican legislators will likely return to the debate over how to proceed with repealing the Affordable Care Act. A leaked draft of the House Republican plan to replace the health law — while not a final legislative text by any means — offers a look at what Republicans have in mind. It would phase out the Medicaid expansion that has covered millions under Obamacare by 2020, instead designating a dollar amount for states to receive for each person covered by Medicaid. It would also do away with Obamacare’s mandate that insurance plans cover specific health services, including mental health care and substance abuse treatment. The proposed plan would return to states the decision on what coverage to require. STAT’s Dylan Scott has more.

A sound-shaping material for medical devices

Next-level legos that probably still hurt to step on. (INTERACT LAB, UNIVERSITY OF SUSSEX)

These tiny bricks are being used to build a metamaterial that can bend, shape, and focus sound waves, pointing to a potential new way to upgrade medical imaging devices. Right now, finely-tuned sound fields are used in devices such as ultrasounds to create images of the inside of the body. But those devices are costly and relatively difficult to build. The newly developed metamaterial — which can be quickly and cheaply 3-D printed and assembled — aims to focus sound waves in much the same way an ultrasound does. In the future, the researchers say, custom-assembled collections of these bricks could direct high-intensity sound waves toward a tumor in an effort to kill off cancer cells. 

Sponsor content by Tufts Medical Center

Father, son cardiologists change narrative on a once grim genetic disease

Fifty years ago receiving a diagnosis of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) was virtually a death sentence. Categorized by thickening of the heart muscle, HCM may be best recognized as the most common cause of sudden death in young athletes. But due to the life’s work of a father and son physician team now at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, HCM is not only treatable, but patients with proper management can achieve normal life expectancy. Read more.

Inside STAT: The quest to create artificial blood

artificial blood that could be freeze-dried into a powder and then mixed with sterile water when needed. (Dom smith / stat)

Fresh blood can only last a few hours without refrigeration and can only be stored for 42 days — meaning that an alternative is desperately needed. In battlefields or other remote areas without easy access to blood supplies, a solution could help keep the injured alive until they can be transported to a hospital. But the scientific quest to develop a blood substitute has hit hurdles, with several companies abandoning their attempts. STAT’s Andrew Joseph has more from a lab in St. Louis trying a new technique to develop artificial blood — read here.

What do you want to hear from Trump? 

President Trump is gearing up to meet this morning with execs from major US health insurers, including leaders from UnitedHealth, Aetna, and Cigna, Bloomberg reports. Tomorrow, the president is slated to address a joint session of Congress for the first time. What do you expect him to say on the ACA? What questions would you like to hear Trump answer about health care? Let me know by hitting reply to this email or getting in touch at We’ll share your predictions and wish list ahead of tomorrow’s address.

New study looks at how kids change sleep habits

Having kids in the house affects how well women sleep — much more so than it does for men, according to new findings presented this weekend at a neurology conference. Researchers surveyed about 5,800 people to see how long they slept. They also asked people about their age, race, employment status, and the number of kids in the household. Among women under age 45, 48 percent of those with kids reported getting at least seven hours of sleep per night, compared to 62 percent of those without kids. For men, though, the researchers didn’t see any difference. The big caveat: It’s just a retrospective study, so it relies on how well people remembered their sleeping patterns over the past month.

Weighing the costs of universal drug coverage

A new paper to be published in CMAJ Open analyzes what it might look like if essential prescription medicines were publicly funded in Canada. Universal coverage for some pharmaceuticals is an idea that’s been bandied about in the country, which has universal health care that doesn’t cover the cost of prescriptions. The new study looked at funding for 117 essential medicines — a definition laid down by the WHO and which includes antibiotics, insulin, cardiovascular drugs, and oral contraception. Those essential medicines accounted for 44 percent of prescriptions in Canada in 2015.

The researchers estimate covering those drugs would cost the government $1.2 billion per year, but would save patients and drug plans an estimated $4.3 billion per year. They're currently prepping for a trial to compare health outcomes and health care use of people who receive essential medicines free of charge against those who don’t.

What to read around the web today

  • Doctors take death education to high school classrooms. NPR
  • American researchers infected Guatemalans with syphilis and gonorrhea. Their families are still waiting for help. Slate
  • Infant who survived in 1920s sideshow incubator dies at 96. AP

More reads from STAT

Thanks for reading! I'll be out tomorrow, but look out for Morning Rounds brought to you by my colleague, Andrew Joseph. Have a great day,


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