As egg prices soar, the deadliest bird flu outbreak in US history drags on

Chicken eggs are disposed of at a quarantined farm in Israel's northern Moshav (village) of Margaliot on January 3, 2022.

Enlarge / Chicken eggs are disposed of at a quarantined farm in Israel’s northern Moshav (village) of Margaliot on January 3, 2022. (credit: Getty | JALAA MAREY / AFP))

The ongoing bird flu outbreak in the US is now the longest and deadliest on record. More than 57 million birds have been killed by the virus or culled since a year ago, and the deadly disruption has helped propel skyrocketing egg prices and a spike in egg smuggling.

Since highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) A(H5N1) was first detected in US birds in January 2022, the price of a carton of a dozen eggs has shot up from an average of about $1.79 in December 2021 to $4.25 in December 2022, a 137 percent increase, according to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Although inflation and supply chain issues partly explain the rise, eggs saw the largest percentage increase of any specific food, according to the consumer price index.

And the steep pricing is leading some at the US-Mexico border to try to smuggle in illegal cartons, which is prohibited. A US Customs and Border Protection spokesperson told NPR this week that people in El Paso, Texas, are buying eggs in Juárez, Mexico, because they are “significantly less expensive.” Meanwhile, a customs official in San Diego tweeted a reminder amid a rise in egg interceptions that failure to declare such agriculture items at a port of entry can result in penalties up to $10,000.

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#avian-influenza, #biology, #bird-flu, #birds, #h5n1, #infectious-disease, #medicine, #mink, #poultry, #public-health, #science, #viruses

Gonorrhea is becoming unstoppable; highly resistant cases found in US

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria, which causes gonorrhea.

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria, which causes gonorrhea. (credit: NIAID)

The most highly drug-resistant cases of gonorrhea detected in the US to date appeared in two unrelated people in Massachusetts, state health officials announced Thursday.

The cases mark the first time that US isolates of the gonorrhea-causing bacterium, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, have shown complete resistance or reduced susceptibility to all drugs that are recommended for treatment.

Fortunately, both cases were successfully cured with potent injections of the antibiotic ceftriaxone, despite the bacterial isolates demonstrating reduced susceptibility to the drug. Ceftriaxone is currently the frontline recommended treatment for the sexually transmitted infection.

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#antibiotic-resistance, #antibiotics, #gonorrhea, #infectious-disease, #massachusetts, #medicine, #multidrug-resistance, #public-health, #science, #sexually-transmitted-infection, #who

Leona Zacharias Helped Solve a Blindness Epidemic among Premature Babies. She Received Little Credit

In the first Lost Women of Science Shorts podcast, host Katie Hafner dives into the life and work of Leona Zacharias—a brilliant researcher who, before reporting this story, Hafner only knew as her grandmother

#health, #medicine

US acceptance of COVID vaccines rises, now like other Western democracies

A medical professional administers a shot to the arm of a seated individual.

Enlarge (credit: Luis Alvarez)

COVID vaccines remain the safest way to reduce the chance that SARS-CoV-2 can put you in the hospital and are therefore a critical component of the public health campaign against the pandemic. Yet, in the US, there has been lots of controversy and outright anger about attempts to expand the use of vaccines, and a substantial portion of the population appears to be avoiding the shots for political reasons.

The extreme polarization of the US’ politics hasn’t gone away, and the controversy seems to be fresh in some politicians’ minds, so it’s easy to expect that the vaccine hesitancy isn’t going away. But an international survey on COVID vaccine attitudes suggests that the US has seen a large boost in COVID vaccine acceptance and now has attitudes similar to other westernized democracies. Elsewhere in the world, the survey reveals clear regional patterns in vaccine acceptance, although there are oddities everywhere.

Becoming typical

The survey started out back in 2020 as a series of questions about whether people intended to get vaccines once they became available. In the intervening years, the people performing the survey have added several nations (it’s now up to a total of 23) and shifted the questions to account for the availability of vaccines, addition of boosters, and development of treatments for COVID-19. In all 23 countries, the survey involved a pool of 1,000 participants who were generally reflective of the country’s population.

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#covid, #medicine, #pademic, #public-health, #saris-cov-2, #science, #vaccines

Gene therapy has made some recent progress—is it enough?

Gene therapy has made some recent progress—is it enough?

Enlarge (credit: MARK GARLICK/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY)

Gene therapy has had a long and bumpy history. Although researchers have made some notable and recent progress, past failures—including some deaths—have fueled mistrust and controversy.

Despite these issues, experts say there could be a bright future ahead if gene therapy can be shown to work for difficult and rare genetic diseases. But even if gene therapy is developed successfully, researchers say that, given the past troubles, education and outreach efforts may be needed to improve people’s perception of the treatments. In the meantime, gene therapy will likely remain subject to an ongoing debate about whether its risks outweigh its rewards.

Where we’re at

Gene therapy is shorthand for a suite of techniques that attempt to treat diseases by modifying a patient’s DNA. This process can involve removing a piece of DNA that causes a disease, introducing a new gene to fight a disease or various other methods of altering gene activity. The types of cells targeted and how changes in DNA are engineered can vary considerably.

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#bluebird-bio, #features, #gene-therapy, #genetics, #history, #medicine, #rare-diseases, #science

Tale from the crypt: Researchers conduct “virtual autopsy” of mummified toddler

A CT scan of the infant mummy's head, showing deformation of the skull bones.

Enlarge / A CT scan of the infant mummy’s head, showing deformation of the skull bones. (credit: A.G. Nerlich et al., 2022)

There’s rarely time to write about every cool science-y story that comes our way. So this year, we’re once again running a special Twelve Days of Christmas series of posts, highlighting one science story that fell through the cracks in 2022, each day from December 25 through January 5. Today: Scientists conducted a “virtual autopsy” of a mummified toddler from the 17th century, concluding the remains are likely those of one Reichard Wilhelm (1625-1626).

A multidisciplinary team of Austrian and German scientists performed a “virtual autopsy” of the 17th century mummified remains of an infant, remarkably preserved in an aristocratic family crypt. They found that despite the infant’s noble upbringing, the child suffered from extreme nutritional deficiency, causing rickets or scurvy, and likely died after contracting pneumonia, according to an October paper published in the journal Frontiers in Medicine.

“This is only one case,” said co-author Andreas Nerlich of the Academic Clinic Munich-Bogenhausen. “But as we know that the early infant death rates generally were very high at that time, our observations may have considerable impact in the overall life reconstruction of infants even in higher social classes.”

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#12-days-of-christmas, #ct-scanning, #forensic-archaeology, #medicine, #mummification, #physics, #science, #virtual-autopsy

Maybe Edward the Black Prince didn’t die from chronic dysentery after all

Effigy of Edward of Woodstock, aka the Black Prince, in Canterbury Cathedral.

Enlarge / Effigy of Edward of Woodstock, aka the Black Prince, in Canterbury Cathedral. (credit: Josep Renalias/CC BY-SA 2.5)

There’s rarely time to write about every cool science-y story that comes our way. So this year, we’re once again running a special Twelve Days of Christmas series of posts, highlighting one science story that fell through the cracks in 2022, each day from December 25 through January 5. Today: A military historian argues that Edward the Black Prince died of malaria and inflammatory bowel disease—not chronic dysentery, as previously believed.

Edward of Woodstock, known as the Black Prince, was a formidable mid-14th century warrior who emerged from multiple battles relatively unscathed—only to be felled by disease at the relatively young age of 45. Historians have long believed he died of chronic dysentery, but James Robert Anderson, a military historian with 21 Engineer Regiment, believes the Black Prince was more likely brought down by malaria or inflammatory bowel disease. He and his co-authors made their case in a short December paper published in the journal BMJ Military Health.

“There are several diverse infections or inflammatory conditions that may have led to his demise,” Anderson et al. wrote. “These might include malaria, brucellosis, inflammatory bowel disease, or long term complications of acute dysentery. However, chronic dysentery is probably unlikely.”

As we’ve reported previously, Edward of Woodstock was the eldest son of King Edward III and heir apparent to the throne. He was educated in philosophy and logic and well-trained in the art of war—skills that proved useful in this particular period of the Hundred Years’ War, when invasion by the French was a constant threat.

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#biology, #forensic-archaeology, #gaming-culture, #history, #history-of-medicine, #medicine, #science, #the-black-prince

CRISPR’s quest to slay Donegal Amy

CRISPR’s quest to slay Donegal Amy

Enlarge (credit: Yasmin Monet Butcher/Jacqui Vanliew/Getty Images)

In the 5th century, in early medieval Ireland, Conall Gulban, an Irish king, gave his name to an area of land at the northwest tip of the Irish coast. His kingdom was called Tír Chonall, the “land of Conall”—or, today, Donegal.

Somewhere along the king’s descendant line, known as Cenél Conaill or “kindred of Conall,” it’s thought that a mistake arose in a scion’s genome—specifically, a mutation of a gene responsible for producing a protein called transthyretin (TTR). The genetic error resulted in the birth of a rare condition known as hereditary transthyretin (ATTR) amyloidosis.

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#crispr, #genetic-diseases, #medicine, #science

Meet the Medical Student Challenging Racial Bias with TikTok

Medical influencer Joel Bervell is challenging racism in health care, one TikTok at a time.

#health, #medicine

First ‘Vagina-on-a-Chip’ Will Help Researchers Test Drugs

A new chip re-creates the human vagina’s unique microbiome

#biology, #health, #medicine, #microbiology, #technology

Officials, experts call for masking as illnesses slam US ahead of holidays

Commuters in a subway in New York on October 25, 2022.

Enlarge / Commuters in a subway in New York on October 25, 2022. (credit: Getty | Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto)

Health officials and experts are renewing calls for masking as respiratory illnesses surge and Americans prepare for holidays.

RSV infections in children appear to be cresting nationally after overwhelming children’s hospitals for weeks, but they remain unseasonably high. Influenza-like illnesses also remain extremely high for this point in the year, with flu-like illnesses accounting for more than 1 in 13 visits to the doctor’s office and hospitalizations continuing to rise. Respiratory infection transmission is high or very high in 42 states.

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, meanwhile, are on the rise, signaling the potential start of a much-dreaded winter wave. According to data tracking by The New York Times, cases are up 56 percent over the last two weeks and hospitalizations, which typically lag behind case rises, are up 28 percent. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting that about 9 percent of US counties have high COVID-19 Community Levels, which are based on case numbers and hospital capacity. An additional 35 percent of US counties reportedly have medium community levels.

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#biology, #covid-19, #infectious-disease, #masks, #medicine, #public-health, #science

Pfizer seeks FDA greenlight for bivalent COVID dose in kids under 5 years

Vials of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

Enlarge / Vials of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. (credit: SOPA images)

With respiratory illnesses ravaging children around the US, vaccine partners Pfizer and BioNTech announced Monday that they are seeking regulatory authorization to offer their bivalent COVID-19 vaccine to children ages 6 months to 4 years—but not as a booster; instead it would be part of an updated primary series.

Currently, the bivalent vaccine, which targets the coronavirus omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 in addition to an ancestral strain, is only available as a booster dose to Americans ages 5 years and up. Although BA.5 is no longer dominant in the US, its sublineages now reign. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently published real-world effectiveness data indicating that the bivalent boosters increased protection against symptomatic COVID-19 infection over protection provided by the previous boosters.

For now, children under 5 only have had access to a primary series—two small doses of Moderna’s original vaccine or three small doses of Pfizer/BioNTech’s original vaccine. Both were first authorized on June 17 after a rollercoaster regulatory process that lasted months.

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#biontech, #bivalent, #booster, #children, #children-under-5, #covid-19, #infectious-disease, #medicine, #pandemic, #pfizer, #primary-series, #public-health, #science, #vaccine

Over a year later, Musk’s Neuralink still 6 months from human trials

Image of a mannequin on a reclining table, with equipment surrounding its head.

Enlarge / The on-stage demo of the surgical robot practically extended into the audience. (credit: Neuralink)

On Wednesday night, Elon Musk hosted an update from his brain-computer interface company, Neuralink. Most of the update involved various researchers at the company providing overviews of the specific areas of technology development they were working on. But there wasn’t anything dramatically new in the tech compared to last year’s update, and it was difficult to piece the presentations together into a coherent picture of what the company plans to do with its hardware.

But probably the most striking thing is that last year’s update indicated that Neuralink was getting close to human testing. Over a year later, those tests remain about six months out, according to Musk.

Lots of tech

Neuralink involves a large series of overlapping technical efforts. The interface itself requires electrodes implanted into the brain. To connect those electrodes with the outside world, Neuralink is using a small bit of hardware implanted in the skull. This contains a battery that can be recharged wirelessly, and a low-power chip that gathers data from the electrodes, performs some simple processing on it, and then transmits that data wirelessly.

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#biology, #brain-computer-interface, #medicine, #neuralink, #neurobiology, #science

Homeopath who made thousands on bogus COVID pellets gets nearly 3 years in prison

Extreme close-up photograph of a row of vials.

Enlarge / Vials containing pills for homeopathic remedies are displayed at Ainsworths Pharmacy on August 26, 2005, in London. (credit: Getty | Peter Macdiarmid)

California naturopath and homeopath Juli Mazi will spend 33 months in federal prison for falsifying federal COVID-19 vaccination cards and selling pellets she falsely claimed would offer lifetime protection from COVID.

It was a scheme that netted her thousands of dollars in the early phases of the pandemic before also earning her the first federal criminal fraud prosecution related to bogus COVID-19 vaccination and vaccination records.

Mazi, of Napa, California, pleaded guilty to the charges in April and faced a maximum sentence of 25 years for all the charges.

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#covid-19, #fraud, #healthcare-fraud, #homeopath, #homeopathy, #immunication, #juli-mazi, #medicine, #naturopath, #pandemic, #public-health, #science, #vaccination, #vaccination-cards, #vaccines

Musk’s Twitter abandons COVID misinfo policy, shirking “huge responsibility”

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk presents a vaccine production device during a meeting September 2, 2020, in Berlin, Germany. Musk met with vaccine-maker CureVac, with which Tesla has a cooperation to build devices for producing RNA vaccines.

Enlarge / Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk presents a vaccine production device during a meeting September 2, 2020, in Berlin, Germany. Musk met with vaccine-maker CureVac, with which Tesla has a cooperation to build devices for producing RNA vaccines. (credit: Getty | Filip Singer)

Under the leadership of billionaire Elon Musk, social media platform Twitter has abandoned its efforts to prevent the spread of dangerous COVID-19 misinformation on its platform, dismaying experts who say false and misleading health information can harm individuals and put lives at risk.

“Effective November 23, 2022, Twitter is no longer enforcing the COVID-19 misleading information policy,” the company noted in various places on its website.

From the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, public health responses have been severely stymied by a plague of misinformation, often in digital spaces.

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#covid-19, #health, #health-misinformation, #infectious-disease, #medicine, #misinformation, #musk, #pandemic, #policy, #public-health, #science, #twitter, #vaccination, #who

China links COVID outbreak to man’s jog through a park; Scientists skeptical

Runner in Shanghai, China.

Enlarge / Runner in Shanghai, China. (credit: Getty| Avalon)

In the early morning of August 16, a 41-year-old man in China’s southwest-central municipality of Chongqing got up and went for a jog along a lake in a local outdoor park—something that should have been a pleasant, if not unremarkable, outing. But what really happened during that 35-minute jaunt has now sparked international alarm and debate, with some scientists doubtful of China’s startling account.

According to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the unmasked man infected 33 unmasked park visitors and two unmasked park workers with the coronavirus omicron subvariant BA.2.76 during his short run. The agency claimed transmission occurred in fleeting outdoor encounters as he trotted past people on a four-meter-wide foot path. Many others were infected without any close encounter. Twenty of the 33 infected park goers became infected by simply visiting outdoor areas of the park the jogger had previously passed through, including an entrance gate. The two infected workers, meanwhile, quickly passed the infection on to four other colleagues, bringing the jogger’s park outbreak total to 39.

To support these unusual conclusions, the CCDC cited case interviews, park surveillance footage, and SARS-CoV-2 genetic data, which reportedly linked the cases but is notably absent from the report.

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#biology, #china, #covid-19, #jogger, #medicine, #omicron, #outdoor, #public-health, #sars-cov-2, #science, #transmission, #virology, #virus

After renegade nurse chops off man’s foot, state finds heap of system failures

After renegade nurse chops off man’s foot, state finds heap of system failures

Enlarge (credit: Getty | DeAgostini)

Officials in Wisconsin found a series of failures and federal violations at a nursing home where a renegade nurse cut off a man’s foot without his consent and wanted to have it stuffed in her family’s taxidermy shop and put on display to warn children to “wear your boots” in cold weather.

The nurse, Mary Brown, 38, of Durand, has since been charged with two felony counts of elder abuse in connection with the illegal amputation, which occurred on May 27. She is scheduled to appear in court on December 6.

The man died on June 2, six days after losing his foot. A nursing aide who spoke with state investigators said the man “really declined after his foot was gone,” according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which reviewed a state inspection report.

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#amputation, #elder-abuse, #foot, #frostbite, #medicine, #nursing-home, #science

First efficacy data on bivalent boosters shows they work against infection

Dr. Anthony Fauci, White House chief medical adviser, speaks alongside COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha during a briefing on COVID-19 at the White House on November 22, 2022, in Washington, DC. Fauci spoke on the updated COVID-19 booster shots and encouraged individuals to get their vaccines. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Enlarge / Dr. Anthony Fauci, White House chief medical adviser, speaks alongside COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha during a briefing on COVID-19 at the White House on November 22, 2022, in Washington, DC. Fauci spoke on the updated COVID-19 booster shots and encouraged individuals to get their vaccines. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images) (credit: Getty | Win McNamee)

The updated bivalent COVID-19 booster vaccine increased protection against symptomatic disease compared with the original monovalent vaccine given as recently as two months ago.

That’s the takeaway from a study released Tuesday morning from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which offered the first clinical efficacy data for the bivalent shot since its national rollout in September.

In adults, the relative effectiveness of the bivalent vaccine’s protection against symptomatic infection ranged from about 30 percent to up to 56 percent compared with that of the monovalent vaccine, with the relative efficacy estimated to be larger the more time had passed since a person’s last monovalent shot.

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#ashish-jha, #bivalent, #booster, #covid-19, #efficacy, #fauci, #infection, #infectious-disease, #medicine, #pandemic, #public-health, #relative-efficacy, #science, #vaccinated, #vaccine, #white-house

Eli Lilly CEO says insulin tweet flap “probably” signals need to bring down cost

In this photo illustration the Eli Lilly and Company logo

Enlarge (credit: Getty | SOPA Images)

In his first public remarks since a false tweet inflamed outrage over the cost of insulin in the US, Eli Lilly CEO David Ricks defended his company’s pricing—but also conceded it could be lower.

“It probably highlights that we have more work to do to bring down the cost of insulin for more people,” Ricks said of the Twitter fury.

He made his comments at an event held by Stat News this week. Eli Lilly did not respond to Ars’ request for more information about what work the company will do to lower prices.

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#bernie-sanders, #diabets, #drug-pricing, #eli-lilly, #healthcare, #insulin, #list-pricing, #medicine, #musk, #pharmaceutical-industry, #prescription-drugs, #science, #twitter

Lost 8th century Japanese medical text by Buddhist monk has been found

Priest in Meditation, 15th century. Possibly the blind Chinese priest Jianzhen (Ganjin in Japanese; 688-763).

Enlarge / Priest in Meditation, 15th century. Possibly the blind Chinese priest Jianzhen (Ganjin in Japanese; 688-763). (credit: Heritage Images/Getty Images)

The practice of herbal medicine in Japan is known as Kampo, and such treatments are often prescribed alongside Western medicines (and covered by the national health care system). The first person to teach traditional Chinese medicine in Japan was an 8th century Buddhist monk named Jianzhen (Ganjin in Japanese), who collected some 1,200 prescriptions in a book: Jianshangren (Holy Priest Jianzhen)’s Secret Prescription. The text was believed lost for centuries, but the authors of a recent paper published in the journal Compounds stumbled across a book published in 2009 that includes most of Jianzhen’s original prescriptions.

“Before the book Jianshangren’s Secret Prescription was found, everyone thought it had disappeared in the world,” Shihui Liu and his co-authors at Okayama University in Japan wrote. “Fortunately, we found it before it disappeared completely. It has not yet been included in the intangible cultural heritage. As we all know, intangible cultural heritage itself is very fragile. Everything has a process of generation, growth, continuation, and extinction, and the remains of intangible cultural heritage are also in such a dynamic process. We hope to draw more people’s attention to protect many intangible cultures that are about to disappear, including Jianshangren’s Secret Prescription.”

Born in what is now Yangzhou, China, Jianzhen became a disciple of Dayun Temple at 14 years old, eventually becoming abbot of Daming Temple. He was also known to have medical expertise—passed down from monks to disciples for generations—and even opened a hospital within the temple. In the fall of 742, a Japanese emissary invited Jianzhen to lecture in Japan, and the monk agreed (although some of his disciples were displeased). But the crossing did not succeed. Nor did his next three attempts to travel to Japan.

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#ancient-medicine, #chinese-traditional-medicine, #gaming-culture, #herbal-medicine, #history, #medicine, #medieval-medicine, #science

Record number of parents miss work as respiratory illnesses spike in kids

Parents work on their computers while their son entertains himself at their home in Boston in April 2020.

Enlarge / Parents work on their computers while their son entertains himself at their home in Boston in April 2020. (credit: Getty | Boston Globe)

Respiratory illnesses are raging this fall, slamming children particularly hard. Cases of influenza-like illnesses are off to a startlingly strong and early start this season. RSV—respiratory syncytial (sin-SISH-uhl) virus—continues to skyrocket. A stew of SARS-CoV-2 variants is still simmering in the background. And the rabble of usual cold-season viruses, such as rhinoviruses and enteroviruses, is also making the rounds.

With the surge in infections, children’s hospitals around the country have reported being at capacity or overwhelmed, as Ars has reported before. But another effect of the crush of viruses is a squeeze on the workforce. As The Washington Post first reported Tuesday, the US broke its record last month for people missing work due to childcare problems—such as having children home sick and childcare facilities or schools shuttered due to staffing shortages and sickness.

In October, more than 100,000 employed Americans missed work for childcare-related problems, according to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. That is more missing workers than in any other month in recent records, including the entirety of the COVID-19 pandemic, during which many childcare facilities and schools closed down for extended periods. At the height of pandemic-related shutdowns in 2020, the number of Americans missing work for childcare problems only reached the low 90,000s.

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#ashish-jha, #biology, #cdc, #childcare, #covid-19, #flu, #infectious-disease, #influenza, #labor, #medicine, #outbreak, #parents, #public-health, #respiratory-illnesses, #rsv, #sars-cov-2, #science, #vaccination, #vaccines

Measles outbreak jumps to 7 Ohio daycares, 1 school—all with unvaccinated kids

A false color image of the measles virus.

A false color image of the measles virus. (credit: Arizona Department of Health)

A measles outbreak in Ohio has swiftly expanded, spreading to seven childcare facilities and one school, all with unvaccinated children, according to local health officials. The outbreak highlights the risk of the highly contagious but vaccine-preventable disease mushrooming amid slipping vaccination rates.

On November 9, the health departments of the city of Columbus and Franklin County, which encompasses Columbus, announced an outbreak at one childcare facility, which had sickened four unvaccinated children. Officials reportedly expected that more cases would follow.

As of Wednesday morning, there have been 18 confirmed cases from seven childcare facilities and one school. All of the cases are in unvaccinated children, and at least 15 cases are in children under the age of four. At least six have required hospitalization, Kelli Newman, spokesperson for Columbus Public Health, told Ars.

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#anti-vaccine, #biology, #children, #hospitalized, #infectious-disease, #measles, #medicine, #mmr, #ohio, #outbreak, #public-health, #science, #unvaccinated, #vaccination, #vaccine, #virus

How researchers used CRISPR gene editing to send immune cells after cancer

How researchers used CRISPR gene editing to send immune cells after cancer

(credit: Lawrence Berkeley National Labs)

Last week, researchers published the results of a clinical trial that used CRISPR gene editing to create a large population of cancer-targeting immune cells. The trial was short, and the reprogrammed immune cells weren’t especially effective against the cancer. But the technology, or something similar, is likely to be used in additional attempts to attack cancer and potentially treat a variety of diseases.

So, the trial provides a good opportunity to go through and explain what was done and why. But if you go back and re-read the first sentence, a lot was going on here, so there’s a fair amount to explain.

Cancer and the immune system

Cancers and the immune system have a complicated relationship. The immune system apparently eliminates many cancers before they become problems—people who are on immunosuppressive drugs experience a higher incidence of cancer because this function is inhibited. And, even once tumors become established, there’s often an immune response to the cancer. It’s just that cancer cells evolve the ability to evade and/or tamp down the immune response, allowing them to keep growing despite the immune system’s vigilance.

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#biology, #cancer, #crispr, #gene-editing, #immunology, #medicine, #science, #t-cells

For many disabled patients, the doctor is often not in

For many disabled patients, the doctor is often not in

Enlarge

Ben Salentine, associate director of health sciences managed care at the University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System, hasn’t been weighed in more than a decade. His doctors “just kind of guess,” his weight, he said, because they don’t have a wheelchair-accessible scale.

He’s far from alone. Many people with disabilities describe challenges in finding physicians prepared to care for them. “You would assume that medical spaces would be the most accessible places there are, and they’re not,” said Angel Miles, a rehabilitation program specialist with the Administration for Community Living, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Not only do clinics often lack the necessary equipment—such as scales that can accommodate people who use wheelchairs — but at least some physicians actively avoid patients with disabilities, using excuses such as “I’m not taking new patients,” or “you need a specialist,” according to a paper in the October 2022 issue of Health Affairs.

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#disability, #healthcare, #medicine, #policy, #science, #syndication

Southeast US has hit the roof of CDC’s respiratory illness level scale

Southeast US has hit the roof of CDC’s respiratory illness level scale

Enlarge (credit: CDC)

The US continues to see a dramatic and early surge in respiratory illnesses, which is hitting young children particularly hard and setting records for the decade.

The Southeast region is the most affected by the surge, which is driven by cases of flu, RSV (respiratory syncytial (sin-SISH-uhl) virus), and other seasonal respiratory viruses. Seven southern states—Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Virginia—have reached the highest level of respiratory-illness activity on the scale from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The states are colored a deep purple on the national map, representing the highest of sub-level of “Very High” activity.

Overall, 25 states are experiencing “High” or “Very High” levels of respiratory illness activity, while six have reached the moderate category.

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#biology, #cdc, #flu, #flu-shots, #infectious-disease, #influenza, #medicine, #rsv, #science

Musk’s Twitter chaos tosses outrageous insulin pricing into the spotlight

Advocates held a vigil in September 2019 outside of Eli Lillys' offices in New York City, honoring those who have lost their lives due to the high cost of insulin and demanding lower insulin prices.

Enlarge / Advocates held a vigil in September 2019 outside of Eli Lillys’ offices in New York City, honoring those who have lost their lives due to the high cost of insulin and demanding lower insulin prices. (credit: Getty | Erik McGregor)

Social media platform Twitter has been mired by uncertainty and disorder in the few, yet lengthy days since billionaire Elon Musk took the helm. But above the din of fake accounts and capricious policy changes, a fury-fueled dialogue has erupted on the platform over what is, perhaps, an unexpected topic—the exorbitant price of insulin.

Early Thursday afternoon (EST), an account posing as pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, with the Twitter handle @EliLillyandCo, the company’s logo, and blue checkmark by its name—which formerly only signaled verification of the account’s identify, but has since marked accounts of those who simply paid an $8 subscription fee—tweeted the enticing, but false claim: “We are excited to announce insulin is free now.”

The tweet, which stayed publicly viewable up for at least four hours, began a viral spread, garnering at least 1,798 retweets and 12,800 likes before the account was set to protected, meaning that only approved followers can see its tweets. The account currently shows zero followers.

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#big-pharma, #biology, #diabetes, #drug-prices, #eli-lilly, #insulin, #medicine, #musk, #pharmaceutical-industry, #prescription-drugs, #science, #twitter

Measles outbreak erupts among unvaccinated children in Ohio daycare

This child, who had been ill with measles, exhibited the characteristic rash on the fourth day of its evolution. Measles can cause hearing loss, brain damage, and be fatal to young children.

Enlarge / This child, who had been ill with measles, exhibited the characteristic rash on the fourth day of its evolution. Measles can cause hearing loss, brain damage, and be fatal to young children. (credit: CDC/NIP/ Barbara Rice)

Amid declining vaccination rates nationwide, an outbreak of measles has erupted this week among unvaccinated children at a childcare facility in Columbus, Ohio.

The outbreak has sickened at least four children so far, all of whom are unvaccinated with no history of travel, meaning they contracted the highly contagious virus locally, according to Columbus-area health officials. An investigation into the outbreak is ongoing. Health officials are notifying parents and tracing contacts. The childcare facility is cooperating and has temporarily closed.

Columbus CBS affiliate WBNS-TV reported that one of the four cases had been hospitalized in intensive care. Officials also told the outlet that they expect additional cases will be identified in the coming days.

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#biology, #infectious-disease, #measles, #medicine, #mmr, #ohio, #outbreak, #polio, #public-health, #science, #vaccines

Nurse who called 911 on her ER talks chaos, fear amid understaffing crisis

Emergency department staff members work at Providence St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, California, on November 1. Orange County's health officer has declared a local health emergency in response to increases in respiratory illnesses and an onslaught of the quickly spreading RSV, a respiratory virus that is most dangerous in young children.

Enlarge / Emergency department staff members work at Providence St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, California, on November 1. Orange County’s health officer has declared a local health emergency in response to increases in respiratory illnesses and an onslaught of the quickly spreading RSV, a respiratory virus that is most dangerous in young children. (credit: Getty | Orange County Register)

The charge nurse who called 911 last month when her emergency department became overwhelmed with patients is speaking candidly about the chaos, fear, and unsafe conditions that continue to plague her hospital and others around the country.

Kelsay Irby, the ER charge nurse at St. Michael’s Medical Center in the greater Seattle area, penned an eye-opening essay for Nurse.org Tuesday, offering context, commentary, and more details around the infamous night of October 8.

That evening, the hospital’s emergency department was “even more short-staffed than normal, operating at less than 50 percent of our ideal staffing grid,” Irby said, and there were around 50 people in the waiting room. The nurses were becoming increasingly nervous that some of the people stuck waiting in the lobby had cardiac and respiratory problems, and there were also children with very high fevers. With only one nurse available to keep an eye on people waiting, they could be “unmonitored for extended periods of time.”

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#cyberattacks, #doctors, #emergency-department, #healthcare, #hospitals, #medicine, #nurses, #nursing, #science, #understaffing

Elizabeth Holmes loses bid for new trial despite bizarre visit from key witness

Former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes (center) arrives at federal court with her father, Christian Holmes, and partner, Billy Evans, on October 17 in San Jose, California. Holmes appeared in federal court related to an attempt to overturn her fraud conviction.

Enlarge / Former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes (center) arrives at federal court with her father, Christian Holmes, and partner, Billy Evans, on October 17 in San Jose, California. Holmes appeared in federal court related to an attempt to overturn her fraud conviction. (credit: Getty | Justin Sullivan)

Elizabeth Holmes, the disgraced founder of the defunct blood-testing startup Theranos, lost her bid for a new fraud trial. That’s despite the dramatic twist in the case last month, with Holmes winning a last-minute hearing over a bizarre incident in which the government’s star witness against her showed up distraught and disheveled at her home.

Holmes, who was convicted in January on four counts of criminal fraud for deceiving investors, is now scheduled for sentencing on November 18.

In a ruling filed late Monday, US District Judge Edward Davila flatly denied Holmes’ motions for a new trial, concluding that they didn’t include new information relating to her case or establish any misconduct by government prosecutors.

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#biotechnology, #blood-testing, #fraud, #holmes, #medicine, #policy, #science, #start-up, #theranos

US hospitals are so overloaded that one ER called 911 on itself

An isolation tent for an emergency department in Walnut Creek, California, in March 2022.

Enlarge / An isolation tent for an emergency department in Walnut Creek, California, in March 2022. (credit: Getty | Gado)

Although COVID-19 remains in a lull, hospitals across the country are in crisis amid a towering wave of seasonal respiratory illnesses—particularly RSV in children—as well as longer-term problems, such as staffing shortages.

Pediatric beds are filling or full, people with urgent health problems are waiting hours in emergency departments hallways and even parking lots, and some hospitals have pitched outdoor tents, conjuring memories of the early days of the pandemic.

In one of the most striking examples, the emergency department of a Seattle-area hospital became so overwhelmed last month that the department’s charge nurse called 911 for help, telling the fire department that they were “drowning” and in “dire straits.” There were reportedly over 45 people in the department’s waiting room and only five nurses on staff.

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#biology, #covid-19, #healthcare, #hospitals, #medicine, #pandemic, #rsv, #science, #staff-shortage, #staffing, #us

Bivalent booster is 4x better against BA.5 in older adults, Pfizer says

Bivalent booster is 4x better against BA.5 in older adults, Pfizer says

Enlarge (credit: Getty | Future Publishing)

The new bivalent COVID-19 booster spurred neutralizing antibody levels that were fourfold higher against the omicron subvariants BA.4/BA.5 in older adults than those seen after the original booster, Pfizer reported Friday.

The new data may help calm concerns about whether the updated booster is an improvement over the previous booster. But the fall booster campaign—aimed at preventing another devastating winter wave—still faces considerable challenges. For one thing, a shockingly low number of Americans are rolling up their sleeves to get the shot.

Better boost

Experts all agree that the new booster shot, like the old one, will revive waning immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 and provide strong protection from severe COVID-19. But some experts have expressed skepticism about whether the updated bivalent booster—which in part targets omicron subvariants BA.4/BA.5—will offer a clinically meaningful advantage over the previous booster in preventing mild infections against the subvariant.

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#antibodies, #antibody-levels, #ba-4, #ba-5, #biology, #biontech, #bivalent, #booster, #bq-1, #bq-1-1, #covid-19, #infectious-disease, #medicine, #older-adults, #omicron, #pfizer, #public-health, #sars-cov-2, #science, #sublineages, #subvariants, #vaccination, #vaccines, #viruses

Teens with obesity lose 15% of body weight in trial of repurposed diabetes drug

Woman on a kg weight scale

Enlarge / Woman on a kg weight scale (credit: Getty | BSIP)

A repurposed Type 2 diabetes drug helped teens with obesity lose a significant amount of body weight,  lowered their risk factors for cardiovascular disease, and improved their weight-related quality of life over a 68-week clinical trial, researchers reported this week in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The drug is semaglutide (brand name Wegovy), which was first approved to treat Type 2 diabetes in 2017, but has since also proven useful for weight loss in adults who are obese or overweight. The drug works by mimicking a hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) that targets areas of the brain that regulate appetite and food intake, the Food and Drug Administration explained while approving its use for weight loss in adults.

The new data suggests that it may also substantially help teens struggling with obesity and overweight issues improve their health and outlook as they head into adulthood. One in five children and teens in the US has obesity, which can set children up for serious health conditions, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes, breathing problems, and joint problems, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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#biology, #bmi, #cdc, #fda, #medicine, #obesity, #overweight, #science, #semaglutide, #teens, #wegovy

Why Pfizer’s RSV vaccine success is a big deal, decades in the making

 An intensive care nurse cares for a patient suffering from respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), who is being ventilated in the children's intensive care unit of the Olga Hospital of the Stuttgart Clinic in Germany.

Enlarge / An intensive care nurse cares for a patient suffering from respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), who is being ventilated in the children’s intensive care unit of the Olga Hospital of the Stuttgart Clinic in Germany. (credit: Getty | picture alliance)

As an unusually large and early seasonal surge of RSV cases inundate children’s hospitals around the country, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer offered a glimmer of hope Tuesday in the form of top-line, phase three clinical trial results.

The company’s experimental RSV vaccine—given to pregnant trial participants—was 82 percent effective at preventing severe RSV-related lower respiratory tract illness in the first three months of an infant’s life. It was 69 percent effective over the first six months, Pfizer announced.

“We are thrilled by these data as this is the first-ever investigational vaccine shown to help protect newborns against severe RSV-related respiratory illness immediately at birth,” Pfizer Chief Scientific Officer Annaliesa Anderson said in a statement.

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#biology, #infectious-disease, #medicine, #pfizer, #respiratory-illness, #rsv, #science, #vaccine, #virus

AI in Medicine Is Overhyped

AI models for health care that predict disease are not as accurate as reports might suggest. Here’s why

#artificial-intelligence, #medicine, #technology

Filthy floodwaters from Hurricane Ian drove wave of flesh-eating infections

A resident of Gulf Air mobile home park walks through floodwaters from Hurricane Ian through her neighborhood near Fort Myers Beach on September 29.

Enlarge / A resident of Gulf Air mobile home park walks through floodwaters from Hurricane Ian through her neighborhood near Fort Myers Beach on September 29. (credit: Getty | The Washington Post)

In the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Ian, some of Florida’s hardest-hit areas are facing a new threat—a wave of flesh-eating bacterial infections that can crest in sewage-contaminated floodwaters.

In the weeks since the natural disaster, authorities in Florida’s Lee County—which surrounds Fort Myers—have seen a surge in potentially life-threatening Vibrio vulnificus infections. The bacteria are known to lurk in warm coastal waters, but fester amid pollution, particularly sewage spills.

This year, Lee County tallied 29 infections—27 identified in the aftermath of the hurricane—as well as four deaths. For comparison, Lee County recorded just five cases and one death in 2021, and zero cases in 2020. Florida overall has recorded 65 cases and 11 deaths in 2022, including those from Lee County. The state total is nearly double the totals from the past two years.

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#bacterial-infection, #biology, #flesh-eating, #flood, #flood-waters, #floriday, #foodborne-illness, #hurricane-ian, #lee-county, #medicine, #science, #septic-shock, #vibrio, #vibrio-vulnificus

Cheaper hearing aids hit stores today, available over the counter for first time

In this photo illustration, a Lexie Lumen hearing aid rests on a pharmacy counter at a Walgreens store on October 17 in Los Angeles. Walgreens is making Lexie Lumen hearing aids available for sale over the counter for adults beginning today following an FDA ruling allowing over-the-counter sales for hearing devices.

Enlarge / In this photo illustration, a Lexie Lumen hearing aid rests on a pharmacy counter at a Walgreens store on October 17 in Los Angeles. Walgreens is making Lexie Lumen hearing aids available for sale over the counter for adults beginning today following an FDA ruling allowing over-the-counter sales for hearing devices. (credit: Getty | Mario Tama)

Today, Americans can buy cheaper hearing aids for mild-to-moderate hearing loss without a prescription from a range of common retailers, including Walgreens, CVS, and Walmart—finally making the critical health devices more affordable and accessible to the estimated 28.8 million adults who could benefit from them.

The US Food and Drug Administration estimates the change could lower the average cost of obtaining a hearing aid by as much as $3,000. As of today, Walgreens is selling an over-the-counter model similar to hearing aids that range from $2,000 to $8,000 per pair at specialty retailers for just $799 per pair on its shelves, the White House said Monday. Likewise, Walmart said that, as of today, it is selling over-the-counter hearing aids ranging from $199 to $999 per pair, which are comparable to prescription hearing aids priced at $4,400 to $5,500 per pair.

The move is years in the making. In 2017, Congress passed a bipartisan proposal directing the FDA to set rules for selling over-the-counter devices. But the rules were slow to come. In July 2021, President Biden signed an executive order spurring the FDA to produce the rules, which the agency finalized in August of this year.

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#hearing-aids, #hearing-impairment, #hearing-loss, #medicine, #over-the-counter, #science

Nasal COVID vaccine blows clinical trial, flinging researchers back to the lab

A man receives an H1N1 nasal flu spray vaccine at an urgent care center on October 16, 2009, in Lake Worth, Florida.

Enlarge / A man receives an H1N1 nasal flu spray vaccine at an urgent care center on October 16, 2009, in Lake Worth, Florida. (credit: Getty | Joe Raedle)

The nasal version of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine failed an early-stage clinical trial, dashing hopes for better infection prevention and forcing researchers to re-think the design.

Many experts have hyped the potential of nasal COVID-19 vaccines. They argue that snorting the shots could encrust the nasal mucous membranes with snotty antibodies—namely IgA—and other immune defenses that could blow away SARS-CoV-2 virus particles before they have the chance to cause an infection. Currently, the shots given intramuscularly in arms provide robust systemic immune responses that prevent severe disease and death but spur relatively weak antibody levels on mucous membranes and, relatedly, don’t always prevent infection.

Researchers at the University of Oxford hoped to easily adapt their existing COVID-19 vaccine for such an infection-blasting schnoz spritz. The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is a viral vector-based design, using a weakened, benign virus to carry the genetic code of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein to human cells. The benign virus, in this case, is an adenovirus, a type best known for causing mild cold-like illnesses in humans, though the specific virus used in the vaccine was isolated from chimpanzees. (This vaccine has not been authorized in the US but is used in dozens of countries worldwide.)

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#antibodies, #astrazeneca, #biology, #covid-19, #iga, #infection, #infectious-disease, #medicine, #nasal, #public-health, #sars-cov-2, #science, #vaccine

Fall COVID surge begins in Europe—and US outlook already looks rough

Chairs for people who want to be vaccinated stand in the waiting room at the Mainz Vaccination Center. Currently, demand for COVID-19 booster vaccinations at vaccination centers and doctors' offices is low.

Enlarge / Chairs for people who want to be vaccinated stand in the waiting room at the Mainz Vaccination Center. Currently, demand for COVID-19 booster vaccinations at vaccination centers and doctors’ offices is low. (credit: Getty | picture alliance)

The dreaded winter COVID wave may already be upon us—and based on early signs, we may be in for a rough time.

As people head indoors amid cooling weather, several European countries are seeing upticks in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. Though the situation in the US remains quiet for now, trends in the US tend to echo those in Europe.

So far, the rise in cases is driven by a familiar foe: the omicron subvariant BA.5, which has maintained a relatively long reign as the globally dominant variant. But a thick soup of omicron subvariants is simmering on the back burner, loaded with sublineages—notably from BA.2. and BA.5—converging on alarming sets of mutations. Some sublineages—such as BQ.1.1, an offshoot from BA.5, and XBB, derived from BA.2 strains—are the most immune evasive subvariants seen to date.

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#biology, #booster, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #infectious-disease, #medicine, #omicron, #public-health, #science, #vaccination

COVID may have pushed a leading seasonal flu strain to extinction

A bottle of influenza vaccine at a CVS pharmacy and MinuteClinic on September 10, 2021, in Miami.

Enlarge / A bottle of influenza vaccine at a CVS pharmacy and MinuteClinic on September 10, 2021, in Miami. (credit: Getty | Joe Raedle)

The pandemic coronavirus’ debut wrought universal havoc—not even seasonal flu viruses were spared. Amid travel restrictions, quarantines, closures, physical distancing, masking, enhanced hand washing, and disinfection, the 2020-2021 flu season was all but canceled. That meant not just an unprecedented global decrease in the number of people sick with the flu but also a dramatic collapse in the genetic diversity of circulating flu strains. Many subtypes of the virus all but vanished. But most notably, one entire lineage—one of only four flu groups targeted by seasonal influenza vaccines—went completely dark, seemingly extinct.

Researchers noted the absence last year as the flu was still struggling to recover from its pandemic knockout. But now, the flu has come roaring back and threatens to cause a particularly nasty season in the Northern Hemisphere. Still, the influenza B/Yamagata lineage remains missing, according to a study published this week in the journal Eurosurveillance. It has not been definitively detected since April 2020. And the question of whether it’s truly gone extinct lingers.

What B/Yamagata’s absence might mean for future flu seasons and flu shots also remains an open question. For a quick refresher: Four main types of seasonal flu have been circulating globally among humans in recent years. Two are influenza type A viruses: subtypes of H1N1 viruses and H3N2 viruses. The other two are influenza type B viruses: offshoots of the Victoria and Yamagata lineages. (For a more detailed explanation of influenza, check out our explainer here.) Current quadrivalent vaccines target season-specific versions of each of these four types of flu viruses.

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#biology, #flu, #flu-vaccines, #infectious-disease, #influenza, #medicine, #public-health, #science, #viruses, #yamagata

What Is Paxlovid Rebound, and How Common Is It?

President Biden is part of a minority of people who have experienced Paxlovid rebound, but experts say the drug should still be prescribed for those who need it

#health, #medicine, #pharmaceuticals

With help from BA.5, new COVID hospitalizations quadrupled since April

A thrown-away surgical mask lays on the ground.

Enlarge / A thrown-away surgical mask lays on the ground. (credit: Getty | David Gannon)

As the wave of omicron coronavirus subvariant BA.5 continues to flood the US, daily COVID-19 hospitalizations are four times higher than four months ago, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The data reflects the high ongoing transmission of coronavirus subvariants adept at evading fading immune responses in a population that is largely unboosted.

In early April, as the US fell into a brief pandemic lull in the wake of the towering BA.1 omicron wave, the seven-day rolling average for new hospitalizations sunk to around 1,420 per day nationwide. Now, after waves of subvariants BA. 2, BA.2.12.1, and the current BA.5, hospitalizations have floated back up. The current seven-day rolling average is nearing 6,300. Overall, more than 37,000 people in the US are currently hospitalized with COVID-19.

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#ba-5, #biology, #booster, #covid-19, #deaths, #hospitalizations, #infectious-disease, #medicine, #omicron, #public-health, #sars-cov-2, #science, #subvariants, #transmission, #vaccine

As BA.5 continues to blaze across US, feds scrap summer booster plans

As BA.5 continues to blaze across US, feds scrap summer booster plans

Enlarge (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

Federal officials have reportedly scrapped plans to expand access to second COVID-19 booster doses this summer, opting instead to pressure vaccine-makers Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech to produce their next-generation BA.5-targeting boosters even faster than before, possibly in September.

Currently, people ages 50 and over, as well as those 12 and up with certain health conditions, can received a second COVID-19 booster dose. But, with the ultratransmissible BA.5 wave threatening more infections and reinfections at a time when vaccine protections are fading, officials earlier this month toyed with the idea of opening second boosters to all adults. At the time, they were expected to decide the matter within the following weeks.

That decision window has now closed. And although BA.5 is still raging, the Biden administration has reportedly abandoned the plan to instead focus on the new booster vaccines for those 12 and up, which were previously expected to roll out in October and November.

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#ba-5, #biden-administration, #biology, #boosters, #cdc, #covid-19, #fda, #infectious-disease, #medicine, #omicron, #public-health, #sars-cov-2, #science, #vaccines

There Is an Effective Treatment for Monkeypox, but It’s Hard to Get

A smallpox antiviral that’s effective against monkeypox is tied up in red tape, and gay-health advocates are pushing to make it easier to access

#health, #medicine, #pharmaceuticals

Physics Particles Fly as Practical Tools

Protons, muons, neutrinos and other particles are moving beyond the realm of physics to help in a myriad of ways

#cancer, #health, #medicine, #particle-physics, #quantum-physics, #spacephysics, #technology

How Zombies Can Help Prevent the Next Pandemic

Incomplete viral genomes can quell disease and, with further research, could be turned into treatments

#health, #medicine

Transforming the Trajectory of Lung Cancer [Sponsored]

Lung cancer is the number-one cause of cancer deaths in the world. But how many lives would be saved if doctors could diagnose and treat it before it progresses?

#health, #medicine

The Hunt for Drugs for Mild COVID

People who are unlikely to develop severe COVID-19 have no widely approved medications to ease the illness

#health, #medicine, #pharmaceuticals

Newly Recognized Dementia Called LATE May Hit 40 Percent of Older People

The pathological buildup of a protein known as TDP-43 can lead to an Alzheimer’s-like disorder

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#health, #medicine

Yet another omicron subvariant is raising concern as BA.5 sweeps the US

MUMBAI, INDIA JUNE 7: A health worker collects swab samples of a citizen for Covid-19 test after cases are on the rise in the city, at TMC's C.R. Wadia Hospital testing centre, in Thane, on June 7, 2022 in Mumbai, India.

Enlarge / MUMBAI, INDIA JUNE 7: A health worker collects swab samples of a citizen for Covid-19 test after cases are on the rise in the city, at TMC’s C.R. Wadia Hospital testing centre, in Thane, on June 7, 2022 in Mumbai, India. (credit: Getty | Hindustan Times)

As the omicron coronavirus subvariant BA.5 blazes through the US—accounting for an estimated 54 percent of cases in the country—experts are eyeing another subvariant that threatens to follow hot on its heels.

The subvariant is referred to as BA.2.75 and was first detected in India in late May. Amid a backdrop of BA.2 and BA.5 circulating in India, the newcomer BA.2.75 began quickly gaining ground in June. This week it reached 23 percent of recent virus samples there. Meanwhile, spread beyond India’s borders. It is now present in about 10 other countries, including the US, according to the World Health Organization.

Experts are concerned about the new subvariant, not just because of its rapid rise. It has several mutations in its spike protein—the critical protein that allows the virus to latch onto human cells and the protein that acts as a prime target for immune responses. In particular, BA.2.75 has key mutations that suggest it could be good at evading antibody responses in people who have been vaccinated and/or previously infected with earlier omicron subvariants.

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Two Cancer Patients Battle to Make Psilocybin Accessible for Palliative Care

Their efforts could benefit countless others in need of an end-of-life measure

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#health, #medicine