Week in Review: Sept. 15

The Week in Review provides an overview of the past week’s top health care content, including industry news and trends, Mayo Clinic and Mayo Medical Laboratories news, and upcoming events.

Industry News

San Diego Washing Streets with Bleach to Combat Hepatitis A Outbreak

San Diego has started washing its downtown streets with bleach in an effort to combat an outbreak of hepatitis A that has killed at least 15 people and infected nearly 400. The infectious disease has largely infected homeless people in the coastal California city, and part of the issue is an apparent shortage of public restrooms in areas where the population congregates. Hepatitis A was first identified in the area in early March, according to the county, and declared a public health emergency earlier this month. A letter from San Diego County health officials stated that hepatitis A is being spread though contact with a "fecally contaminated environment" as well as person-to-person transmission. Via NPR.

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The Crisis in Gynecological Cancer Research

While medical scientists are discovering the determinants that drive gynecologic tumor growth, clinical trials in gynecological cancer—translating that knowledge into specific strategies—dwindle. According to the Society of Gynecologic Oncology, enrollment in phase 3 National Cancer Institute clinical trials designed for gynecologic cancers declined 90 percent from 2011 to 2016. In July, at the Ovarian Cancer National Conference in Chicago, a succession of experts expressed alarm about this. Via NY Times.

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Researchers Find Hint of a Link between Flu Vaccine and Miscarriage

Researchers studying the flu vaccine in pregnancy have found a hint of a possible link between miscarriage early in pregnancy and the flu vaccine in women who received a certain version of the vaccine two years in a row. It’s the first study to identify a potential link between miscarriage and the flu vaccine and the first to assess the effect of repeat influenza vaccination and risk of miscarriage. The findings suggest an association, not a causal link, and the research is too weak and preliminary, experts said, to change the advice, which is based on a multitude of previous studies, that pregnant women should get a flu vaccine to protect them from influenza, a deadly disease that may cause serious birth defects. But the study is likely to raise questions about the safety of the vaccine as flu season gets underway. Via Washington Post.

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Horrific Flesh-Eating Parasite Called "The Next Plague" Could Spread in U.S., Spurring Vaccine Effort

Leishmania is the second-most deadly parasite in the world. According to the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Institute, 20,000-30,000 people die from Leishmaniasis annually. Other estimates put the annual death toll at 50,000. About 350 million people are at risk across an estimated 90 countries, and some scientists have called the parasite the next plague. If you are infected with the visceral variety of Leishmaniasis and don’t treat it, you will likely die within a few months. With mounting fears about a future increase in U.S. cases, a group of scientists in Georgia is racing to create a vaccine—and their new study shows they may be almost there. Via Newsweek.

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Drug for "Neglected" Chagas Disease Gains FDA Approval Amid Price Worries

The Food and Drug Administration recently approved the first U.S. treatment for childhood cases of Chagas disease—a parasite-driven illness that, over time and unless treated early, can cause serious heart problems in about a third of the people it infects. There are perhaps 300,000 cases in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the illness is much more common in Latin America, where it affects millions. Via NPR.

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Mayo Clinic News

An Alzheimer’s Diagnosis—before Any Symptom

An effort is under way that could redefine the way Alzheimer’s is diagnosed, putting the focus on biological changes in the brain rather than on symptoms such as confusion and forgetfulness. A diagnosis based on biology “is the best way forward to understanding the mechanism [of the disease] and finding treatments for targeting those mechanisms,” says Clifford Jack, M.D., the committee chairman and a professor of radiology at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. (Dr. Jack also is a consultant for Eli Lilly & Co., which makes a tracer used for a brain-imaging test to detect Alzheimer’s pathology.) Via Wall Street Journal.

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Sleeping with Dogs Is Good and Bad for Your Sleep and Health

Many dog owners remain split on this decision: whether or not to allow their wet-nosed pal to sleep in the bedroom. For some, sleeping with Fido is comforting and soothing, while for others, the priority is on keeping the bedroom free of pet hair—and, therefore, Fido. A recent study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings has found a dog's sleep position (whether on the bed or on the bedroom floor), can affect an owner's sleep quality and health. Via Newsweek.

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How 3-D Printing Is Changing Health Care 

A year ago, an 11-year-old girl named London Secor had surgery at the Mayo Clinic to remove a rare tumor located in her pelvis. In the past, surgeons would have considered amputating one of Ms. Secor’s legs, given that the tumor had spread to the bone and nerves of her sacrum and was encroaching on her hip socket. That didn’t happen this time, however, due largely to advances in 3-D printing. “There is nothing like holding a 3-D model to understand a complicated anatomical procedure,” says Peter S. Rose, M.D., the surgeon who performed the operation on Ms. Secor, an avid swimmer and basketball player from Charlotte, N.C. “The model helped us understand the anatomy that was altered by the tumor and helped us orient ourselves for our cuts around it.” Via Wall Street Journal.

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Mayo Testing Kardia Mobile Device That Detects Irregular Heartbeats

Doctors at Mayo Clinic in Rochester are teaming up with Silicon Valley-based AliveCor on two medical research projects to see whether the Kardia Mobile cardiac monitor and the artificial intelligence system it links to in California can reveal evidence of low potassium levels and irregularly long ­heartbeats. Both conditions can contribute to major cardiac problems. The Mayo research involving the detection of low potassium levels has been ongoing since last year under the direction of Dr. Paul Friedman. Low potassium is tracked because it can cause bad changes in a person’s heart beat and can indicate kidney problems. Via Star Tribune.

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Mayo Clinic Minute: Facts on the Opioid Epidemic

The opioid epidemic continues to affect thousands in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deaths from prescription opioid medications—drugs such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and morphine—have more than quadrupled since 1999. Deaths from illicit drugs, such as heroin, also continue to be a major issue. W. Michael Hooten, M.D., a Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist and pain specialist, has the latest on what the opioid epidemic entails. Via Mayo Clinic News Network.

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Gina Chiri-Osmond

Gina Chiri-Osmond is a Marketing Channel Manager at Mayo Medical Laboratories. She manages public relations and media outreach. Gina has worked at Mayo Clinic since 2011. Outside of work, Gina is going for gold in volleyball at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo . . . or at small-town summer festivals.