Week in Review: Nov. 17

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

Rise in Teen Suicide, Social Media Coincide; Is There a Link?

An increase in suicide rates among U.S. teens occurred at the same time social media use surged, and a new analysis suggests there may be a link. Suicide rates for teens rose between 2010 and 2015 after they had declined for nearly two decades, according to data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Why the rates went up isn't known. The study doesn't answer the question, but it suggests that one factor could be rising social media use. Recent teen suicides have been blamed on cyberbullying, and social media posts depicting "perfect" lives may be taking a toll on teens' mental health, researchers say. Via Star Tribune.

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First Digital Pill Approved to Worries about Biomedical "Big Brother"

For the first time, the Food and Drug Administration has approved a digital pill—a medication embedded with a sensor that can tell doctors whether, and when, patients take their medicine. The approval marks a significant advance in the growing field of digital devices designed to monitor medicine-taking and to address the expensive, longstanding problem that millions of patients do not take drugs as prescribed. Via NY Times.

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U.S. Scientists Try First Gene Editing in the Body

Scientists for the first time have tried editing a gene inside the body in a bold attempt to permanently change a person’s DNA to cure a disease. The experiment was done in California on 44-year-old Brian Madeux. Through an IV, he received billions of copies of a corrective gene and a genetic tool to cut his DNA in a precise spot. “It’s kind of humbling” to be the first to test this, said Madeux, who has a metabolic disease called Hunter syndrome. “I’m willing to take that risk. Hopefully, it will help me and other people.” Signs of whether it’s working may come in a month; tests will show for sure in three months. If it’s successful, it could give a major boost to the fledgling field of gene therapy. Scientists have edited people’s genes before, altering cells in the lab that are then returned to patients. There also are gene therapies that don’t involve editing DNA. Via AP.

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Madagascar Wrestles with Worst Outbreak of Plague in Half a Century

Madagascar, the tropical island nation off Africa’s southeast coast, is scrambling to contain its worst outbreak of plague in at least 50 years. The country’s health ministry reported 2,119 probable cases from August 1 to November 10, including 171 deaths. Although the plague—also known as Black Death, the disease that decimated Europe’s population in the 14th century—is endemic in Madagascar, it has struck some of the islands’ nonendemic areas and densely-populated cities for the first time. The vast majority of the cases have been pneumonic plague, which is the most virulent form of the bacterial disease and can quickly and easily spread from one person to another through droplets in the air. Via Wall Street Journal.

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AMA Calls for Regular Screening of Maternal Depression

The country's leading physicians group is calling for more routine depression and anxiety screenings in new and expectant moms and for state and federal reviews of the causes of maternal death. The American Medical Association's governing body voted to adopt a resolution to implement screening during prenatal, postnatal, pediatric, or emergency room visits. Via Modern Healthcare.

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Mayo Clinic News

Half of U.S. Adults Have High Blood Pressure in New Guidelines

Those without a high risk will be advised to improve their lifestyles—lose weight, eat healthy, exercise more, limit alcohol, avoid smoking. "It's not just throwing meds at something," said one primary care doctor who praised the new approach, the Mayo Clinic's Robert Stroebel, M.D. If people continue bad habits, "They can kind of eat and blow through the medicines," he said. The guidelines warn about some popular approaches, though. There's not enough proof that consuming garlic, dark chocolate, tea, or coffee helps, or that yoga, meditation, or other behavior therapies lower blood pressure long-term, they say. Via ABC News.

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Study Suggests Women Less Likely to Get CPR from Bystanders

Women are less likely than men to get CPR from a bystander and more likely to die, a new study suggests, and researchers think reluctance to touch a woman's chest might be one reason. Only 39% of women suffering cardiac arrest in a public place were given CPR versus 45% of men, and men were 23% more likely to survive, the study found. "All of us are going to have to take a closer look at this gender issue," said the Mayo Clinic's Roger White, M.D., who co-directs the paramedic program for the city of Rochester, Minnesota. He said he has long worried that large breasts may impede proper placement of defibrillator pads if women need a shock to restore normal heart rhythm. Via NY Times.

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You’re Sick, Stay Away from Work. If You Can’t, Here Is What Doctors Advise

It’s clear on which side doctors come down: They say workers with the flu or a cold should use sick days far more often than they do. Though millions of Americans don’t get paid time off when they’re sick, those who do have the option often don’t take it. “If it’s bad enough that you’re wondering if you should stay home, you should probably stay home,” said Pritish Tosh, M.D., an infectious diseases researcher at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Via NY Times.

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Researchers Are One Step Closer to Helping Advanced Prostate Cancer Patients

Researchers at Mayo Clinic are one step closer to individualizing treatment for advanced prostate cancer patients. They tried to answer this question: “Which are the genes which we can identify in advanced prostate cancer patients which will tell us that a particular drug will work?” Manish Kohli, M.D., the study’s principal investigator, said. Researchers found genetic clues that suggest whether a patient’s body will accept or resist a certain treatment. “We are going to find the genetic makeup of each patient’s cancer in their blood, and based on the information of which . . . genes we now have to look for, which we didn’t know before, now we will target it to those genes,” Dr. Kohli said. Via KIMT.

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Pharmacogenomics: How Individualized Medicine Is Spreading to Opioid Prescriptions

Pharmacogenomics is a field of study that uses DNA testing to determine which medicines are most compatible with a person's genes. Tim Curry, M.D., Ph.D., Director of Education for Mayo Clinic's Center for Individualized Medicine, said pharmacogenomics helps researchers better fit many aspects of drug transcription to the patient. "Sometimes, (pharmacogenomics is) how fast it builds up in your system or how fast it's broken down," he said. "Sometimes, it talks about how easy it is for a drug that needs to be activated by the body. Sometimes, it talks about the receptors within the body that the drug actually binds to, to have its effect. Sometimes, it talks about the transporters that transport it into the cells that it needs to be there. And in other cases, it's regarding some really severe adverse effects that you might have a genetic predisposition to." Via Post-Bulletin.

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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.