Medicine

US Is Slipping Toward Measles Being Endemic Once Again, Says Study (arstechnica.com) 173

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: With firm vaccination campaigns, the US eliminated measles in 2000. The highly infectious virus was no longer constantly present in the country -- no longer endemic. Since then, measles has only popped up when travelers carried it in, spurring mostly small outbreaks -- ranging from a few dozen to a few hundred cases each year -- that then fizzle out. But all that may be about to change. With the rise of non-medical vaccine exemptions and delays, the country is backsliding toward endemic measles, Stanford and Baylor College of Medicine researchers warn this week. With extensive disease modeling, the researchers make clear just how close we are to seeing explosive, perhaps unshakeable, outbreaks. According to results the researchers published in JAMA Pediatrics, a mere five-percent slip in measles-mumps-and-rubella (MMR) vaccination rates among kids aged two to 11 would triple measles cases in this age group and cost $2.1 million in public healthcare costs. And that's just a small slice of the disease transmission outlook. Kids two to 11 years old only make up about 30 percent of the measles cases in current outbreaks. The number of cases would be much larger if the researchers had sufficient data to model the social mixing and immunization status of adults, teens, and infants under two.
Medicine

Degenerative Brain Disease Found In Nearly All Donated NFL Player Brains, Says Study (npr.org) 186

A new study published Tuesday in the journal American Medical Association found that 110 out of 111 brains of those who played in the NFL had degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). NPR reports: In the study, researchers examined the brains of 202 deceased former football players at all levels. Nearly 88 percent of all the brains, 177, had CTE. Three of 14 who had played only in high school had CTE, 48 of 53 college players, 9 of 14 semiprofessional players, and 7 of 8 Canadian Football League players. CTE was not found in the brains of two who played football before high school. According to the study's senior author, Dr. Ann McKee, "this is by far the largest [study] of individuals who developed CTE that has ever been described. And it only includes individuals who are exposed to head trauma by participation in football." A CTE study several years ago by McKee and her colleagues included football players and athletes from other collision sports such as hockey, soccer and rugby. It also examined the brains of military veterans who had suffered head injuries. The study released Tuesday is the continuation of a study that began eight years ago. In 2015, McKee and fellow researchers at the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University published study results revealing 87 of 91 former NFL players had CTE.
Medicine

Sperm Counts Among Western Men Have Halved In Last 40 Years, Says Study (theguardian.com) 333

New submitter flote shares a report from The Guardian: Sperm counts among men have more than halved in the last 40 years, research suggests, although the drivers behind the decline remain unclear. The latest findings reveal that between 1973 and 2011, the concentration of sperm in the ejaculate of men in western countries has fallen by an average of 1.4% a year, leading to an overall drop of just over 52%. The study, published in the journal Human Reproduction Update by an international team of researchers, drew on 185 studies conducted between 1973 and 2011, involving almost 43,000 men. The team split the data based on whether the men were from western countries -- including Australia and New Zealand as well as countries in North America and Europe -- or from elsewhere. After accounting for factors including age and how long men had gone without ejaculation, the team found that sperm concentration fell from 99 million per ml in 1973 to 47.1 million per ml in 2011 -- a decline of 52.4% -- among western men unaware of their fertility. For the same group, total sperm count -- the number of sperm in a semen sample -- fell by just under 60%.
Medicine

World's First Double Hand Transplant Involving a Child Declared a Success (ctvnews.ca) 52

randomErr shares a report from CTV News: The first child in the world to undergo a double hand transplant is now able to write, feed and dress himself, doctors said Tuesday, declaring the ground-breaking operation a success after 18 months. The report in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health provides the first official medical update on 10-year old Zion Harvey, who underwent surgery to replace both hands in July 2015. Harvey had his hands and feet amputated at the age of two, following a sepsis infection. He also had a kidney transplant. Harvey was already receiving drugs to suppress any immune reaction to his kidney, which was a key factor in his selection for the 10-plus hour hand transplant surgery.
The Internet

Comcast Says Should Be Able To Create Internet Fast Lanes For Self-Driving Cars (theverge.com) 121

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Comcast filed comments in support of the FCC's plan to kill the 2015 net neutrality rules today. And while pretty much everything in them is expected -- Comcast thinks the rules are burdensome and hurt investment, yet it says it generally supports the principles of net neutrality -- there's one telling new quirk that stands out in its phrasing: Comcast now says it's in support of a ban on "anticompetitive paid prioritization," which is really a way of saying paid prioritization should be allowed. "The commission also should bear in mind that a more flexible approach to prioritization may be warranted and may be beneficial to the public," Comcast says in its filing. The key qualification is "anticompetitive," which is a term that could be interpreted in a lot of different ways depending on who's defining it.

Comcast doesn't just see paid fast lanes being useful for medicine, however. It also thinks they might be fair to sell to automakers for use in autonomous vehicles. "Likewise, for autonomous vehicles that may require instantaneous data transmission, black letter prohibitions on paid prioritization may actually stifle innovation instead of encouraging it," the filing says. This makes Comcast's position pretty confusing. Comcast says it opposes prioritizing one website over another. It even suggests the commission adopt a "strong presumption against" agreements that benefit an ISP's own content over competitors' work, but it's not clear how benefiting one car company or telemedicine company over another is any different.

Medicine

'Living Drug' That Fights Cancer By Harnessing The Immune System Clears Key Hurdle (npr.org) 73

An anonymous reader shares an NPR report: A new kind of cancer treatment that uses genetically engineered cells from a patient's immune system to attack their cancer easily cleared a crucial hurdle Wednesday. A Food and Drug Administration advisory committee unanimously recommended that the agency approve this "living drug" approach for children and young adults who are fighting a common form of leukemia. The agency doesn't have to follow the committee's recommendation but usually does. The treatment takes cells from a patient's body, modifies the genes, and then reinfuses those modified cells back into the person who has cancer. If the agency approves, it would mark the first time the FDA has approved anything considered to be a "gene therapy product." The treatment is part of one of the most important developments in cancer research in decades -- finding ways to harness the body's own immune system to fight cancer. And while it has generated much hope, there are some concerns about its safety over the long term -- and its cost.
Medicine

Coffee Cuts Risk of Dying From Stroke and Heart Disease, Study Suggests (theguardian.com) 165

Research suggests that people who drink coffee have a lower risk of dying from a host of causes, including heart disease, stroke and liver disease. "The connection, revealed in two large studies, was found to hold regardless of whether the coffee was caffeinated or not, with the higher among those who drank more cups of coffee a day," reports The Guardian. From the report: The first study looked at coffee consumption among more than 185,000 white and non-white participants, recruited in the early 1990s and followed up for an average of over 16 years. The results revealed that drinking one cup of coffee a day was linked to a 12% lower risk of death at any age, from any cause while those drinking two or three cups a day had an 18% lower risk, with the association not linked to ethnicity.

The second study -- the largest of its kind -- involved more than 450,000 participants, recruited between 1992 and 2000 across ten European countries, who were again followed for just over 16 years on average. After a range of factors including age, smoking status, physical activity and education were taken into account, those who drank three or more cups a day were found to have a 18% lower risk of death for men, and a 8% lower risk of death for women at any age, compared with those who didn't drink the brew. The benefits were found to hold regardless of the country, although coffee drinking was not linked to a lower risk of death for all types of cancer. The study also looked at a subset of 14,800 participants, finding that coffee-drinkers had better results on many biological markers including liver enzymes and glucose control. But experts warn that the two studies, both published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, do not show that drinking coffee was behind the overall lower risk, pointing out that it could be that coffee drinkers are healthier in various ways or that those who are unwell drink less coffee.

Medicine

Personalized Cancer Vaccines Safely Fight, Kill Tumors In Early Human Trials (arstechnica.com) 73

Emily Mullin reports via MIT Technology Review: Now two personalized cancer vaccine approaches appear to have safely prevented cancer relapse in a dozen patients with late-stage skin cancer. In recent years, scientists have realized that each patient's tumor harbors a unique set of genetic characteristics, or mutations. So for cancer vaccines to be effective, they'll probably also have to be unique. Two clinical trials, detailed today in separate papers in Nature, are among the first to show that this might be possible. In one trial, eight of 13 melanoma patients who got a personalized cancer vaccine were tumor-free nearly two years after being treated. In a smaller study, four of the six patients who received a vaccine had no detectable cancer for more than two years after treatment. All patients had their tumors surgically removed before getting the vaccine. The customized vaccines are an emerging class of therapies that take advantage of neoantigens, proteins that appear on tumors and seem to be specific to each cancer patient. To make the vaccines, researchers first sequenced DNA and RNA extracted from each patient's tumor. They then used computer algorithms to analyze the mutations on each tumor and predict the best targets that code for neoantigens. Based on that data, they created a personalized vaccine containing up to 20 of these neoantigens. Each patient received several injections of the vaccine over a few months.
Biotech

Tylenol May Kill Kindness (washingtonpost.com) 169

Long-time Slashdot reader randomErr writes: In research published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience scientists describe the results of two experiments conducted involving more than 200 college students.Their conclusion is that acetaminophen can reduce a person's capacity to empathize with another person's pain. "We don't know why acetaminophen is having these effects, but it is concerning," senior author Baldwin Way, an Ohio State University psychologist, said. One of the studies has half the group consume a liquid with acetaminophen while the other group received a placebo. The group that drink the acetaminophen thought that people they read about experiencing pain was not as severe as the placebo group thought.
The Washington Post notes that acetaminophen is the most common drug ingredient in the United States, adding that "about a quarter of all Americans take acetaminophen every week."
Security

Anthem To Pay $115 Million In The Largest Data Breach Settlement Ever (cnet.com) 56

An anonymous reader quotes CNET: Anthem, the largest health insurance company in the U.S., has agreed to settle a class action lawsuit over a 2015 data breach for a record $115 million, according to lawyers for the plaintiffs. The settlement still has to be approved by US District Court Judge Lucy Koh, who is scheduled to hear the case on August 17 in San Jose, California. And Anthem, which didn't immediately respond to a request for confirmation and comment, isn't admitting any admitting any wrongdoing, according to a statement it made to CyberScoop acknowledging the settlement.

But if approved, it would be the largest data breach settlement in history, according to the plaintiffs' lawyers, who announced the agreement Friday. The funds would be used to provide victims of the data breach at least two years of credit monitoring and to reimburse customers for breach-related expenses. The settlement would also guarantee a certain level of funding for "information security to implement or maintain numerous specific changes to its data security systems, including encryption of certain information and archiving sensitive data with strict access controls," the plaintiff attorneys said.

The breach compromised data for 80 million people, including their social security numbers, birthdays, street addresses (and email addresses) as well as income data. The $115 million settlement averages out to $1.43 for every person who was affected.
The Almighty Buck

The People GoFundMe Leaves Behind (theoutline.com) 242

citadrianne shares a report from The Outline: President Donald Trump's proposed budget seeks to slash $54 billion from social services including programs like Medicaid and Meals on Wheels. As these resources dry up, crowdfunding websites will further entrench themselves as extra-governmental welfare providers in order to fill the gap. For a lucky few, these sites are a lifeline. For most people, they are worthless. Crowdfunding's fatal flaw is that not every campaign ends up getting the money it needs. A recent study published in the journal Social Science & Medicine found that more than 90 percent of GoFundMe campaigns never meet their goal. For every crowdfunding success story, there are hundreds of failures. "As many happy stories as there are in charitable crowdfunding, there are a lot of really worthy causes when you browse these platforms that nobody has given a cent to," Rob Gleasure, professor at the business school of the National University of Ireland, Cork told The Outline. "People haven't come across them." Feller and Gleasure's report highlighted how fickle crowdfunding can be. Of all the Razoo campaigns started in 2013, they found, more than a third didn't receive any funding at all. According to their report, donors are more likely to give to campaigns that feature lots of pictures and accompanying text.
Businesses

'Chiropractors Are Bullshit' (theoutline.com) 328

From an article on The Outline, submitted by two readers: If you're one of the approximately 80 percent of Americans who have suffered from back pain, you may have been referred to a chiropractor for medical help. In the modern-day internet landscape, you'll find chiropractic celebrities like Dr. Josh Axe (1.7 million Facebook followers), Dr. Billy DeMoss (20,000 Facebook followers), and Dr. Eric Berg (472,000 YouTube subscribers) giving advice that goes beyond managing spinal issues. Both in their offices and on social media, chiropractors have adapted to a marketplace that's demanding more than just pain management: they extol the virtues of an "alkaline diet," tell you how to manage stress with detoxing, and wax scientific about the adrenal gland. [...] Chiropractic care, I'm sorry to say, is little more than the buffoonery of a 19th-century lunatic who derived most of his medical theory from seances. It has not evolved much since its creation. Chiropractic beliefs are dangerously far removed from mainstream medicine, and the vocation's practices have been linked to strokes, herniated discs, and even death. Chiropractors can't replace your doctor, and I'm amazed that they're still even allowed to practice. [...] Though some chiropractors are now making an effort to introduce evidence-based practices into their treatment, chiropractic as a whole hasn't evolved like other areas of medicine -- with hypotheses, experimentation, and peer review. Instead, it was birthed by a strange combination of hocus pocus, guesswork, and strongly held religious beliefs.
Businesses

Wireless and Drone Execs Praised President Trump as He Pledged To Cut Down Regulations (recode.net) 94

U.S. President Donald Trump offered support for emerging technologies including unmanned aerial vehicles and next-generation wireless networks in a meeting on Thursday with the chiefs of AT&T and General Electric and other business leaders. From a report: For the likes of AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, the public audience with Trump offered an opportunity to continue nudging the U.S. government -- including in a scheduled, private session with the leader of the Federal Communications Commission earlier Thursday -- to cut back on restrictions that make it difficult for AT&T and other telecom giants to grow their footprint and deploy the new technologies, such as 5G wireless. Speaking with Recode later Thursday, Marcelo Claure, the chief executive of Sprint, said that he and others in his industry had emphasized to Trump that the government must help them deploy new tools like small cells -- essentially, mini cell towers that improve wireless connectivity. Trump, for his part, promised Thursday to cut down on "too many years of excessive government regulation" to enable innovators and investments to offer new cutting-edge tools in health care, science, medicine and communication. "We have had regulation that's been so bad, so out of line that it's really hurt our country," he said.
Medicine

Study Finds Yoga Works As Well As Physical Therapy For Back Pain (time.com) 172

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TIME: Another study is touting the benefits of yoga -- this time, for people with back problems. The new research put yoga head-to-head against physical therapy and found the two were equally good at restoring function and reducing the need for pain medication over time. In the new study, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, a group of 320 people did 12 weeks of yoga or physical therapy, or they simply received a book and newsletters about coping with back pain. People in the active treatment groups reported that their pain was less intense than it was at the start of the study and that they were able to physically move more. Some were also able to reduce, or even stop, their pain medications. Those improvements stuck around for a full year after the study was over. This research is unique because the people in the study were racially diverse, and most were from low-income families. Many had pre-existing medical conditions. That's important, say the researchers, because chronic back pain -- which affects about 10% of U.S. adults -- has a greater impact on minorities and people of lower socioeconomic status.
The Almighty Buck

Venezuelans Flock To Cryptocoins Amid Spiralling Inflation (bloomberg.com) 127

An anonymous reader quotes Bloomberg: Demand for digital coins is soaring in Venezuela amid an escalating political crisis that has protesters demanding that President Nicolas Maduro step down. Inflation has spiraled to the triple digits, debasing the bolivar and depleting savings, while citizens struggle to find everything from food to medicine on store shelves. "If you're going to be in something volatile, you might as well be in something that's volatile and rising than volatile and falling," says Ryan Taylor, chief executive officer of crypto currency Dash Core, the third-largest digital coin by number of transactions... Bitcoin trading volume in Venezuela jumped to $1.3 million this week, about double the amount that changed hands two months ago, according to LocalBitcoins.com...

Venezuela's currency has become nearly worthless in the black market, where it takes more than 6,000 bolivars to buy $1, while bitcoin surged 53 percent in the past month alone. But it's not just about shielding against the falling bolivar, as some Venezuelans are using crypto currencies to buy and sell everyday goods and services, according to Jorge Farias, the CEO of Cryptobuyer.

Medicine

Research Suggests Effects of Shift Work or Jet Lag On Our Body Clocks Can Be Reduced By Simply Changing Meal Times (qz.com) 51

Jonathan Johnston reports via Quartz: Around one in five people in Western countries could be putting their health at risk simply by going to work. This is because working shifts outside of the rest of the population's normal hours has been linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and even declines in brain function. Scientists think this is because our bodies are programmed to run on cycles known as circadian rhythms, and changes in our routine caused by shift work or traveling long distances disrupts those rhythms. But our new research suggests that the effects of shift work or jet lag on our body clocks could be reduced simply by changing the times at which people eat. The key to this theory is the idea that each person doesn't just have a single body clock but rather a complex network of billions of cellular clocks found throughout the body. In humans and other mammals, there is a master clock within a region of the brain called the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) and many peripheral clocks found elsewhere. For our research, we wanted to see how one aspect of this approach -- changing meal times -- affected circadian rhythms. We found that delaying meals by a certain amount caused a similar shift in some peripheral clocks, without changing the master clock. This is important because research in animals suggests peripheral clocks take longer to adjust to a new routine.
Math

The Quirky Habits of Certified Science Geniuses (bbc.com) 190

dryriver shares a report from the BBC: Celebrated inventor and physicist Nikola Tesla swore by toe exercises -- every night, he'd repeatedly "squish" his toes, 100 times for each foot, according to the author Marc J Seifer. While it's not entirely clear exactly what that exercise involved, Tesla claimed it helped to stimulate his brain cells. The most prolific mathematician of the 20th Century, Paul Erdos, preferred a different kind of stimulant: amphetamine, which he used to fuel 20-hour number benders. When a friend bet him $500 that he couldn't stop for a month, he won but complained "You've set mathematics back a month." Newton, meanwhile, bragged about the benefits of celibacy. When he died in 1727, he had transformed our understanding of the natural world forever and left behind 10 million words of notes; he was also, by all accounts, still a virgin (Tesla was also celibate, though he later claimed he fell in love with a pigeon). It's common knowledge that sleep is good for your brain -- and Einstein took this advice more seriously than most. He reportedly slept for at least 10 hours per day -- nearly one and a half times as much as the average American today (6.8 hours). But can you really slumber your way to a sharper mind? Many of the world's most brilliant scientific minds were also fantastically weird. From Pythagoras' outright ban on beans to Benjamin Franklin's naked "air baths," the path to greatness is paved with some truly peculiar habits.
Medicine

US Government Task Force Urges Cash Incentives For Ditching Insecure Medical Devices (securityledger.com) 64

chicksdaddy shares this report from The Security Ledger: The healthcare sector in the U.S. is in critical condition and in dire need of an overhaul to address widespread and systemic information security weakness that puts patient privacy and even safety at risk, a Congressional Task Force has concluded... On the controversial issue of medical device security, the report suggests that the Federal government and industry might use incentives akin to the "cash for clunkers" car buyback program to encourage healthcare organizations to jettison insecure, legacy medical equipment...

The report released to members of both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives on Friday concludes that the U.S. healthcare system is plagued by weaknesses, from the leadership and governance of information security within healthcare organizations, to the security of medical devices and medical laboratories to hiring and user awareness. Many of the risks directly affect patient safety, the group found. It comes amid growing threats to healthcare organizations, including a ransomware outbreak that affected scores of hospitals in the United Kingdom.

Joshua Corman, the Director of the Cyber Statecraft Initiative at The Atlantic Council, argues that currently "Healthcare is target rich and resource poor," adding a special warning about the heavy usage of internet-connected healthcare equipment. "If you can't afford to protect it, you can't afford to connect it."
Medicine

Cancer Drug Proves To Be Effective Against Multiple Tumors (nytimes.com) 81

An anonymous reader writes: 86 cancer patients were enrolled in a trial of a drug that helps the immune system attack tumors. Though they had different kinds of tumor -- pancreas, prostate, uterus or bone -- they all shared a genetic mutation that disrupts their cells' ability to fix damaged DNA, found in 4% of all cancer patients. But tumors vanished and didn't return for 18 patients in the study, reports the New York Times, while 66 more patients "had their tumors shrink substantially and stabilize, instead of continuing to grow." The drug trial results were "so striking that the Food and Drug Administration already has approved the drug, pembrolizumab, brand name Keytruda, for patients whose cancers arise from the same genetic abnormality. It is the first time a drug has been approved for use against tumors that share a certain genetic profile, whatever their location in the body."
The researchers say that just in the U.S. there are 60,000 new patients every year who could benefit from the new drug.
AI

IBM Says Watson Health's AI Is Getting Really Good at Diagnosing Cancer (fastcompany.com) 51

An anonymous reader shares a report: In deciding on cancer treatment, doctors often get together in a "tumor board" to go over the options. IBM's Watson now sits in on those meetings in a few hospitals, such as in South Korea and India -- and it generally makes the same calls that a human expert would. So says IBM in a series of studies it's presenting this weekend at the ASCO cancer treatment conference in Chicago. "It's not making a diagnosis. That's not what we set out to do," says Andrew Norden of IBM's Watson Health division. "They will run Watson Oncology in a tumor board and sort of get another external opinion." Watson's "concordance rate" -- the degree to which it agrees with human doctors -- ranged from 73% to 96%, depending on the type of cancer (such as colon cancer) and the particular hospital where the study was done (in India, South Korea, and Thailand).

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