Included below are news items from the last six months.
A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine has found that a relatively new, non-invasive prenatal blood test that screens for Down syndrome in unborn babies is more accurate than standard screening methods, even in low-risk pregnancies. While the test, called cell free fetal DNA testing (cffDNA), has proven to be highly accurate, it does have limitations and it is not yet known how it will fit in with current prenatal testing. Photo source: CDC Public Domain, Ken Hammond
Testing has confirmed that home-canned potatoes used to make a potato salad were the likely source of a deadly outbreak of foodborne botulism in Ohio. Over 20 people were sickened and one woman died after eating food at a church potluck. Photo source: CDC, Debora Cartagena
In the future, people with possible food allergies may be evaluated using a new approach. A team of researchers recently investigated an experimental blood test called the basophil activation test as a potential new way to diagnose food allergies and help predict severity of the reactions.
Angelina Jolie Pitt learned through genetic testing that she has BRCA mutations that put her at increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Writing in a recent Op-Ed newspaper article, she told her story and discussed the importance of being informed when making personal health decisions about testing and treatment. Photo source: Remy Steinegger
Each year, about 48 million Americans get sick from eating contaminated food. Last month, the CDC, the FDA and the USDA jointly released a report that identifies which foods are responsible for foodborne illnesses caused by four major types of bacteria. Photo source: National Cancer Institute
The FDA has approved for the first time a genetic carrier test to be sold to directly to consumers. The screening test lets prospective parents know whether they carry a defective gene and could pass a rare disorder to their children.
U.S. Government to Drop Warning on Dietary Cholesterol, but High Blood Cholesterol Still Important Health Risk
HHS and USDA are set to release new 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans that drop the long-standing advice to limit foods high in dietary cholesterol. However, this does not change recommendations to keep blood cholesterol levels low and to screen regularly for high blood cholesterol.
Last year, the FDA approved for the first time a high-risk HPV test as a primary screening tool for cervical cancer but did not address how such screening would be applied. Now, a panel of experts has developed interim guidelines for health practitioners who may be interested in offering the hrHPV test to their patients without a Pap smear.
The CDC issued a health advisory on January 23 in response to an ongoing measles outbreak. Public health officials think that most of these recent cases can be attributed to a larger, ongoing outbreak that started in December 2014 among people who were exposed to measles at a California amusement park. The alert is a reminder that measles still affects people in the U.S. and that vaccination is the best protection against this highly contagious infection that can have serious consequences.
A rapid test for syphilis has been granted a waiver by the FDA for use in a wider variety of healthcare settings, such as emergency rooms, clinics, and other outpatient settings. The test is performed on a fingerstick sample and results are available in less than 12 minutes. This wider availability of the test may help lead to a higher rate of detection, which could allow for timely treatment and a decline in the spread of the infection.
The FDA recently approved a test for lipoprotein-associated phospholipase A2 (Lp-PLA2) activity that helps predict risk of future coronary heart disease events, such as heart attacks. It is intended to be used along with a clinical evaluation and cardiac risk assessment to help determine risk in people with no history of heart disease and is particularly helpful in predicting risk in women, especially African American women.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recently issued a final recommendation on screening for vitamin D deficiency in adults that found that there is not enough evidence to determine whether screening would be beneficial. The Task Force undertook the review of the latest evidence as the number of people taking vitamin D supplements as well as the number of patients being screened for deficiency has increased in the last few years.