Included below are news items from the last six months.
A blood test with important research potential needs only a small blood sample to test for past exposure to hundreds of viruses. That's a major advance over current testing, which generally checks for one virus at a time. Photo source: CDC, Doug Jordan
Investigators are studying and making good progress with a new technique that uses a patient's blood sample to look for snippets of DNA that have been shed from cancerous tumors. This liquid biopsy may be a more accurate, sensitive, and convenient way to monitor cancer than traditional methods. Photo source: Jonathan Bailey, National Human Genome Research Institute
In an effort to reduce confusion and improve the benefits of screening for cancer, the American College of Physicians (ACP) recently issued guidelines for breast, ovarian, prostate, cervical, and colorectal cancer screening. The ACP says it wants healthcare providers to focus on tests that improve health, avoid harms, and eliminate wasteful practices. Photo source: National Cancer Institute
A new law allows Arizonans to request any medical lab test from clinical laboratories without a doctor's order, adding to an ongoing debate on patient autonomy versus oversight by health practitioners. Photo source: National Cancer Institute, Daniel Sone (photographer)
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.