Included below are news items from the last six months.
The CDC has issued a travel alert for more than 20 countries, primarily in South and Central America and the Caribbean, because of an outbreak of Zika virus, an infection spread by mosquitos. Pregnant women are advised to postpone travel to these areas following reports of microcephaly in babies born to mothers who were infected with the Zika virus while pregnant. Photo source: CDC, James Gathany
Scientists are concerned about a rise in the number of infections caused by bacteria called "superbugs" because they are resistant to just about all antibiotics and have resulted in death in almost half of all patients who contracted them. They belong to a family of bacteria called CRE, according to the CDC, which called them an "urgent public health threat" in a new report released in December. Photo source: CDC, Melissa Dankel
All overweight and obese adults over age 40 should get screened for diabetes, say new guidelines from the USPSTF. Intensive diet and exercise counseling are advised for those with high blood glucose levels or type 2 diabetes to prevent or delay complications. Photo source: CDC, Amanda Mills
Is it a Heart Attack? Study Finds Improved Blood Test May Speed Up Discharge for Some ER Patients with Chest Pain
A recent study found that highly-sensitive troponin blood tests are better than standard tests in ruling out heart attacks and determining who can be can be safely discharged sooner from the ER. Photo source: NHGRI, Jeannine Mjoseth
Two years after being told by the FDA to discontinue marketing direct-to-consumer genetic tests, 23andMe has launched a new genomic service. Far fewer reports will be available to consumers than previously, at least for now, but the new reports have been cleared by the FDA and include carrier status test results for over 35 diseases. Photo source: National Human Genome Research Institute, Jonathan Bailey
A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that a 21-gene test is accurate in predicting which women diagnosed with certain types of breast cancer will do well with hormone therapy alone and can forego chemotherapy. Photo source: National Cancer Institute (Bruce Wetzel, Harry Schaefer)
The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that women with average risk of breast cancer consider waiting until age 45 to have their first mammogram and annually thereafter, switching to having the test every other year beginning at age 55. Previously, the ACS recommended annual mammograms beginning at age 40. Photo source: National Cancer Institute, Rhoda Baer
Preliminary results from a major study showed that using medications to achieve a target systolic blood pressure reading of 120 mm Hg significantly reduced rates of heart disease and the risk of death among people with hypertension age 50 and older. Photo source: NCI, Bill Branson
Most people will experience at least one diagnostic error during their lifetime, sometimes with devastating consequences, according to a new report from the Institute of Medicine. The report offers some critical recommendations for improving diagnoses and reducing errors, including more effective teamwork among healthcare professionals, patients, and their families. Photo source: National Cancer Institute, photographer Rhoda Baer
For some people, statins are not effective or effective enough in lowering their blood cholesterol level. Now some of those who also have heart disease, a history of heart attacks or strokes, or hereditary high cholesterol may be helped by a new class of drugs recently approved by the FDA.
Researchers have developed a new diagnostic test for enterovirus D68, a virus that caused a deadly outbreak of severe respiratory illnesses last year. The new test involves an improved technique that reduces the time needed to detect the virus in the lab and would be an important tool in the event of future cases and outbreaks. Photo source: CDC/ Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Yiting Zhang
Two new studies support guidelines released two years ago that would result in more people taking statins to lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease and strokes. Not all health practitioners have agreed with the 2013 guidelines, but given the evidence from these studies, it is important for people to have a conversation with their healthcare providers about what is best for them. Photo source: Chung, M.K., and Rich, M.W. Introduction to the cardiovascular system. Alcohol Health and Research World 14(4):269–276, 1990. Reprinted with permission from NIAAA.
A small study suggests that a new, experimental blood test may be effective in detecting pancreatic cancer at much earlier stages than the cancer is usually found currently. If larger trials show the same effectiveness for the blood test, a reliable test for pancreatic cancer could be available within the next few years. Photo source: National Cancer Institute. Artist: Don Bliss