Included below are news items from the last six months.
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
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