Health Highlights: March 5, 2019

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Second Man HIV-Free After Stem Cell Transplant

In only the second known case worldwide, a man is free of HIV after a stem cell transplant, doctors say.

The London, U.K. patient has not been identified. He was diagnosed with HIV in 2013 and diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in 2012. He decided in 2016 to have a stem cell transplant to treat the cancer, the Associated Press reported.

The stem cell donor had a double copy (inherited from both parents) of a gene mutation that confers natural resistance to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. So, the transplant gave the patient the mutation and built-in HIV resistance, according to the case study that was published online Monday in the journal Nature. The study will also be presented at an HIV conference in Seattle.

The patient agreed to stop taking HIV drugs to see if the virus would return. After 18 months off the drugs, there was still has no trace of HIV, the AP reported.

Finding a stem cell donor with a double copy of the HIV-resistant gene mutation was “an improbable event,” said lead researcher Ravindra Gupta of University College London. “That’s why this has not been observed more frequently.”

In the only other known case, Timothy Ray Brown of the U.S. became HIV-free after a stem cell transplant in Germany 12 years ago and is still free of the virus.

The new case “shows the cure of Timothy Brown was not a fluke and can be recreated,” Dr. Keith Jerome, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, told the AP.

This could lead to a simpler approach that could be used more widely, added Jerome, who was not involved in either case.

Brown told the AP he would like to meet the London patient and would encourage him to go public because “it’s been very useful for science and for giving hope to HIV-positive people, to people living with HIV.”

Dr. Gero Hutter, the German doctor who treated Brown, said the London case was “great news” and “one piece in the HIV cure puzzle,” the AP reported.


Heat Alerts May Come Too Late in Northern States

Hospital admissions for heat-related health problems increase in Northern states long before heat alerts are issued, a new U.S. study shows.

Not only that, these higher admission rates occur at lower temperatures than in the South, where people are more used to heat, the Associated Press reported.

The findings, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest that heat alerts in northern states are not being issued early enough, Dr. Renee Salas, an emergency room doctor and researcher at the Harvard Global Health Institute, told the news service.

The study is important in a warming world where the problem of heat illness is only going to get worse, said Salas, who wasn’t part of the study.

In the study, U.S. government researchers analyzed hospital admissions for heat-related illnesses in 22 states over a decade. They found an average of 36,000 such hospitalizations each summer.

The study said that when the heat index — a combination of temperature and humidity — reaches 85 degrees, there’s a noticeable rise in the number of people who go to the hospital with heat-related illnesses such as dehydration, breathing and heart problems, and even diabetes, the AP reported.

However, the National Weather Service doesn’t issue its first level of heat alerts in those regions until the heat index approaches 100 degrees, the AP reported.


Over 20 States to Fight Trump Administration Abortion Rule

The Trump administration’s new rule forbidding taxpayer-funded family planning clinics from referring patients to abortion providers is being challenged in court by California and 20 other Democratic-led states.

Critics say the rule would divert millions of dollars from Planned Parenthood to faith-based family planning organizations, the Associated Press reported.

On Monday, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the state had filed its own federal lawsuit in San Francisco that aims to block the new rule.

“The Trump-Pence administration has doubled down on its attacks on women’s health,” Becerra said.

On Tuesday, 20 states and Washington, D.C., said they would sue separately. The states are: Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin, the AP reported.

In addition, Washington state’s Democratic attorney general has said that state would challenge the new rule.


Social Media Companies Must Curb Spread of Vaccine Myths: AAP

Google, Facebook and Pinterest need to take more action against the growing threat to children posed by online misinformation about vaccines, the American Academy of Pediatrics said in a letter sent to the social media companies.

“Pediatricians are working in our clinics and our communities, talking with families one-on-one about how important vaccines are to protect their children’s health. But it’s no longer enough,” AAP President Dr. Kyle Yasuda said in an academy news release.

“Our worst fears are being realized as measles outbreaks spread across the country. I reached out to the technology industry with an urgent request to work together to combat the dangerous spread of vaccine misinformation online,” Yasuda said.

Google (which owns YouTube), Facebook (which owns Instagram and WhatsApp) and Pinterest all say they’re taking steps to tackle the problem, but the AAP says more needs to be done to ensure that parents have credible information about vaccines.

In the letter, the AAP asks the companies to meet and discuss ways to work together to achieve that goal.

“We have an opportunity — and in my view, an obligation — to work together to solve this public health crisis,” Yasuda said. “It will take commitments across all sectors — local and federal government, the medical and public health community, and the technology industry — to do so.”


U.S Teen Who Defied Mother to Get Vaccinated Will Testify Before Senate Committee

The American teen who got vaccinated against his “anti-vaxx” mother’s wishes says he’ll testify at a U.S. Senate Committee hearing on vaccinations.

On Twitter, Ethan Lindenberger of Norwalk, Ohio, said he’ll testify about the importance of vaccines in front of the Committee on Health, Education Labor, and Pensions, USA Today reported.

He said he’s looked forward to speaking about “outbreaks of preventable diseases as well as addressing misinformation that causes these outbreaks.”

The hearing will also hear from John Wiesman, Washington state’s secretary of health; John Boyle, president and CEO of the Immune Deficiency Foundation, and other health experts, USA Today reported.

Lindenberger has received vaccines for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, influenza and HPV, according to the Washington Post.

People opting out of vaccinations have become a global health threat, the World Health Organization says.

Posted: March 2019

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