August 21st, 2013
05:01 PM ET
The new strain of bird flu that killed at least 40 people in China this year likely evolved through close contact between ducks and chickens in markets selling live birds, according to a genetic analysis published in the journal Nature. At least 130 people became infected during the outbreak, which began in March.
“We clearly identified that the source of human infection came from the infected chickens, not any other types of birds,” said Yi Guan, a professor of virology at the University of Hong Kong and one of the study authors. The analysis also shows the virus was shed from the birds' oral or upper respiratory tract, not from fecal material. According to Yi, this suggests that H7N9 reasonably well adapted to infect humans, a finding that's supported by other research.
The research group also discovered a previously unrecognized variety of bird flu – an H7N7 strain, with a genetic makeup similar to the novel H7N9 strain. The H7N7 strain was also able to infect mammals in laboratory conditions.
Any variety of influenza is broadly characterized by two of its proteins: the type of hemaglutinin (“H”) and the type of neuraminidase (“N”).
October 23rd, 2012
09:02 PM ET
Editors' note: Tom Colicchio talks about food and your vote on "Sanjay Gupta MD," Saturday at 4:30 p.m. ET and Sunday at 7:30 a.m. ET.
Jobs… Obamacare… Iran… and food?
Voters looking for a reason to support or oppose a candidate will find new ammunition in the first-ever “National Food Policy Scorecard,” created by a coalition of non-profits including environmental advocates, anti-hunger groups and activists including “Top Chef’s” lead judge and restauranteur Tom Colicchio.
“I don’t think the average person thinks this stuff through,” says Colicchio, who sees a link between government policy and what families put on the table. “When you see people who are struggling, and buying fast food for kids, it’s not because they think it’s great for you. It’s because it’s cheap. And it’s cheap because the government subsidizes corn, wheat and soy. That’s what we’re supporting with our tax dollars. What if we took that money and put it towards farmers growing fresh, organic vegetables?”
August 1st, 2012
09:57 AM ET
Doctors have dreamed for decades of a vaccine against malaria, which sickens more than 200 million people every year. But a new study warns of a potential pitfall: a malaria vaccine could lead to an even more dangerous parasite.
The paper was published this week in the journal PLOS. Researchers working with the leading candidate vaccine immediately questioned it, saying they’ve seen no sign of dangerous changes as a result of their work.
The study was performed on mice. Researchers monitored the malaria parasite through several generations, comparing parasites in mice who had been inoculated against malaria with mice those who did not receive vaccinations. In the former group, new malaria infections caused more severe illness, as measured by red blood cell count.
Vicki Barclay, the study’s lead author, said it shows a need to track the long-term impact of any malaria vaccine, especially since any such vaccine is expected to be “leaky” - meaning it won’t offer complete protection, and the disease will continue to spread, albeit at a slower rate. The fear is that malaria could become more deadly, even as it continues to infect people. FULL POST
April 2nd, 2012
03:54 PM ET
If you follow health news, you’ve heard talk about a person's “genetic risk" of disease. With companies offering personalized genetic tests for as little as $200, it’s tempting to think that a world of knowledge is at our fingertips.
But a new paper from some of the leading names in science throws a bit of cold water on the promise.
According to a group from Johns Hopkins University, led by two scientists known for breakthrough discoveries on the genetics of cancer, genomic sequencing “fails to provide informative guidance to most people about their risk for most common diseases.”
February 8th, 2012
10:37 AM ET
In June 2009, the new H1N1 flu strain was spreading like wildfire in western Canada, just as it was in dozens of countries around the world. But within a few weeks, the flames were nearly out, and a new study pinpoints a possible reason: summer vacation.
On June 12, high schools in the province of Alberta let out for the summer. On June 19, the middle schools finished, followed by the elementary schools on June 26. Researchers from McMaster University compared those dates to the incidence of new H1N1 cases in Alberta, and using a complex statistical analysis, estimated that closing schools reduced flu transmission among school children by more than 50%.
That, in turn, reduced transmission in the population at large. The findings, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, support the idea that closing schools could reduce or slow down a dangerous outbreak of influenza.
January 20th, 2012
05:19 PM ET
The Obama Administration is standing by a decision to require all insurance plans to cover the use of contraceptives, but said Friday it would give some employers an additional year to comply.
The rule, which goes into effect August 1, 2012, requires all insurance plans to cover the cost of birth control. Many non-profits with religious affiliations, such as Catholic universities and hospitals, say that will force them to violate their basic tenets.
The Department of Health and Services announced Friday those employers would have until August 1, 2013, to meet the new requirement.
December 9th, 2011
02:03 PM ET
In 2008, Joan Gagliardi was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease that caused scarring on internal organs, including her windpipe. It began to choke off her ability to breathe, but doctors at the University of Miami Hospital kept the damage in check with a treatment known as IVIG: Infusions of immunoglobulin.
The bad news came in 2010, when Gagliardi learned that her insurance company, Highmark Blue Shield of Pennsylvania, which had previously approved the expensive treatments, had reversed itself. The denial was retroactive, leaving Gagliardi liable for $1.2 million or approximately $50,000 for each infusion.
Fortunately for Gagliardi, the hospital didn’t press its claim, choosing instead to negotiate with Highmark. This year they settled up, with Highmark agreeing to pay $382,229. Gagliardi was off the hook.
Surprisingly, it’s not uncommon for an insurer to reverse itself, even after a claim is paid. State laws vary, but companies often take up to a year to perform “utilization reviews,” in which they re-examine claims that they’ve already processed.
August 17th, 2011
02:34 PM ET
Many patients with the deadliest form of skin cancer got a new treatment option Wednesday, as the Food and Drug Administration gave its blessing to vemurafenib, sold by Genentech under the brand name Zelboraf. It was approved to treat patients whose tumors have a specific gene mutation known as BRAF (pronounced “bee-RAF), and with advanced disease or whose tumors cannot be removed through surgery.
“It’s good day for melanoma,” says Tim Turnham, president of the Melanoma Research Foundation. “We’ve gotten two new drugs this year, after 13 years of nothing.” The other drug, Yervoy, was approved in March.
About 70,000 patients a year are diagnosed with melanoma, Most cases are caught early, but if disease spreads beyond the original tumor site, the average lifespan is measured in months without treatment.
About this blog
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.