KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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After Puzzling Over Mumps Outbreaks, Scientists Recommend Extra Dose Of Vaccine

There have been cases recently where the vast majority of a population affected by an outbreak had received the two doses of vaccine, yet people still contracted the virus. In other public health news: a pen that detects cancer, overtreatment, mosquitoes, breast cancer, romantic attraction and more.

Stat: Third Dose Of Mumps Vaccine Could Help Stop Outbreaks, Researchers Say
An extra dose of the combined measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine can help to stop mumps outbreaks, a new study suggests. The research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine and based on analysis of data from a large mumps outbreak at the University of Iowa in 2015-2016, showed that getting a third dose of MMR vaccine cut the risk of contracting the mumps by 78 percent. (Branswell, 9/6)

Stat: A Pen That Detects Cancerous Tissue Could Help Surgeons Remove Full Tumor
Anew handheld device could someday help cancer surgeons figure out what to cut and what to leave alone in real time. The device, called the MasSpec Pen, is (unsurprisingly) about the size of a pen and employs water, plastic tubing, and a mass spectrometer. It’s the latest in engineers’ efforts to speed up the pace at which samples collected during operations are processed for clinically valuable information. (Sheridan, 9/6)

The New York Times: Overtreatment Is Common, Doctors Say
Most physicians in the United States believe that overtreatment is harmful, wasteful and common. Researchers surveyed 2,106 physicians in various specialties regarding their beliefs about unnecessary medical care. On average, the doctors believed that 20.6 percent of all medical care was unnecessary, including 22 percent of prescriptions, 24.9 percent of tests and 11.1 percent of procedures. The study is in PLOS One. (Bakalar, 9/6)

The New York Times: Infectious Mosquitoes Are Turning Up In New Regions
A mounting number of citations on a popular disease-tracking website suggests that mosquitoes may be moving into new ecological niches with greater frequency. The website, ProMED mail, has carried more than a dozen such reports since June, all involving mosquito species known to transmit human diseases. (McNeil, 9/7)

The New York Times: Fitness May Lower Breast Cancer Risk
Aerobic fitness seems to alter the interior workings of cells in ways that may substantially lower the risk of breast cancer. A new study with female rats found that those that were the most fit were much less likely than other animals to develop cancer after exposure to a known carcinogen, even if they did not exercise. (Reynolds, 9/6)

Stat: Can Craig Venter Really Predict What Your Look Like From Your DNA?
Can genomics wizards make an informed guesstimate on what a person looks like, based on his or her DNA? J. Craig Venter sure thinks so, per a new PNAS paper. Yet his Human Longevity Institute study is facing Twitter blowback for that claim. Venter’s proof-of-concept study used a machine learning algorithm to analyze the genomic and biometric data of 1,061 volunteers. It looked at gender, facial structure, age, height, weight, skin color, eye color, and voice, generating a facsimile of the person based on their genetic analysis. (Keshavan, 9/6)

NPR: Dating App Questionnaires May Not Measure Real-Life Attraction
Dating sites claim to winnow a few ideal suitors out of a nigh-infinite pool of chaff. But the matches these algorithms offer may be no better than picking partners at random, a study finds. Researchers asked about 350 heterosexual undergrads at Northwestern University to fill out questionnaires assessing their personalities and romantic preferences. (Chen, 9/6)

Kaiser Health News: Shedding New Light On Hospice Care: No Need To Wait For The ‘Brink Of Death’
A few weeks ago, Kathy Brandt’s 86-year-old mother was hospitalized in Florida after a fall. After rushing to her side, Brandt asked for a consult with a palliative care nurse. “I wanted someone to make sure my mother was on the right medications,” Brandt said. For all her expertise — Brandt advises end-of-life organizations across the country — she was taken aback when the nurse suggested hospice care for her mother, who has advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, kidney disease and a rapid, irregular heartbeat. (Graham, 9/7)

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