KHN Morning Briefing

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Study May Provide Road Map For Scientists Searching For Genes Linked To Autism

Researchers found that the way children search out social experiences is connected to genetics. In other public health news: prostate cancer, Zika, food safety and diets, deadly infections and more.

Stat: 15 Percent Of Men Regret Prostate Cancer Treatment Choices Years Later
After years of introspection, about 15 percent of men with localized prostate cancer regretted the decisions they made regarding treatment, a survey of almost 1,000 patients showed. About twice as many men expressed regret after radical prostatectomy or radiation therapy as compared with active surveillance. The single biggest contributor to regret was treatment-associated sexual dysfunction, as reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. (Bankhead, 7/12)

Los Angeles Times: Surgery For Early-Stage Prostate Cancer Does Not Lead To Longer Lives, Study Finds
A long-term study of men diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer has confirmed that patients who forgo immediate surgery have the same odds of living another decade or two as patients who have their tumors surgically removed. The results, published in Thursday’s edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, show that while each approach offers a different mix of benefits and risks, neither is likely to result in death due to prostate cancer. (Abed, 7/12)

USA Today: Why Zika Virus Infections Are Way Down In U.S. This Summer
Zika, the virus that sparked widespread concern last year? It’s on the wane, at least for now. The number of people infected with Zika is down substantially this year in the United States, reflecting a precipitous drop in mosquito-borne virus infections in Puerto Rico and other overseas locations. (Orr, 7/12)

Stat: Changing What You Eat Can Change How Soon You'll Die
A new study shows that such diet changes are better late than never — as long as those new healthy habits stick. That came from researchers at Harvard’s school of public health who tracked what over 70,000 people have eaten for decades. They found that long-term improvements in diet were associated with a significantly decreased risk of death. (Sheridan, 7/12)

The Baltimore Sun: Genetics Playing A Growing Role In Intersection Of Nutrition And Health 
Dieticians for years have used genetics on a limited basis, looking at mutations in one particular gene that may make patients prone to disease or more likely to have certain health conditions. For example, patients who are lactose intolerant can't break down the lactose found in dairy products because of a mutation in the lactose gene. So they suffer with gas and other uncomfortable digestive problems after drinking milk or eating cheese or ice cream. The sequencing of the human genome - or the mapping of every gene in the body - has enabled not just dieticians, but all doctors, to use genetics in a more comprehensive way. A doctor can look at a patient's entire genetic makeup to determine, for instance, if they have multiple gene mutations that would make them more prone to obesity or cardiovascular disease. (McDaniels, 7/13)

The New York Times: The Chemicals In Your Mac And Cheese
Potentially harmful chemicals that were banned from children’s teething rings and rubber duck toys a decade ago may still be present in high concentrations in your child’s favorite meal: macaroni and cheese mixes made with powdered cheese. (Rabin, 7/12)

Kaiser Health News: DNA Links Deadly Germs, Tainted Heart Surgery Devices To German Factory
Contamination at a German factory that makes crucial machines used during open-heart surgery is the likely source of a global outbreak of deadly infections tied to the devices, the largest analysis to date shows. Scientists using whole-genome sequencing matched the DNA fingerprints of samples taken from infected heart-surgery patients from several countries, including the U.S., to samples from the devices, called heater-cooler units, in multiple hospitals — and at the production site. (Aleccia, 7/12)

Stat: Movement Supports People Who Hear Voices, Yet Refuse Medication
Do patients who hear voices — and suffer other symptoms that psychiatrists would consider severe —  have the right to direct their treatment, even if that means rejecting conventional therapies, such as psychiatric medication? Some mainstream psychiatrists have concerns that people who are out of touch with reality and spurn treatment may pose a danger to themselves or others. But the movement, which began in the Netherlands, has spread rapidly in the past three decades; there are now “hearing voices” support groups on all five continents, and over 180 in the U.K., alone, anchored by the Hearing Voices Network. The idea has been slower to take hold in the U.S., which has a strong medical model for treating mental illness, but is gaining steam there, too. (Wang, 7/13)

NPR: Study Finds Mistakes With Medications On The Rise
When people take medicine at home, mistakes happen. Some people end up taking the wrong dose of a medication or the wrong pill. Sometimes, they don't wait long enough before taking a second dose. Other times, it's a health professional who's at fault. A pharmacist might have dispensed a medication at the wrong concentration, for example. (Columbus, 7/12)

The New York Times: Who Needs Hard Drives? Scientists Store Film Clip In DNA
It was one of the very first motion pictures ever made: a galloping mare filmed in 1878 by the British photographer Eadweard Muybridge, who was trying to learn whether horses in motion ever become truly airborne. More than a century later, that clip has rejoined the cutting edge. It is now the first movie ever to be encoded in the DNA of a living cell, where it can be retrieved at will and multiplied indefinitely as the host divides and grows. The advance, reported on Wednesday in the journal Nature by researchers at Harvard Medical School, is the latest and perhaps most astonishing example of the genome’s potential as a vast storage device. (Kolata, 7/12)

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