KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

full issue

In Arms Race Against Superbugs, Returning To Tried-And-True Technique May Be Key To Winning

Although it's been said that soil has been "over-mined" for antibiotics, some think that new technology could rejuvenate the old practice. In other public health news: Lyme disease, wounds to the hip, elder abuse, IVF and sepsis.

The Washington Post: In The Hunt For New Antibiotics, Scientists Hit Pay Dirt
Scientists have discovered a new kind of antibiotic — buried in dirt. Tests in animals show that it is effective against drug-resistant bacteria, and it could lead to desperately needed treatments for deadly antibiotic-resistant infections. Almost our entire arsenal of antibiotics was discovered in soil, but scientists haven’t gone digging for drugs in decades. That’s because, “screening microbial extracts from soil is thought to be a tapped-out approach,” said Richard Ebright, a scientist at the Waksman Institute of Microbiology at Rutgers. Soil has been “over-mined,” agreed Kim Lewis, director of the Antimicrobial Discovery Center at Northeastern University. But there is still a wealth of useful compounds under foot; we just have to take a closer look. (Gallegos, 6/15)

The Washington Post: Dangerous Unproven Treatments For ‘Chronic Lyme Disease’ Are On The Rise
An increasing number of Americans with medically ambiguous symptoms are being misdiagnosed with “chronic Lyme disease” and prescribed dangerous and often expensive treatments that do not work, according to a new report. In some instances, patients have died after receiving intensive, long-term and inappropriate courses of intravenous antibiotics that led to septic shock. In other cases, misdiagnosis caused dangerous delays in treatment of a patient’s actual underlying condition. (Sun, 6/15)

The Washington Post: Why A Single Gunshot To Steve Scalise’s Hip Can Be A Life-Threatening Injury
For those of us who experience gun violence via movies or television, the single bullet wound to the hip that House Majority Whip Steve Scalise suffered in a ballfield shooting Wednesday would seem less serious than what could have happened to him. After all, he wasn't hit in the head or chest, which can be immediately fatal. But even a single penetrating wound to the pelvic region, which is densely packed with blood vessels, organs and other structures, is extremely dangerous, according to trauma surgeons and emergency medical personnel. (Bernstein, 6/15)

Stat: To Improve IVF, These Scientists Are Looking At Adding Some Womb Fluids
Data has shown that infants conceived via IVF are at a slightly higher risk for some birth defects and genetic disorders, and are more likely to be born at low birth weight. One possible cause for these differences is epigenetics — that is, the markers that turn genes on and off. Scientists have noticed that IVF embryos have subtly different epigenetic patterns than naturally conceived embryos. And one of the prime differences between the process of IVF and natural conception is the early embryonic environment. So, researchers trying to improve IVF have begun looking at how to make the Petri dish environment more like that of the Fallopian tubes. (Sheridan, 6/16)

California Healthline: The New War On Sepsis
Dawn Nagel, a nurse at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, Calif., knew she was going to have a busy day, with more than a dozen patients showing signs of sepsis. They included a 61-year-old mechanic with diabetes. An elderly man recovering from pneumonia. A new mom whose white blood cell count had shot up after she gave birth. Nagel is among a new breed of nurses devoted to caring for patients with sepsis, a life-threatening condition that occurs when the body’s attempt to fight an infection causes widespread inflammation. She has a clear mission: identify and treat those patients quickly to minimize their chance of death. Nagel administers antibiotics, draws blood for testing, gives fluids and closely monitors her charges — all on a very tight timetable. (Gorman, 6/16)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.