Stomach pump- new FDA approved weight loss device. #isthisforreal

No, this is NOT an onion article… the FDA has just approved a weight loss device called Aspire Assist which is essentially a stomach pump that can directly remove food from your stomach after it has been consumed. Glad we’re doing something to battle the obesity problem in this country, however, what happened to good old fashioned diet and exercise?

The Food and Drug Administration approved a weight loss device on Tuesday that pumps food out of a person’s stomach after they eat a meal.

While some have criticized the device as “assisted bulimia,” the FDA stressed in a statement, that the AspireAssist device is not meant for anyone with an eating disorder, and should only be used by adults 22-and-older who are obese and have failed to lose weight through non-surgical methods.

To place the device, a surgeon makes a tiny incision and endoscopically puts a tube in the patient’s stomach, which is attached to a “disk-shaped port that lies outside the body,” according to the statement.  To drain the contents of the stomach, a person should wait twenty or thirty minutes after they eat, and then attach an external connector to the port and open the valve.

According to the statement, 30 percent of the calories consumed during a meal can be removed by the device, which takes five-to-ten minutes to drain the food from the stomach into the toilet. Continue reading

Measles and Pertussis outbreaks tied to vaccine refusal @NIHDirector #science

Parents have a responsibility not only to their own children, but to their communities—it’s only by achieving a very high level of population immunity that outbreaks can be prevented. Vaccination is particularly crucial for children with cancer and other diseases that cause immunosuppression. They cannot be vaccinated safely, but are at high risk of severe consequences if they are infected—and, thus, they depend on the community’s so-called “herd immunity” for protection against a potentially fatal illness.

While some parents continue to express concern about a possible link between vaccines and autism spectrum disorders, the original report claiming this connection has been debunked and retracted.  A large number of carefully designed follow up studies have been carried out, and the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence shows no evidence for such a link. That’s why it continues to be so important to get the word out to parents: Have your kids vaccinated.

Harold Varmus knows what makes America great! #SCIENCE #RAawards16 @ResearchAmerica

Research America hosted its annual Advocacy Awards this week, which included honoring Dr. Harold Varmus with its Legacy Award.

Dr. Harold Varmus received the Legacy award for his lifetime commitment to advancing research.  In the 20 years we have hosted advocacy awards evenings, this is only the 4th time we have bestowed the Legacy Award.  I hope you will take a moment to consider the timely challenge Dr. Varmus delivered to us all via his acceptance remarks, in which he refers to science as representing the best of what we have been and must continue to be as a nation.

Dr. Varmus made an amazing speech during his acceptance of the award promoting science and research in America. Can Varmus run for President? He actually knows what makes America great!

Renee Cramer explains where presidential candidates stand on contraception-@Smilla1972 @ConversationUS

Where do the 2016 candidates stand on contraception?

Renee Cramer, Drake University

Access to safe and effective birth control is part of health care for tens of millions of Americans. The vast majority of Americans view birth control as “morally acceptable,” and make sharp distinctions between approval for methods of preventing pregnancy, and methods of terminating it.

Despite this, access to birth control has become politicized. Employee health care plans can be exempt from covering it. Organizations that provide affordable access are under threat. And while Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton support access to contraception, the top three candidates from the Republican Party favor policies that could severely restrict access to contraception.

What the Democratic candidates think about reproductive health

A 2015 Pew Poll indicates that the positions Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton take on birth control and family planning track more closely with public opinion than do the positions articulated by Republican candidates, and by a wide margin.

Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have strong records in support of access to contraception. In fact, their positions on these issues are nearly identical.

  • Both have stated that they view birth control as a right, and as essential health care.
  • Both see birth control and access to family planning information as keys to achieving gender equality.
  • Both of their campaigns focus on access to birth control via increased funding for Planned Parenthood, expansion of the Affordable Care Act and their early and sustained support for family planning initiatives like “Prevention First.”
  • Clinton and Sanders have both decried the Supreme Court’s ruling in Hobby Lobby, which enables employers to refuse to cover birth control in their employee health plans.
  • Both favor bills that would make it illegal for pharmacists to refuse to provide access to emergency contraception.
  • Both support global family planning initiatives through international partnerships.

Though their positions are stunningly similar, Planned Parenthood opted to endorse Hillary Clinton, citing her record of sponsoring bills that expand access in the United States and abroad, and her early and vocal support of the organization.

Trump’s positions aren’t clear

Donald Trump is the front-runner for the Republican nomination. Though he has proclaimed that he “cherishes women” and “will protect them,” he has also been widely criticized for misogynist statements and behaviors.

Trump’s anti-woman rhetoric may rightfully concern those who advocate for women’s rights. However, it is not clear that Trump’s personal opinions about the value and worth of women translate into any coherent policy regarding birth control and family planning.

In fact, it is impossible to know Donald Trump’s position on contraception. His campaign website does not have an “Issues” tab for birth control. It does not have a “Position” tab for anything related to contraception, family planning or reproductive health. Trump’s campaign website also lacks a search function.

Recently, Trump stated that he is pro-life and would defund “those parts” of Planned Parenthood that perform abortion (in fact no federal funding currently goes to to elective abortion at Planned Parenthood). However, he has acknowledged that Planned Parenthood provides valuable medical help and reproductive care to women who need it, especially in terms of cancer screening.

Though leaders of Planned Parenthood do not believe he would be a friend to their organization, it is unclear that, as president, he would act aggressively to end the organization’s existence.

Trump has also stated, repeatedly, that as president he would repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with an unspecified plan that will be “terrific,” and “much much better.“ His newly announced seven point plan would rely on market forces across state lines to spur competition among health care providers and insurance companies with an eye to increasing access.

Reducing funding to Planned Parenthood (even if not defunding it completely) and replacing the ACA both have the potential to gravely disrupt access to birth control for millions of women. However, it is absolutely unclear what a Trump presidency would mean for access to contraception.

Cruz and Rubio

Trump’s lack of clarity on the issue is disturbing. And it stands in contrast to the rather clear stances held by the the other two Republican candidates still viable in the presidential race: Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.

Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have both said in several forums that that they do not support a ban on contraceptives. But the policies that they do support, if enacted, would place significant barriers around access to them.

They have both supported “personhood” amendments to state constitutions as well as the federal constitution. These amendments variously state that life begins at fertilization, or conception, and in some cases define the fertilized egg as a person.

Such language could have the effect of banning the intrauterine device (IUD) due to the false belief that it causes abortion, rather than provides contraception – because IUDs in some instances prevent fertilized eggs from implanting. This is troubling because IUDs are the most effective long-term, reversible form of birth control on the market. These “Personhood Amendments” could also limit access to emergency contraception via the Plan B pill.

If access to birth control via state-funded health care, private insurance and Planned Parenthood are dramatically constrained by policies made during a Cruz or Rubio presidency, laws banning contraception would not be necessary.

By creating insurmountable burdens on access, Americans could find themselves living with a de facto ban on access to contraception.

The Conversation

Renee Cramer, Professor of Law, Politics and Society, Drake University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

WHO update on Zika Virus – Focus on neurological disorders

whoCheck out the latest on Zika virus from the World Health Organization – including new information on the potential association of Zika with neurological disorders. WHO has called for intensified research into these associations. See the link for the full report.

The second meeting of the Emergency Committee (EC) convened by the Director-General under the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR 2005) regarding clusters of microcephaly cases and other neurological disorders in some areas affected by Zika virus was held by teleconference on 8 March 2016, from 13:00 to 16:45 Central European Time.

The WHO Secretariat briefed the Committee on action in implementing the Temporary Recommendations issued by the Director-General on 1 February 2016, and on clusters of microcephaly and Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) that have had a temporal association with Zika virus transmission. The Committee was provided with additional data from observational, comparative and experimental studies on the possible causal association between Zika virus infection, microcephaly and GBS.

Obama asks congress for $$$ to fight Zika

President Barack Obama will ask the U.S. Congress for more than $1.8 billion in emergency funds to fight Zika at home and abroad and pursue a vaccine, the White House said on Monday, but he added there is no reason to panic over the mosquito-borne virus.

Zika, spreading rapidly in South and Central America and the Caribbean, has been linked to severe birth defects in Brazil, and public health officials’ concern is focused on pregnant women and women who may become pregnant.

Obama’s request to Congress includes $200 million for research, development and commercialization of new vaccines and diagnostic tests for the virus.

Read more from Reuters here.

The CDC guidelines on drinking and pregancy… and subsequent unwarranted media outrage!

This is a few days late, but to bring everyone up to date, the CDC has released new guidelines on the topic of drinking and women. The main take away points: don’t drink while pregnant and don’t drink if you are not using some form of birth control and have the chance to become pregnant. None of this should come as a surprise to anyone. It has long been known that Fetal Alchohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs) come about from consuming alcohol during pregnancy. While many doctors say it’s OK to have a drink every once in a while, the CDC stresses that no alcohol is the best way to be absolutely certain to avoid FASDs. From the CDC:

Alcohol use during pregnancy can cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs), which are physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities that last a lifetime. More than 3 million US women are at risk of exposing their developing baby to alcohol because they are drinking, having sex, and not using birth control to prevent pregnancy. About half of all US pregnancies are unplanned and, even if planned, most women do not know they are pregnant until they are 4-6 weeks into the pregnancy. This means a woman might be drinking and exposing her developing baby to alcohol without knowing it. Alcohol screening and counseling helps people who are drinking too much to drink less. It is recommended that women who are pregnant or might be pregnant not drink alcohol at all. FASDs do not occur if a developing baby is not exposed to alcohol before birth.

When I first saw this, my reaction was basically “duh”.  Apparently, others reacted differently. There has been lots of media outlash and uproar over the CDC recommendations. Some claim that this is an unrealistic warning-from Jezebel:

The CDC isn’t alone in this recommendation: the Mayo Clinic, for one, also recommends that any sexually active woman not on birth control refrain from drinking. But “the risk is real, why take the chance” has such a historical stranglehold even on women who are already pregnant, whose risk level is not real but immediate; to extend this idea to women whomight become pregnant just because they are alive and unmedicated—or to phrase the recommendation with a basic disregard for the facts of how women live—suggests the same old idea that all women are either future, current, past or broken incubators, and that is their body’s primary use.

forget that the real problem is abortion access and the fact that birth control occasionally fails. Women, your body is a ticking time bomb in which the bomb is a fetus, so get on birth control or stop drinking—that’s the way it’s going to be!

An article in The Washington Post claims that this message is incredibly condescending towards women, stating that the guidelines suggest drinking without being on birth control can lead to pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. NPR summarizes some other reactions:

The way this advice was communicated has struck many women as severe and condescending. “CDC to younger women: Better take your birth control before you drink that glass of wine,” read one headline.

The Internet let forth a tsunami of derision. One columnist for The Washington Post quipped, “That’s the last time I drink merlot alone in my apartment. I don’t want herpes.”

Indeed, the CDC did also point out that drinking can make a woman more vulnerable to injuries or violence and sexually transmitted diseases. But many commenters pointed out that there was no report warning men that drinking can lead to violent behavior and STDs.

“The way [the CDC] stated this is very extreme,” says Emily Oster, an economist at Brown University who wrote a book on the sometimes anxiety-producing advice that women are given during pregnancy.

Oster says the CDC has an important message to convey. Some women undoubtedly are unaware of the risks of alcohol during the early weeks of pregnancy when they may not even know they’re pregnant.

But given the tone and the judgment woven into the messaging, Oster says, it touched a nerve.

Let me say that I am SHOCKED by the amount of outrage over this article. These guidelines are legit- don’t drink while pregnant; don’t drink if you have the chance to become pregnant. No one can deny that this is sound advice. Access to birth control, abortion, etc. is all a different issue- which should definitely be discussed (and improved upon), however, unrelated to these guidelines. Furthermore, I believe the swarm of posts have all taken these guidelines grossly out of context. Thank god for The Huffington Post:

“We definitely didn’t make any recommendations for women who are pre-pregnant,” said Lela McKnight-Eily, an epidemiologist and clinical psychologist on the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Prevention Team at the CDC. 

“It’s more a matter of women knowing and being informed that if they are drinking alcohol, sexually active and not using birth control, that they could be exposing a baby to a teratogen, and that could cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorders,” McKnight-Eily said.

The warning was really directed at the three out of four women who reported wanting to get pregnant “immediately,” but who said they continued drinking as they tried to conceive. 

It was intended to inform women about the risks of alcohol and pregnancy (both expected and unexpected) — not to control the behavior of women who aren’t trying to have a baby. 

“Women should have conversations with their health professionals about drinking alcohol and their health, in general, “McKnight-Eily added. “Particularly if they are planning to get pregnant or trying to get pregnant, this should be part of the conversation that they’re having.” 

As a woman, I take no offense from the CDC guidelines, and I don’t think others should either. Some say it’s “unrealistic” to expect women to completely stop drinking if they are trying to become pregnant (it can take a while sometimes)… fine. As mentioned, this is a conversation that women need to have with their health professionals, and THAT is what the CDC recommends. The CDC isn’t telling women what to do with their bodies, it’s encouraging them to know the facts and discuss with their doctors. That’s ALL.

As for me, WHY would you take the chance? I like drinking just as much as the next person, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to stop drinking for a little while leading up to pregnancy. And I think it’s crazy that others are outraged by this. Ladies, we have REAL issues in this country that need to be dealt with (access to birth control, abortion, wage gap, ‘leakly pipeline’ when it comes to leadership positions, etc etc), let’s try to focus on those issues instead.


10 things to know about Zika virus

The threat of Zika: Q&A

WHO says Zika virus is strongly suspected of causing birth defects and may infect 3-4 million people in the Americas.

Tarek Bazley | 31 Jan 2016 14:15 GMT

The Zika virus (yellow) is strongly suspected of causing birth defects. [Science Photo Library]

What is Zika virus?

Zika virus is a mosquito-transmitted infection related to dengue, yellow fever and West Nile virus.

Symptoms are mild and include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes).

Just one in five people infected becomes ill. Hospitalisation is uncommon and deaths are rare.

How does it spread?

Zika is primarily spread through the bite of an infected Aedes species of mosquito.

Pregnant women can also pass the virus to their babies during pregnancy but how and when this happens is unclear.

Those infected can pass the virus on through a mosquito bite for about seven days after infection.

There are no reports of transmission through breastfeeding, but in a few cases the virus has been reported to have been passed on through blood transfusion and sexual contact.

Where is Zika?

The latest outbreak is in 23 countries in the Carribean, Central America, South America, Mexico and Puerto Rico.

Past outbreaks have been in Gabon, Egypt, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire, the Central African Republic, Cambodia, Micronesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, India, Thailand, Philippines, and Indonesia.

How did Zika get to Brazil?

Nothing has been proven but Zika may have been brought to Brazil by participants of the Va’a World Sprint Canoeing World Championships, held in August 2014.

Athletes came from French Polynesia, New Caledonia, the Cook Islands and Easter Island.

It has also been suggested that Zika was brought by Asian tourists attending the 2014 FIFA World Cup, raising concerns that the Olympics, starting in Rio de Janeiro on August 5, will result in further spread of the virus.

How is Zika diagnosed?

A blood or tissue sample from the first week in the infection must be sent to an advanced laboratory.

The virus can be detected through sophisticated molecular testing that seeks out the active virus, which lasts in the body for about a week.

Research is being done to develop a rapid test which could look for antibodies after a patient has recovered from the virus, making it possible to test for immunity.

How is Zika treated?

There is no vaccine or specific medicine currently available and treatment is normally focused on relieving the symptoms.

Can a vaccine be developed?

In theory a vaccine is possible but development testing and trials for human vaccines normally take years and cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

A number of companies, including Inovio, Hawaii Biotech, GSK and Sanofi are developing or considering working on a vaccine.

Last year Sanofi received approval for the world’s first dengue vaccine.

Dengue is closely related to Zika but Sanofi is cautious about whether it could be adapted.

“There are too many unknowns about Zika to reliably judge the ability to research and develop a vaccine effectively at this time,” it said in a statement.

What is microcephaly and how is it linked?

Microcephaly is a birth defect characterised by incomplete brain development and an unusually small head.

It is a life-long condition with no cure or standard of treatment, and is linked with conditions such as seizures, developmental delays and intellectual problems.

Microcephaly is normally uncommon. In the US, there are typically between two and 12 cases per 10,000 newborns.

The condition is being reported in the worst Zika-affected areas in Brazil at dramatically higher rates: 100 cases for every 10,000, or 1 percent of births.

Research from Brazil has suggested there is a correlation between the location and timing of this Zika outbreak and the increase in cases of microcephaly, but there is currently no proof that the virus causes the birth defect.

However, Zika virus has been found in the amniotic fluid of pregnant women with the virus and in the placentas and brains of miscarried fetuses with microcephaly. The World Health Organisation’s Director-General Dr Margaret Chan says a causal link is “strongly suspected”.

Why was the potential link between Zika and birth defects not previously observed?

In areas where Zika has been active for decades, such as Central Africa and Asia, most people are infected early in life, so the risk of infection during pregnancy is small.

The population in the Americas has not had exposure to the virus until now.

This means more women are now being exposed to the virus for the first time during pregnancy, possibly increasing the risk of birth defects.

This is why public health officials are telling women to avoid getting pregnant, at least until they have had the virus, or Zika has been brought under control.

Can GM mosquitos stop the virus?

British biotech company Oxitec has produced genetically modified Aedes aegyptimosquitoes by introduing two genes into its DNA.

One of them makes its eggs glow under UV light, helping with identification.

The other causes ithe mosquito’s offspring to die.

Oxitec says that by releasing the GM mosquitos into infected areas populations of Aedes aegypti can be reduced by more than 80 percent, thereby reducing transmission of Zika.

Oxitec says there is no way the mosquitos’ modified DNA can transfer into humans or other mammals and insects, but public fears over genetic modification mean the technique is controversial.

Source: Al Jazeera

What’s going on with the water in Flint, MI?

If you haven’t been keeping up, Flint, Michigan has been in the news lately due to its toxic tap water. Two years ago, to cut costs, the state decided to switch Flint’s water supply from Lake Huron (which they were paying the city of Detroit for), to the Flint River, a notorious tributary that runs through town known to locals for its filth. The results are not surprising.

Turns out the water is highly toxic, and highly corrosive. Researchers discovered more than double the normal levels of lead in children’s blood samples. From the Washington Post:

The city of Flint, Mich., is in the midst of a water crisis several years in the making. The city opted out of Detroit’s water supply and began drawing water from the Flint River in April 2014, part of a cost-saving move. Eighteen months later, in the fall of 2015, researchers discovered that the proportion of children with above-average lead levels in their blood had doubled.

The city reconnected to Detroit’s water system in October, but the damage was done. Water from the Flint River was found to be highly corrosive to the lead pipes still used in some parts of the city. Even though Flint River water no longer flows through the city’s pipes, it’s unclear how long those pipes will continue to leach unsafe levels of lead into the tap water supply. Experts currently say the water is safe for bathing, but not drinking.

A group of Virginia Tech researchers who sampled the water in 271 Flint homes last summer found some contained lead levels high enough to meet the EPA’s definition of “toxic waste.”

Importantly, the lead contamination in the water can have adverse health effects. Just this week, Flint has also reported a spike in reported cases of Legionnaires disease in the area. While there isn’t enough evidence to directly link this to the contaminated water, it could be a potential reason for the spike.

All of this has resulted in Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R) asking Obama to declare a state of federal emergency in Flint.

My $0.02… when it comes to health and safety, it is wise to NOT cut costs.  As a result of trying to save some money, now Flint is dealing with far greater issues including irreversible damage to the health of its residents and water supply infrastructure. Fixing these problems will be far more costly…

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