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Weekly Health Digest: Gene Editing, Vaccine Policy, Weed Killers, And Insect-Borne Diseases

World Health Organization Forms Committee To Guide Editing Of Human Genes

By: Rob Stein

Genetics is at its peak due to the amount of daily information that is being acquired through technological advancements. However, the lack of regulation on what can and cannot be done with genetic information has prompted the creation of an international committee on editing human DNA. Created and lead by the World Health Organization, the committee aims to “advise and make recommendations on appropriate governance mechanisms for human genome editing.” It became evident that there was a need to establish ethical criteria when a Chinese scientist, He JianKui, created the world’s first gene-edited babies to improve their immune systems last year. While the international community’s response to this event was split between those who want more specific research guidelines and those who want to ban gene editing completely, it seems that the WHO has leaned towards the former.

Common Weed Killer Glyphosate Increases Cancer Risk by 41%, Study Says

By Emily Dixon

Researchers at University of Washington have concluded that there is a “compelling link” between exposure to Glyphosate, and common herbicide, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system. After analyzing a range of published studies, the researchers estimated that exposure to this chemical increases cancer risk by 41%. Glyphosate is a chemical commonly found in weed killers, including Monsanto’s popular product, Roundup.

FDA chief: Federal government might step in if states don’t change lax vaccine laws

By: Elizabeth Cohen and John Bonifield

In response to the measles outbreak in Washington state, the head of the US Food and Drug Administration is putting pressure on states need to require more schoolchildren get vaccinated to avoid the federal government stepping in. Currently, 47 states allow parents to opt out of childhood vaccinations due to religious reasons; going a step further, 17 out of the 47 states specify allowing parents to opt out because of personal or philosophical beliefs. Such wide exemptions can lead to outbreaks with nation-wide implications. There have been mixed reactions to the head of the FDA’s comment: some want a call to action where vaccine hesitancy is made a public health priority while others do not want federal involvement.

Life-threatening, insect-borne diseases spike in Venezuela, report says

By: Nicole Acevedo

Venezuela is currently facing an increase in cases of malaria, dengue, chagas, and the Zika virus. The country has seen an estimated 359 percent increase in cases of malaria from 2010 to 2015 and from 1990 to 2016, cases of dengue have increased more than quadrupled. With Venezuela’s health system in an unstable state, citizens are having trouble receiving care and this leaves them vulnerable to contracting highly infectious diseases such as measles. Public health experts say that humanitarian aid to Venezuela is a first step to help combat the crisis.