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Weekly Health Digest: Measles Impact On Immune System, Contaminated Stool Kills Patient, Brain Aging, And More

A summary of important health news from the past week

Measles makes body ‘forget’ how to fight infection

By James Gallagher

Several studies on unvaccinated individuals have shown that measles has an immense impact on the immune system. It has been shown that the measles virus attacks our B-cells, a type of immune cell that stores information on how to fight off hostile invaders our immune system has previously fought. This is referred to as immune amnesia. Not all antibodies are the same; however, if the measles virus attacks a crucial antibody that can fight off an intruder virus, the body becomes more vulnerable to infection. By reverting our immune systems into a “baby-like” state, measles makes it harder for our bodies to fight off new infections. While people usually recover from measles, the disease can be deadly. Thus, vaccination is extremely important but so is revaccination for those who caught the virus despite being vaccinated in childhood.

U.S. hospitals, FDA grapple with shortages of lifesaving drugs

By: Didi Martinez, Brenda Breslauer and Stephanie Gosk

Hospitals are having to develop strategies for preparing for shortages of critical medicine. And many hospitals are finding the need to actually implement these emergencies plans. Medicines like Heparin, a blood-thinner critical to surgery, Acyclovir–IV, an antiviral drug used to treat infections, and many others are in critically short supply. The FDA notes there are currently 116 drugs in short supply. These concerns are sparking government committee meetings and concerns over how these shortages may open the door to potential security threats.

By: Andrew Jacobs

Two patients who received a fecal transplant as part of an experimental trial at Massachusetts General Hospital became seriously ill and one died. They both received fecal matter from a donor whose stool contained a strain of E. coli bacteria that was resistant to many antibiotics. The bacteria is usually harmless in healthy people but these patients already had compromised immune systems. The death was a shock to the new field of fecal microbiota transplants, a procedure that transfers feces from health donors to the bowels of sick patients to restore their compromised gut microbiome. This incident has led to nationwide alerts to health care providers about the potential risks of the procedure.

At Age 8, We May Know How Your Brain Will Age

By: Heather Cruickshank

New research suggests that cognitive skill tests can be used to predict future brain aging and even risk for Alzheimers. A study that followed 502 individuals over the course of sixty years found that those who scored in the top quarter for thinking skills tests at age 8 were likely to also score in the top quarter at age 70. Higher education experience and working in their fifties were also linked to better test scores. Meanwhile, the study asked the participants to undergo a brain scan looking for amyloid-beta plaques, a key indicator of Alzheimers. Among participants who were not diagnosed with Alzheimers, lower scores on Preclinical Alzheimer Cognitive Composite (PACC) were linked to the presence of the amyloid-beta plaques. These results suggest that tracking cognitive skills over the course of a lifetime can be used as a tool to predict brain aging and Alzheimers in later life.

Facebook launches new tool to help you get health tests and screenings

By: Jacqueline Howard

In partnership with the American Cancer Society, American College of Cardiology, American Heart Association and the CDC, Facebook has rolled out their Preventive Health tool to keep track of recommended preventive health screenings based on age and sex. They want to keep people healthier by making sure they have information at their fingertips in a consumer friendly way. Most recommendations will be covered by insurance. Some features include a blood donation feature, a map of federally qualified health centers and locations for flu shots.