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A summary of important health news from the past week

China approves seaweed-based Alzheimer’s drug. It’s the first new one in 17 years

By Julie Zaugg and Jared Peng

A new seaweed-based drug, called Oligomannate, is now approved to be used for the treatment of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, according to CNN’s report on China’s drug safety agency. Although the agency is still tracking clinical reports of Oligomannate’s usage, a trial conducted on 818 patients found statistically significant results that the drug, derived from brown algae, ameliorates cognitive function among people with Alzheimer’s starting around four weeks. The study reports on their new-found awareness of the gut microbiome’s implications on neuronal health and Alzheimer’s research.

For Successful Aging, Pick Up the Pace or Mix It Up

By: Gretchen Reynolds

As we get older, walking requires more energy. What once came so natural, begins to feel burdensome. A new study published in The Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, found that different exercises regularly performed among older individuals affected the ease of walking. The study results showed that older cyclist walk more efficiently than older walkers. In fact, the oxygen consumption of older cyclists mirrored that of younger individuals when walking on a treadmill. According to Ortega, a co-author of the study,  walking for exercise seemed not to have supplied sufficient physical stimulus to maintain people’s ability to walk easily as they aged.

The next pandemic could come from factory farms

By: Danush Parvaneh

Over the past half-century, the production of mean has shifted from small farms to industrialized factory farms. These industrial farms, otherwise known as concentration animal feeding operations (CAFO), make up over 90% of the world’s meat supply. However, their inhumane treatment of animals raises many environmental and ethical concerns. Experts fear that these densely packed farms are ideal environments for viral and bacterial infections that could mutate and jump to humans. They believe that these farms are a likely source for the next pandemic.

Health alerts issued across South Florida as cases of West Nile Virus spread

By: Amber Randall

Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach County are all under health alerts as cases of West Nile virus are emerging. West Nile virus is disease that is spread by mosquitoes and whose symptoms are similar to those of the current Covid-19 pandemic. Not everyone infected shows symptoms, but the 20% who do have fatigue, headache, fever, and other symptoms. Some important preventative measures include draining standing water and covering your skin when outside, particularly in the early morning or evening when mosquitoes are more active.

Watch Out for Coronavirus Scams on Social Media

By: Robert Preidt

Since March, there have been over thousands of posts on Twitter and Instagram that claim to have illegal and untested treatments promising false cures to virus symptoms. The scammers lure individuals in with promises that their testing kits are effective, using social media as their own advertisement center. Researchers have analyzed these scams on social media sites in hopes that the study will provide insight to users in the future. Dr. Timothy Mackey, a professor of medicine at UCSD, offers a few tips on how to identify whether or not the product is real or fake and recommends reporting any suspicious activity immediately.

Diagnosing Disease on Darker Skin: Minding the Gap

By: Cathy Cassata

London-based medical student Malone Mukwende created a handbook of images and descriptions of clinical symptoms on black and brown skin, skin types that are frequently ignored in medical schools and medical training internationally. Mukwende recounts the lack of signs and symptoms on black and brown skin in his training and could not understand why he and his peers were not being taught the full spectrum of people nor could he find any answers. He approached one of his professors who connected him with another professor, and together they created the Mind the Gap online handbook. This handbook includes images and descriptions of clinical symptoms in black and brown skin. Doctor J. Nwando Olayiwola, a physician in Columbus, Ohio, praises Mind the Gap and how helpful it has been in serving black and brown communities: “We have long struggled with the proper imagery of darker skin people in medicine; not just in dermatology, but in the representation of how we are trained to do many things… you are constantly bombarded with images or models of people in books who may not look like you or like the patients you are taking care of. As a doctor, if you want to be good at understanding something, you want to see all different variations that are possible.” 

Mukwende knows that many healthcare professionals have been fighting for equal representation for years. With more awareness and attention brought to the issue, he believes healthcare professionals as a whole will be in a better position to best treat all of their patients, not just the white ones.