skip to Main Content
A blue image of 5 people who are holding on their laps clipboards, printouts, laptops and a tablet, surmounted by a semi-opaque white box containing the words "Weekly Health Digest"

HIV Vaccine: Johnson & Johnson Ends Trial After Vaccine Fails to Stop Transmission

By Megan Drillinger, Healthline

In 2019, Johnson & Johnson began a clinical trial to evaluate an experimental HIV vaccine. HIV is a global epidemic, affecting nearly 1.5 million people in 2021. In Phase 3 of J&J’s Mosaico study, the vaccine proved ineffective in stopping the transmission of HIV compared to the placebo given to participants. Although ineffective, there were no safety issues with the vaccine. Researchers and doctors have claimed that it is difficult to create an effective vaccine due to the rapid speed at which the virus mutates. 

Although the J&J vaccine trial is no longer in action, there are many other HIV vaccines being tested around the world, providing hope for a cure against HIV. Findings of a new HIV vaccine candidate showed that a single dose leads to an immune response able to fight against HIV. The vaccine produced antibodies that could protect against HIV infection, which increased even more after the second dose. The trial is still in Phase 1, however, many researchers are optimistic about its future. Although there is still no official vaccine against HIV, effective interventions and medication to treat the virus are becoming more widely available. Preventing the infection entirely is a goal researchers have been working towards for decades, yet they are hopeful a solution is in the near future.

by Jordyn Rosenberg

Closing the Gender Care Gap: A playbook for women’s wellness in 2023

By Anthony Vennare, Fitt Insider

Over the past decade, the use of technology in healthcare has led to many new treatments and diagnostic tools for chronic illnesses. However, while spending on health-tech has risen at astronomic rates, investments into femtech made up only 3% of total healthcare deals in 2022. “Femtech” refers to products and services that use technology to improve women’s health by directly targeting care gaps historically overlooked by healthcare. Care disparities include delayed diagnoses, inadequate mental health services, and dismissal by clinicians for pain-related issues. Projections currently estimate that femtech will drive the women’s health market size to a $1.2T valuation by 2027. 

Gender care gaps are due in part to the taboos surrounding topics of women’s health such as menstrual health and postpartum depression. Additionally, most companies are only focused on sex-specific conditions causing a siloing of women’s care experiences from conventional care experiences. There needs to be a shift from sex-specific care to sex-aware care. Companies like Midi Health, LOLA, and Hey Jane are leading this change by treating women holistically through digital health innovations. The femtech sector needs to continue to expand its focus onto conditions disproportionately affecting women for women’s health outcomes to improve.

by Nolan Shah

Report Outlines National Plan to Test Wastewater for Harmful Germs 

By Ernie Mundell, U.S.News

Wastewater monitoring is a helpful tool for tracking levels of pathogens and new emerging variants to control the spread of infectious diseases. Germs enter wastewater via human stool, which can contain the DNA of viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens. This system is important for prioritizing community public health, through closely monitoring pathogens in wastewater. 

Through the National Wastewater Surveillance System (NWSS), wastewater testing became prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic to better understand the spread of the virus. Especially as at-home tests gained popularity and self-reporting decreased, wastewater surveillance aided public health officials in tracking new variants. Additionally, this system has been critical regarding the recent Poliovirus and mPOX (monkeypox) outbreaks. The NWSS was used on an as-needed basis for the three viruses mentioned, but this new plan intends to have a more organized and long-term use. Ideally, the surveillance plan will allow for following multiple pathogens at once and quickly identifying the emergence of new pathogens. The NWSS is also prioritizing pathogen hotspots and will include entrance sites with guards, like those at zoos and airports, to monitor emerging pathogens at points of entry. 

by Rebecca Sugerman

Chinese Pray for Health in Lunar New Year as COVID Death Toll Rises

By Alessandro Diviggiano, Reuters

As the Lunar New Year holiday begins, China is anticipating another COVID wave as millions will travel from cities to their rural homes. Not only are Chinese citizens traveling within the country, but many expect to travel abroad as well since China has re-opened its borders earlier this month. As many will be seeing their family for the first time in three years, the second COVID spike that began in December 2022 is unlikely to slow down. Already, nearly 13,000 new deaths have been reported from the past week according to national data. 

Since the Chinese government has reversed its “Zero COVID” policy, there has been a lack of regulations put into place at the local level. With fewer financial resources, rural medical facilities have turned to less effective alternatives to treat COVID. Citizens have protested both virtually and publicly against the limited treatment options. Despite the emotional reconnection of loved ones and the decorated festivities of the new year, COVID’s deadly impact still looms.

by Serena Ye

Items contributed by: Jordyn Rosenberg, Nolan Shah, Rebecca Sugerman, and Serena Ye