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Eye Drops Are Recalled After Being Linked to Vision Loss and Death

By Amanda Holpuch, NY Times 

Fifty-five people across twelve different states have been infected with a bacterium named Pseudomonas aeruginosa. P. aeruginosa causes infections in the blood, lungs, and other parts of the body. It is resistant to antibiotics – even to carbapenems – which is a last resort antibiotic because of its high efficacy and low vulnerability to resistant bacteria. One person has died and five of the eleven people with eye infections specifically have vision loss. 

The outbreak has been linked to EzriCare Artificial Tears. As a result, both EzriCare Artificial Tears and Delsam Pharma’s Artificial Tears have been recalled. While Delsam Pharma’s Artificial Tears have not been linked to any infection, they use the same manufacturer as EzriCare. It is unclear if the facility is the source of the outbreak or if this is a case of contamination. The artificial tears are preservative-free and multi-use, meaning they are not only vulnerable to bacterial growth but do not contain any agents that will prevent bacterial growth if contaminated. The root of this bacterial outbreak is still unclear, but it further highlights how antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a huge public health concern at this time.

by Rebecca Sugerman

The Flu-ification of COVID Policy Is Almost Complete

By Katherine J. Wu, The Atlantic

Experts are pushing for the “Flu-ification” of COVID policy or making COVID-19 vaccines a yearly occurrence. Since the start of the pandemic, scientists have worked hard to distinguish COVID from the flu, but vaccine policy now aims at doing just the opposite. Creating a once a year strategy for COVID vaccine distribution would signify a monumental shift from treating the virus as an emergency, to treating it well… like the flu.

Whatever shape the new vaccine policy takes, revising the current strategy is needed. Demand for boosters in the U.S. has significantly dropped, with only 15% of Americans receiving the bivalent shot last fall. Additionally, only 40% of the sixty-five and older age demographic have received updated COVID vaccination. Ever-changing recommendations of vaccine timing and dosage are contributing to low vaccination rates and have caused many Americans to stop caring. 

Policymakers point to similarities between influenza and SARS-CoV-2 when pushing for annual COVID vaccination. Just like COVID-19, influenza can alter itself, mutate, and speads mostly in winter. Yet, despite the parallels, SARS-CoV-2 is not a seasonal virus. COVID-19 creates variants at a faster and more unpredictable rate than the flu. Avnika Amin, a vaccine epidemiologist at Emory University, says that a flu model for COVID vaccines would only work “if we had stable, predictable dynamics”. 

By making frontline responses to the two viruses similar, we risk perpetuating notions of equal threat. COVID-19 is not the Flu, and should be treated as such.

by Nolan Shah

What is CRISPR? What to Know About The Transformative Gene-Editing Tool

By Karen Weintraub, USA Today

Among the many advances in healthcare are breakthroughs in gene editing. CRISPR, which stands for “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats,” is the segment of DNA responsible for the bacteria’s immune system.  In the past 10 years, scientists have been using CRISPR to make gene editing “fast, simple, and precise.” CRISPR is being used in research laboratories globally and is being tested to study cancers and other diseases. By screening diseased cells, CRISPR can find targets for gene editing.

CRISPR has even been used on humans, and most scientists and medical ethicists are in full support of its benefits. In more recent years, there have been clinical trials using CRISPR to treat patients with blood cancer, as well as diseases caused by single gene mutations. For example, researchers believe CRISPR to be useful for patients with sickle cell disease. They use Cas9, a CRISPR-associated protein, to get rid of toxic genes responsible for sickle cell symptoms. This process reduces the “sickling” of red blood cells in patients. The sickling is what causes pain and organ damage in patients, but with CRISPR treatment, patients will be able to live more comfortably. While there is still more research to be done in this area, scientists claim CRISPR to be an extremely beneficial tool that can improve the lives of many.

by Jordyn Rosenberg

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