Health Highlights: Aug. 23, 2016
Florida Teen Makes Rare Recovery From Brain-Eating Amoeba Infection Congress Questioning EpiPen Price Hike Jimmy Carter Thought He Had Just Weeks to Live After Cancer Diagnosis New Process Turns Mice Transparent, Reveals Nervous System
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Florida Teen Makes Rare Recovery From Brain-Eating Amoeba Infection
A Florida teen is recovering after becoming only the fourth person in the last 50 years to survive infection with the brain-eating amoeba Naegleria fowleri, which is fatal in 97 percent of cases.
Sebastian DeLeon, 16, arrived at Florida Children's Hospital in Orlando with a severe headache on Aug. 7. Doctors believe he was exposed to the amoeba at a freshwater lake a few days earlier, ABC News reported.
Tests of DeLeon's spinal fluid revealed signs of N. fowleri. He was admitted to the hospital 30 hours after first developing a headache. Doctors lowered his body temperature, induced a coma, and gave DeLeon the drug miltefosine, which has shown some promise in killing the amoeba.
After being kept in a coma for a few days, DeLeon was awakened by doctors and had his breathing tube removed. Within a few hours, he was speaking, according to Dr. Humberto Liriano, who treated DeLeon, ABC News reported.
N. fowleri occurs naturally in freshwater ponds and lakes. It can travel up the nasal passage to the brain.
Congress Questioning EpiPen Price Hike
Members of Congress want the maker of EpiPens to explain why the price of the lifesaving product has risen 400 percent since 2007 and now costs as much as $600.
An EpiPen delivers a potentially life-saving injection of medicine into people suffering a severe allergic reaction.
In a letter to the pharmaceutical company Mylan, Senator Charles Grassley, the Iowa Republican who heads the Judiciary Committee, demanded to know the reasons for the huge price hike, The New York Times reported.
"Access to epinephrine can mean the difference between life and death, especially for children," wrote Grassley, who also noted that many children who need EpiPens are enrolled in government health care programs.
"It follows that many of the children who are prescribed EpiPens are covered by Medicaid, and therefore, the taxpayers are picking up the tab for this medication," he wrote.
Previously, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, called for a Judiciary Committee inquiry into the EpiPen price increase and an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission, The Times reported.
"Many Americans, including my own daughter, rely on this lifesaving product to treat severe allergic reactions," she wrote to the head of the commission.
Mylan has said product improvements have boosted EpiPen costs, that the devices are often covered by insurance, and that the company provides discounts, The Times reported.
Jimmy Carter Thought He Had Just Weeks to Live After Cancer Diagnosis
After being diagnosed with advanced skin cancer, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter thought he had just a few weeks to live.
At Monday's opening of an annual Habitat for Humanity work project he and his wife Rosalynn sponsor, Carter said he put on a "a false, optimistic face" for months after he received the cancer diagnosis a little over a year ago, NBC News reported.
He was told he had melanoma skin cancer that had spread to his brain.
At the event in Memphis, Tenn, the 92-year-old Carter said he feels "pretty certain about my cure" but added that doctors are still "keeping an eye on me," NBC News reported.
Carter was treated with a new drug called Keytruda and announced late last year that scans showed he was free of cancer.
New Process Turns Mice Transparent, Reveals Nervous System
A process that turns an entire mouse transparent while illuminating the nerve paths through its body could one day be used to map the human brain and to study brain disorders such as Alzheimer's disease and schizophrenia, according to researchers.
The uDisco process means scientists can study an animal's nervous system without having to slice into organs or tissues. Instead, they can use a microscope to trace neurons from the brain and spinal cord all the way to fingers and toes, The New York Times reported.
The technique, which has been used only in mice and rats, is described in a paper published Monday in the journal Nature Methods.
"When I saw images on the microscope that my students were obtaining, I was like 'Wow, this is mind blowing,'" said Ali Erturk, an author of the paper and a neuroscientist from the Ludwig Maximilians University, Munich, Germany, The Times reported.
"We can map the neural connectivity in the whole mouse in 3D," Erturk added.