Health Highlights: Nov. 28, 2018

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Scientist Who Claimed World's 1st Gene-Edited Babies Says There May be 2nd Pregnancy

The Chinese researcher who made an unconfirmed and controversial claim about creating the world's first gene-edited babies says there may be a second such pregnancy.

On Wednesday, He Jiankui of Shenzhen announced the second possible pregnancy while making his first public comments about his research at an international conference in Hong Kong, the Associated Press reported.

The second pregnancy is in the very early stage and it will take more time to determine if it will last, according to He.

Last week, He said he altered the DNA of twin girls born earlier this month in an attempt to make them resistant to the HIV virus, which causes AIDS.

Universities and government groups are investigating He's claims about his research, which has been widely condemned.

This type of gene editing is highly controversial because such DNA changes can be passed to future generations and might damage other genes, the AP reported.

He's experiment is "irresponsible" and shows that the scientific community had failed to regulate itself to prevent premature efforts to alter DNA, according to David Baltimore, a Nobel laureate from the California Institute of Technology, and a leader of the Hong Kong conference.

"This is a truly unacceptable development," Jennifer Doudna, a University of California-Berkeley scientist and one of the inventors of the CRISPR gene-editing tool He said he used, told the AP.

"I feel more disturbed now," David Liu of Harvard and MIT's Broad Institute, and inventor of a variant of the gene-editing tool, told the AP. "It's an appalling example of what not to do about a promising technology that has great potential to benefit society. I hope it never happens again."

So far, He's claim has not been independently verified and it has not been published in any scientific journal where it would be reviewed by experts.

At the conference, He left many questions unanswered, including who paid for his research and why he kept it secret until after it was done, the AP reported.

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Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Tahini Imported from Israel: FDA

A multistate salmonella outbreak has been linked to tahini imported from Israeli manufacturer Achdut Ltd., the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said.

The company has recalled all of its brands of tahini products that were made from April 7, 2018, to May 21, 2018, have expiration dates of April 7, 2020, to May 21, 2020, and have product lot codes ranging from 18-097 to 18-141.

Consumers with the recalled Achva, Achdut, Soom, S&F, Pepperwood, and Baron's brand tahini should throw it away or return it to the store for a refund, the FDA said Tuesday.

So far, there have been five confirmed cases of illness in the outbreak.

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Kratom Products Have High Levels of Heavy Metals: FDA

In addition to many other health risks, kratom products can have high levels of heavy metals, U.S. Food and Drug Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb says.

The FDA has issued a number of warnings about the health risks posed by the herbal supplement products, which have become increasingly popular in recent years and are used recreationally and by people trying to self-medicate for pain or to treat opioid withdrawal symptoms.

Some kratom products have been found to contain salmonella and to cause infections.

FDA scientists recently tested 26 separate kratom products and found levels of lead and nickel unsafe for human consumption.

"While the levels of the specific products we've tested so far are not likely to result in immediate acute heavy metal poisoning from a single use, some of these products included levels that, with chronic use, could cause some people to suffer from heavy metal poisoning," Gottlieb said in a statement.

"We are concerned that there may be other kratom products on the market that also contain heavy metals," he added.

The FDA is companies that market these kratom products to make them aware of the heavy metal testing results.

"Kratom is not legally marketed in the U.S. as a drug or dietary supplement. While it is important to gather more evidence, data suggest that certain substances in kratom have opioid properties and that one or more have the potential for abuse," Gottlieb said.

"For individuals seeking treatment for opioid use disorder who are being told that kratom can be an effective treatment, I urge you to seek help from a health care provider," he said.

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