Health Highlights: Nov. 9, 2017
Obamacare Enrollment Tops 600,000 in First Week Bio-Engineered Mosquitoes to be Released In U.S. Gene-Tweaked Skin Grafts Save Boy's Life
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Obamacare Enrollment Tops 600,000 in First Week
More than 600,000 Americans signed up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act between Nov. 1-4, which was the first week of open enrollment season, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said Thursday.
Nearly 80 percent of them renewed their coverage and about 23 percent were new consumers, the Associated Press reported.
Despite Trump administration reductions in advertising and enrollment assistance, the pace of sign-ups is about the same as last year. Open enrollment ends Dec. 15, which is much earlier than last year.
CMS said there are no problems with the HealthCare.gov website serving 39 states, the AP reported.
Bio-Engineered Mosquitoes to be Released In U.S.
Bio-engineered mosquitoes will be released in many parts of the United States next year in an attempt to reduce wild populations of mosquitoes that can transmit diseases such as Zika, yellow fever and Dengue fever.
The lab-grown male Asian Tiger mosquitoes are infected with bacteria that prevents reproduction, but does not pose a risk to other insects or animals, according to Kentucky-based MosquitoMate, US News & World Report said.
The release of the bio-engineered mosquitoes in 20 states and Washington, D.C. was approved by the Environmental Protection Agency on Nov. 3 and the program will start next summer, according to a report in the journal Nature.
Release of the mosquitoes was not approved in much of the southeastern U.S. because MosquitoMate has not yet performed field trials there. The company recently completed a successful trial in Florida and plans to submit an application to the EPA for nationwide use of its mosquitoes.
Similar projects are underway in Brazil and China, according to US News & World Report.
Gene-Tweaked Skin Grafts Save Boy's Life
Experimental genetically-corrected skin grafts used on 80 percent of a boy's body saved his life, doctors say.
The 7-year-old boy in Germany had a rare genetic condition that affects development of a membrane in the top layer of skin (epidermis). People with the incurable condition, called epidermolysis bullosa, are at high risk for infections and skin cancer and many die before age 30, NBC News reported.
An infection had destroyed most of the boy's skin and he was dying in agony. He had received skin grafts from his father but the grafts did not last.
Skin grafts from other people usually fail in patients with epidermolysis bullosa because of the genetic defect that affects how the skin grows.
The doctors at Children's Hospital at Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany decided to get help from experts across Europe in order to perform experimental skin grafting. The medical team removed some non-damaged skin from the boy and used a virus to carry a corrected version of the genetic defect into his skin cells, NBC News reported.
Grafts of the corrected skin were grown and used to replace the boy's missing skin in three separate operations. The grafts took hold and grew, according to the case report in the journal Nature.
The effort was led by Dr. Michele De Luca of the University of Modena in Italy.
The boy "was discharged from the hospital in February 2016," De Luca told reporters in a telephone briefing, NBC News reported.
"His epidermis is currently stable and robust, and does not blister, itch, or require ointment or medications," the graft team wrote. "The child returned to regular elementary school in March 2016."
"The amount of coverage that (the team) was able to achieve on this patient and the impact that this has had on the patient's life is really incredible," Stanford University's Dr. Peter Marinkovich, who also uses skin grafts to treat similar patients, told NBC News.
"It shows the promise of what we are doing," he added.