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Health Highlights: Sept. 15, 2020

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

Link Between Poor Sleep and Obesity: Study

Poor sleep is associated with obesity, the latest in a long line of studies shows.

It included 120,000 people whose sleep quality was tracked for two years using smartphones. Previous studies have typically relied on the memories of participants about how well they slept, CNN reported.

The new study found that obese people had slightly shorter mean sleep duration and more variable sleep patterns than those who weren't obese, according to the study published Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

It said that obese people slept about 15 minutes less a night than those who weren't obese, CNN reported.

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Democrats to Investigate Trump Appointee's Alleged Meddling in CDC Pandemic Reports

Allegations that Trump appointees at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have tried to manipulate U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports on the coronavirus pandemic will be investigated by House Democrats.

Voluntary testimony from seven HHS officials is being sought by the Democratic members of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, CBS News reported.

Those officials include HHS spokesman Michael Caputo and his senior adviser, Paul Alexander.

Last week, Politico reported that Caputo and Alexander have tried to alter or halt the release of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports (MMWRs) on the pandemic, CBS News reported.

Such political interference could undermine the scientific integrity of the reports and of the CDC itself, the Democrats wrote in a letter Monday to HHS Secretary Alex Azar and CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield.

Experts rely on MMWRs during the pandemic for information on how the virus spreads and who's at risk, but "HHS officials apparently viewed these scientific reports as opportunities for political manipulation," the Democrats wrote, CBS News reported.

Along with testimony from officials, the Democrats want HHS to hand over documents.

In a statement to CBS News, Caputo said his office "clears virtually all public-facing documents for all of its divisions, including CDC."

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Anti-Inflammatory Drug May Shorten Recovery Time for COVID-19 Patients Taking Remdesivir

Using an anti-inflammatory medicine along with the antiviral drug remdesivir appears to shorten COVID-19 patients' recovery time, according to drug company Eli Lilly.

Remdesivir -- from Gilead Sciences -- has previously been shown to reduce recovery time to an average of four days. Patients who also received Lilly's anti-inflammatory drug baricitinib (sold as Olumiant to treat rheumatoid arthritis) recovered one day sooner than those who took remdesivir alone, according to the company, the Associated Press reported.

Recovery is defined as being well enough to leave the hospital.

The findings from the 1,000-person study sponsored by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases were released Monday.

The study hasn't been published or reviewed by independent scientists, but U.S. health officials said Lilly's statement about the results was accurate, the AP reported.

The possible emergency use of baricitinib for hospitalized COVID-19 patients will be discussed with U.S. regulators, Lilly said.

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Effectiveness of Inhaled Coronavirus Vaccines to be Studied

A study to assess the effectiveness of two experimental coronavirus vaccines when they're inhaled, rather than injected, has been announced by researchers.

The trial will test the responses of 30 people, ages 18-55, when they inhale vaccine droplets in their mouths, which would directly target their respiratory systems, explained the scientists at Imperial College London and Oxford University in the U.K., the Associated Press reported.

"We have evidence that delivering influenza vaccines via a nasal spray can protect people against flu as well as help to reduce the transmission of the disease," and this might also be the case with the new coronavirus, research leader Chris Chiu, Imperial College London, said in a statement.

Clinical trials of the vaccines' effectiveness when injected are already underway.

"It is critical we explore whether targeting the airways directly can provide an effective response compared to a vaccine injected into muscle," according to Chiu, the AP reported.

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