Vaping Breakthrough: CDC Pinpoints Synthetic Vitamin E as First Possible Culprit
In a telephone press briefing last Friday, Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), announced a “breakthrough” in the ongoing public health investigation of vaping-related lung disease: the identification of vitamin E acetate as the “first potential toxin of concern.”
Nearly all New York State Department of Health tests have found extremely high levels of the liquid additive in nearly all cannabis vaping products, specifically. The oil was also present in lower prevalence in other non-THC vaping product samples that were tested. One official at Friday’s briefing noted that vitamin E acetate is an “extremely sticky” oil that lingers in the lungs. Likewise, lung fluid samples from 29 ill patients across 10 states all tested positive for the synthetic supplement.
As of Tuesday, vaping-related lung illness has affected 2,051 individuals in 49 states (except Alaska), the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands and claimed 40 lives across 24 states and the District of Columbia. Additional potential vaping-related deaths are under investigation by the CDC.
While Schuchat described last week’s reported findings as “significant,” she noted that further testing is needed as the CDC continues testing for a wide range of other chemicals as well.
Researchers Identify First New HIV Strain in 19 Years
Researchers from Illinois-based Abbott Laboratories in conjunction with the University of Missouri, Kansas City and the Presbyterian Mission Agency have identified a new strain of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), subtype L of the HIV-1 Group M virus family. Responsible for the global HIV/AIDS pandemic, the Group M virus has been traced back to the Democratic Republic of Congo in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Samples of the subtype was first discovered decades ago, but efforts to sequence the genome and genetically map the subtype were only made possible by “next generation” gene sequencing technology, according to Abbott Labs. The results of such mapping, published Wednesday in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, are the first new HIV strain identified since HIV subtyping classification guidelines were first established in 2000.
The discovery will help ensure that current HIV diagnostic tests reflect the latest mutations of a continuously changing virus. It is not yet known if or how this newly-identified HIV subtype affects the body compared to existing subtypes, of which there are several.
Experts believe available treatments should be effective against the new strain.
First Home Prescription Drug Deliveries By Drone
On November 1st, two drones from UPS Flight Forward, a subsidiary of UPS, launched from a CVS pharmacy in Cary, North Carolina, with prescription medications intended to reach one customer in a private home and another in a retirement community. The drones hovered about 20 feet in the air and lowered the small shoebox-sized medication packages to the ground by cable and winch.
CVS and UPS are exploring further drone delivery collaborations to maximize the potential of unmanned aerial flight in all types of settings — urban, suburban and rural. Drone drug delivery could be a particularly important development for consumers with limited mobility as well as for those in rural areas in need of life-saving medication with little access to pharmacies.
The program has been approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.
New York Bill To Protect Intersex Children From Medically Unnecessary Surgeries
Nearly 1.7 percent of children are born “intersex,” meaning that their chromosomes or anatomy do not clearly fall within traditional male and female sex labels.
New York State Senator Brad Hoylman told CNN that he was going to introduce a bill on Friday which would prevent medically unnecessary surgeries on intersex children, protecting them from potential body-altering procedures prior to their ability to legally consent to them.
Such procedures, Hoylman said, can cause physical or emotional distress later in life. The bill mirrors a bill by California State Senator Scott Weiner in April.
By Carah Wertheimer
Carah Wertheimer is a freelance writer based in Boulder, Colorado. Her areas of specialization include food, health, environment, social justice and community reporting. Her work has appeared in National Geographic, The Denver Post, The Daily Beast, the Boulder Daily Camera, Boulder Weekly and other publications.