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Health Highlights: July 25, 2019

Last Updated: July 25, 2019.

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

First U.S. Trial Using CRISPR Within the Body Is Set to Begin

In a U.S. first, a clinical trial to begin this fall will use the inside-the-body gene-editing technique CRISPR to try to cure illness. Doctors hope to use the cutting-edge technique to cure a type of inherited form of blindness called Leber congenital amaurosis.

Even though they have normal eyes, patients with this type of blindness lack a gene that turns light into signals to the brain that enable sight, the Associated Press reported.

Using a tool that cuts or "edits" DNA in a specific spot, researchers will attempt to give child and adult patients a healthy version of the gene they lack. The trial will include 18 people across the United States and will be conducted by two companies, Editas Medicine and Allergan.

Leber congenital amaurosis is the most common cause of inherited childhood blindness, occurring in about 2 to 3 of every 100,000 births.

The only other trial to use gene editing inside the body was to treat metabolic diseases. That was done by a company called Sangamo Therapeutics, the AP reported.

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U.S. Fertility Rate At All-Time Low

The U.S. fertility rate continued to fall last year and reached an all-time low, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

The general fertility rate fell 2% between 2017 and 2018 among girls and women ages 15-44, according to a report released Wednesday by the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, CNN reported.

By race, fertility rates fell 2% for white and black women, and 3% for Hispanic women. Births among teens ages 15-19 fell 7%, with decreases of 4% among black teens and 8% among white and Hispanic teens.

The rate of preterm births rose from 9.93% to 10.02% and the rate of early-term births rose from 26% to 26.53%, CNN reported.

The proportion of full-term births fell from 57.49% to 57.24% and post-term births declined from 6.58% to 6.2%.

A report released earlier this year by the National Center for Health Statistics said the 2017 U.S. fertility rate continued to fall below what's needed for the population to replace itself, CNN reported.

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Death Rates Rising Among Young and Middle-Age U.S. Adults

Death rates are on the rise among young and middle-age U.S. adults, a federal government report says.

Death rates for black, Hispanic and white adults ages 25-44 generally declined from 2000 through 2012, but increased through 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics.

In this age group, death rates rose 21% among whites and blacks and 13% among Hispanics between 2012 and 2017, CNN reported.

The CDC report did not examine why death rates are climbing among adults ages 25-44, but the executive director of the American Public Health Association offered a suggestion.

"You can surmise that it's most likely due to opioids," Dr. Georges Benjamin told CNN. However, further investigation would be needed to confirm that, added Benjamin, who was not involved in the report.

Among adults ages 45-64, the death rate increased 9% among whites from 2010 to 2017, rose 4% among blacks from 2011 to 2017, and remained stable for Hispanics from 2011 through 2017.

Between 2000 and 2017, death rates among adults 65 and older fell 27% among blacks, 18% among whites and 17% among Hispanics, CNN reported.


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