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Health Highlights: July 31, 2019

Last Updated: July 31, 2019.

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

Trial Tests CRISPR Gene-Editing to Treat Sickle Cell Disease

A U.S. clinical trial of CRISPR gene-editing to treat people with sickle cell disease is underway.

It seeks to recruit up to 45 adults with severe sickle cell disease, a group of inherited blood disorders, CNN reported.

Sickle cell disease can cause pain, anemia, blindness, organ damage and shorten a person's life.

The trial will use CRISPR in an attempt to boost production of a different kind of hemoglobin (fetal hemoglobin) that makes it harder for cells to sickle and stick together, CNN reported.

Sickle cell disease affects about 100,000 Americans, most of African ancestry or identifying as black.

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New NIH Rules for Research Using Fetal Tissue Concern Scientists

Some scientists are concerned about new U.S. National Institutes of Health rules for funding research that uses human fetal tissue.

Scientists must now justify why they need to use human fetal tissue, show that they received consent for the use of fetal tissue from women who had abortions, and outline their plans for treatment and disposal of fetal tissue after they complete their research, CNN reported.

Scientists in training cannot propose research that uses fetal tissue, according to the new rules that were announced last week and take effect September 25.

"This decision is all about the politics, not about the science, and it has unfortunately allowed the abortion debate to creep into what should be a research issue," Lawrence Goldstein, professor of cellular and molecular medicine, University of California, San Diego, told CNN.

In June, the Trump administration said it would halt research by NIH scientists that used fetal tissue from elective abortions. That prompted 93 medical association and universities to "express our collective and strong opposition" to the new policies.

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Plan to Allow Americans to Import Drugs Being Developed by Trump Administration

A plan that would allow Americans to import lower-priced prescription drugs from Canada is being developed by the Trump administration, according to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

He made the disclosure during an interview with CNBC, the Associated Press reported.

The administration is "working on a plan on how we can import drugs safely and effectively from Canada so the American people get the benefit of the deals that pharma (companies) themselves are striking with other countries," Azar said in the interview.

Allowing Americans to import drugs from Canada has strong support from consumer groups because they believe it will pressure U.S drug companies to lower their prices, the AP reported.

However, some experts are skeptical, partly due to uncertainty about whether Canadian suppliers can meet the demands of the U.S. market.

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Legionnaire's Disease Outbreak Linked to Atlanta Hotel

Legionnaires' disease has been diagnosed in 11 people who stayed at the Sheraton Atlanta, and there have been another 55 probable cases, Georgia health officials say.

Probable cases are people with symptoms of the bacterial infection, but no laboratory confirmation of the disease, CNN reported.

The 11 people with confirmed Legionnaire's disease attended a convention at the hotel a few weeks ago. No deaths have been reported. An investigation is underway but the source of the outbreak has not been found, said Nancy Nydam, director of communications at the Georgia Department of Public Health.

The hotel closed July 15 and remains closed, the Georgia Department of Health said Monday, CNN reported.

Legionnaires' disease is a noncontagious form of pneumonia that affects 10,000 to 18,000 people in the United States each year, and about one in 10 who get the disease dies, according to a recent government report.

The number of people with Legionnaires' disease increased nearly four-fold from 2000 to 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, CNN reported.

People can become sick when they breathe in mist or accidentally take water into their lungs that contains the disease-causing bacteria. It can be treated with antibiotics, according to the CDC.


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