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Journal: The New England journal of medicine


Background Quantifying the effect of natural disasters on society is critical for recovery of public health services and infrastructure. The death toll can be difficult to assess in the aftermath of a major disaster. In September 2017, Hurricane Maria caused massive infrastructural damage to Puerto Rico, but its effect on mortality remains contentious. The official death count is 64. Methods Using a representative, stratified sample, we surveyed 3299 randomly chosen households across Puerto Rico to produce an independent estimate of all-cause mortality after the hurricane. Respondents were asked about displacement, infrastructure loss, and causes of death. We calculated excess deaths by comparing our estimated post-hurricane mortality rate with official rates for the same period in 2016. Results From the survey data, we estimated a mortality rate of 14.3 deaths (95% confidence interval [CI], 9.8 to 18.9) per 1000 persons from September 20 through December 31, 2017. This rate yielded a total of 4645 excess deaths during this period (95% CI, 793 to 8498), equivalent to a 62% increase in the mortality rate as compared with the same period in 2016. However, this number is likely to be an underestimate because of survivor bias. The mortality rate remained high through the end of December 2017, and one third of the deaths were attributed to delayed or interrupted health care. Hurricane-related migration was substantial. Conclusions This household-based survey suggests that the number of excess deaths related to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico is more than 70 times the official estimate. (Funded by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and others.).


Background Observational cohort studies and a secondary prevention trial have shown an inverse association between adherence to the Mediterranean diet and cardiovascular risk. We conducted a randomized trial of this diet pattern for the primary prevention of cardiovascular events. Methods In a multicenter trial in Spain, we randomly assigned participants who were at high cardiovascular risk, but with no cardiovascular disease at enrollment, to one of three diets: a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with mixed nuts, or a control diet (advice to reduce dietary fat). Participants received quarterly individual and group educational sessions and, depending on group assignment, free provision of extra-virgin olive oil, mixed nuts, or small nonfood gifts. The primary end point was the rate of major cardiovascular events (myocardial infarction, stroke, or death from cardiovascular causes). On the basis of the results of an interim analysis, the trial was stopped after a median follow-up of 4.8 years. Results A total of 7447 persons were enrolled (age range, 55 to 80 years); 57% were women. The two Mediterranean-diet groups had good adherence to the intervention, according to self-reported intake and biomarker analyses. A primary end-point event occurred in 288 participants. The multivariable-adjusted hazard ratios were 0.70 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.54 to 0.92) and 0.72 (95% CI, 0.54 to 0.96) for the group assigned to a Mediterranean diet with extra-virgin olive oil (96 events) and the group assigned to a Mediterranean diet with nuts (83 events), respectively, versus the control group (109 events). No diet-related adverse effects were reported. Conclusions Among persons at high cardiovascular risk, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts reduced the incidence of major cardiovascular events. (Funded by the Spanish government’s Instituto de Salud Carlos III and others; number, ISRCTN35739639 .).

Concepts: Myocardial infarction, Atherosclerosis, Cardiovascular disease, Low-density lipoprotein, Fat, Olive oil, Greece, Mediterranean diet


Background Although the rising pandemic of obesity has received major attention in many countries, the effects of this attention on trends and the disease burden of obesity remain uncertain. Methods We analyzed data from 68.5 million persons to assess the trends in the prevalence of overweight and obesity among children and adults between 1980 and 2015. Using the Global Burden of Disease study data and methods, we also quantified the burden of disease related to high body-mass index (BMI), according to age, sex, cause, and BMI in 195 countries between 1990 and 2015. Results In 2015, a total of 107.7 million children and 603.7 million adults were obese. Since 1980, the prevalence of obesity has doubled in more than 70 countries and has continuously increased in most other countries. Although the prevalence of obesity among children has been lower than that among adults, the rate of increase in childhood obesity in many countries has been greater than the rate of increase in adult obesity. High BMI accounted for 4.0 million deaths globally, nearly 40% of which occurred in persons who were not obese. More than two thirds of deaths related to high BMI were due to cardiovascular disease. The disease burden related to high BMI has increased since 1990; however, the rate of this increase has been attenuated owing to decreases in underlying rates of death from cardiovascular disease. Conclusions The rapid increase in the prevalence and disease burden of elevated BMI highlights the need for continued focus on surveillance of BMI and identification, implementation, and evaluation of evidence-based interventions to address this problem. (Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.).

Concepts: Cancer, Nutrition, Obesity, Overweight, Body mass index, Body shape, Bariatrics, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation


Background The comparative effectiveness of treatments for prostate cancer that is detected by prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing remains uncertain. Methods We compared active monitoring, radical prostatectomy, and external-beam radiotherapy for the treatment of clinically localized prostate cancer. Between 1999 and 2009, a total of 82,429 men 50 to 69 years of age received a PSA test; 2664 received a diagnosis of localized prostate cancer, and 1643 agreed to undergo randomization to active monitoring (545 men), surgery (553), or radiotherapy (545). The primary outcome was prostate-cancer mortality at a median of 10 years of follow-up. Secondary outcomes included the rates of disease progression, metastases, and all-cause deaths. Results There were 17 prostate-cancer-specific deaths overall: 8 in the active-monitoring group (1.5 deaths per 1000 person-years; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.7 to 3.0), 5 in the surgery group (0.9 per 1000 person-years; 95% CI, 0.4 to 2.2), and 4 in the radiotherapy group (0.7 per 1000 person-years; 95% CI, 0.3 to 2.0); the difference among the groups was not significant (P=0.48 for the overall comparison). In addition, no significant difference was seen among the groups in the number of deaths from any cause (169 deaths overall; P=0.87 for the comparison among the three groups). Metastases developed in more men in the active-monitoring group (33 men; 6.3 events per 1000 person-years; 95% CI, 4.5 to 8.8) than in the surgery group (13 men; 2.4 per 1000 person-years; 95% CI, 1.4 to 4.2) or the radiotherapy group (16 men; 3.0 per 1000 person-years; 95% CI, 1.9 to 4.9) (P=0.004 for the overall comparison). Higher rates of disease progression were seen in the active-monitoring group (112 men; 22.9 events per 1000 person-years; 95% CI, 19.0 to 27.5) than in the surgery group (46 men; 8.9 events per 1000 person-years; 95% CI, 6.7 to 11.9) or the radiotherapy group (46 men; 9.0 events per 1000 person-years; 95% CI, 6.7 to 12.0) (P<0.001 for the overall comparison). Conclusions At a median of 10 years, prostate-cancer-specific mortality was low irrespective of the treatment assigned, with no significant difference among treatments. Surgery and radiotherapy were associated with lower incidences of disease progression and metastases than was active monitoring. (Funded by the National Institute for Health Research; Current Controlled Trials number, ISRCTN20141297 ; number, NCT02044172 .).

Concepts: Cancer, Metastasis, Prostate cancer, Urology, Radiation therapy, Screening, Benign prostatic hyperplasia, Prostate-specific antigen


Background Both genetic and lifestyle factors contribute to individual-level risk of coronary artery disease. The extent to which increased genetic risk can be offset by a healthy lifestyle is unknown. Methods Using a polygenic score of DNA sequence polymorphisms, we quantified genetic risk for coronary artery disease in three prospective cohorts - 7814 participants in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study, 21,222 in the Women’s Genome Health Study (WGHS), and 22,389 in the Malmö Diet and Cancer Study (MDCS) - and in 4260 participants in the cross-sectional BioImage Study for whom genotype and covariate data were available. We also determined adherence to a healthy lifestyle among the participants using a scoring system consisting of four factors: no current smoking, no obesity, regular physical activity, and a healthy diet. Results The relative risk of incident coronary events was 91% higher among participants at high genetic risk (top quintile of polygenic scores) than among those at low genetic risk (bottom quintile of polygenic scores) (hazard ratio, 1.91; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.75 to 2.09). A favorable lifestyle (defined as at least three of the four healthy lifestyle factors) was associated with a substantially lower risk of coronary events than an unfavorable lifestyle (defined as no or only one healthy lifestyle factor), regardless of the genetic risk category. Among participants at high genetic risk, a favorable lifestyle was associated with a 46% lower relative risk of coronary events than an unfavorable lifestyle (hazard ratio, 0.54; 95% CI, 0.47 to 0.63). This finding corresponded to a reduction in the standardized 10-year incidence of coronary events from 10.7% for an unfavorable lifestyle to 5.1% for a favorable lifestyle in ARIC, from 4.6% to 2.0% in WGHS, and from 8.2% to 5.3% in MDCS. In the BioImage Study, a favorable lifestyle was associated with significantly less coronary-artery calcification within each genetic risk category. Conclusions Across four studies involving 55,685 participants, genetic and lifestyle factors were independently associated with susceptibility to coronary artery disease. Among participants at high genetic risk, a favorable lifestyle was associated with a nearly 50% lower relative risk of coronary artery disease than was an unfavorable lifestyle. (Funded by the National Institutes of Health and others.).

Concepts: Genetics, Epidemiology, Nutrition, Atherosclerosis, Angina pectoris, Coronary artery disease, Atheroma, Artery


Background Concern about the use of epinephrine as a treatment for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest led the International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation to call for a placebo-controlled trial to determine whether the use of epinephrine is safe and effective in such patients. Methods In a randomized, double-blind trial involving 8014 patients with out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in the United Kingdom, paramedics at five National Health Service ambulance services administered either parenteral epinephrine (4015 patients) or saline placebo (3999 patients), along with standard care. The primary outcome was the rate of survival at 30 days. Secondary outcomes included the rate of survival until hospital discharge with a favorable neurologic outcome, as indicated by a score of 3 or less on the modified Rankin scale (which ranges from 0 [no symptoms] to 6 [death]). Results At 30 days, 130 patients (3.2%) in the epinephrine group and 94 (2.4%) in the placebo group were alive (unadjusted odds ratio for survival, 1.39; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.06 to 1.82; P=0.02). There was no evidence of a significant difference in the proportion of patients who survived until hospital discharge with a favorable neurologic outcome (87 of 4007 patients [2.2%] vs. 74 of 3994 patients [1.9%]; unadjusted odds ratio, 1.18; 95% CI, 0.86 to 1.61). At the time of hospital discharge, severe neurologic impairment (a score of 4 or 5 on the modified Rankin scale) had occurred in more of the survivors in the epinephrine group than in the placebo group (39 of 126 patients [31.0%] vs. 16 of 90 patients [17.8%]). Conclusions In adults with out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, the use of epinephrine resulted in a significantly higher rate of 30-day survival than the use of placebo, but there was no significant between-group difference in the rate of a favorable neurologic outcome because more survivors had severe neurologic impairment in the epinephrine group. (Funded by the U.K. National Institute for Health Research and others; Current Controlled Trials number, ISRCTN73485024 .).


A widespread epidemic of Zika virus (ZIKV) infection was reported in 2015 in South and Central America and the Caribbean. A major concern associated with this infection is the apparent increased incidence of microcephaly in fetuses born to mothers infected with ZIKV. In this report, we describe the case of an expectant mother who had a febrile illness with rash at the end of the first trimester of pregnancy while she was living in Brazil. Ultrasonography performed at 29 weeks of gestation revealed microcephaly with calcifications in the fetal brain and placenta. After the mother requested termination of the pregnancy, a fetal autopsy was performed. Micrencephaly (an abnormally small brain) was observed, with almost complete agyria, hydrocephalus, and multifocal dystrophic calcifications in the cortex and subcortical white matter, with associated cortical displacement and mild focal inflammation. ZIKV was found in the fetal brain tissue on reverse-transcriptase-polymerase-chain-reaction (RT-PCR) assay, with consistent findings on electron microscopy. The complete genome of ZIKV was recovered from the fetal brain.

Concepts: Pregnancy, Embryo, Fetus, Uterus, Infection, Cerebral cortex, Cerebellum, Gestational age


Background Increased nut consumption has been associated with a reduced risk of major chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes mellitus. However, the association between nut consumption and mortality remains unclear. Methods We examined the association between nut consumption and subsequent total and cause-specific mortality among 76,464 women in the Nurses' Health Study (1980-2010) and 42,498 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (1986-2010). Participants with a history of cancer, heart disease, or stroke were excluded. Nut consumption was assessed at baseline and updated every 2 to 4 years. Results During 3,038,853 person-years of follow-up, 16,200 women and 11,229 men died. Nut consumption was inversely associated with total mortality among both women and men, after adjustment for other known or suspected risk factors. The pooled multivariate hazard ratios for death among participants who ate nuts, as compared with those who did not, were 0.93 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.90 to 0.96) for the consumption of nuts less than once per week, 0.89 (95% CI, 0.86 to 0.93) for once per week, 0.87 (95% CI, 0.83 to 0.90) for two to four times per week, 0.85 (95% CI, 0.79 to 0.91) for five or six times per week, and 0.80 (95% CI, 0.73 to 0.86) for seven or more times per week (P<0.001 for trend). Significant inverse associations were also observed between nut consumption and deaths due to cancer, heart disease, and respiratory disease. Conclusions In two large, independent cohorts of nurses and other health professionals, the frequency of nut consumption was inversely associated with total and cause-specific mortality, independently of other predictors of death. (Funded by the National Institutes of Health and the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research and Education Foundation.).

Concepts: Medicine, Epidemiology, Disease, Diseases and disorders, Death, Hypertension, Diabetes mellitus, The Canon of Medicine


The aerial view of the concept of data sharing is beautiful. What could be better than having high-quality information carefully reexamined for the possibility that new nuggets of useful data are lying there, previously unseen? The potential for leveraging existing results for even more benefit pays appropriate increased tribute to the patients who put themselves at risk to generate the data. The moral imperative to honor their collective sacrifice is the trump card that takes this trick. However, many of us who have actually conducted clinical research, managed clinical studies and data collection and analysis, and curated data sets have . . .

Concepts: Experimental design, Clinical trial, Medical statistics, Avicenna, Clinical research, Morality, Contract bridge, Donald Trump


Background Zika virus (ZIKV) has been linked to neonatal microcephaly. To characterize the spectrum of ZIKV disease in pregnancy, we followed patients in Rio de Janeiro to describe clinical manifestations in mothers and repercussions of acute ZIKV infection in fetuses. Methods We enrolled pregnant women in whom a rash had developed within the previous 5 days and tested blood and urine specimens for ZIKV by reverse-transcriptase-polymerase-chain-reaction assays. We followed the women prospectively and collected clinical and ultrasonographic data. Results A total of 88 women were enrolled from September 2015 through February 2016; of these 88 women, 72 (82%) tested positive for ZIKV in blood, urine, or both. The timing of acute ZIKV infection ranged from 5 to 38 weeks of gestation. Predominant clinical features included pruritic descending macular or maculopapular rash, arthralgias, conjunctival injection, and headache; 28% had fever (short-term and low-grade). Women who were positive for ZIKV were more likely than those who were negative for the virus to have maculopapular rash (44% vs. 12%, P=0.02), conjunctival involvement (58% vs. 13%, P=0.002), and lymphadenopathy (40% vs. 7%, P=0.02). Fetal ultrasonography was performed in 42 ZIKV-positive women (58%) and in all ZIKV-negative women. Fetal abnormalities were detected by Doppler ultrasonography in 12 of the 42 ZIKV-positive women (29%) and in none of the 16 ZIKV-negative women. Adverse findings included fetal deaths at 36 and 38 weeks of gestation (2 fetuses), in utero growth restriction with or without microcephaly (5 fetuses), ventricular calcifications or other central nervous system (CNS) lesions (7 fetuses), and abnormal amniotic fluid volume or cerebral or umbilical artery flow (7 fetuses). To date, 8 of the 42 women in whom fetal ultrasonography was performed have delivered their babies, and the ultrasonographic findings have been confirmed. Conclusions Despite mild clinical symptoms, ZIKV infection during pregnancy appears to be associated with grave outcomes, including fetal death, placental insufficiency, fetal growth restriction, and CNS injury.

Concepts: Pregnancy, Embryo, Fetus, Uterus, Obstetrics, Medical ultrasonography, Gestational age, Amniotic fluid