Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Journal: The New England journal of medicine


The explosive pandemic of Zika virus infection occurring throughout South America, Central America, and the Caribbean (see map) and potentially threatening the United States is the most recent of four unexpected arrivals of important arthropod-borne viral diseases in the Western Hemisphere over the past 20 years. It follows dengue, which entered this hemisphere stealthily over decades and then more aggressively in the 1990s; West Nile virus, which emerged in 1999; and chikungunya, which emerged in 2013. Are the successive migrations of these viruses unrelated, or do they reflect important new patterns of disease emergence? Furthermore, are there secondary health consequences . . .

Concepts: United States, North America, South America, Americas, Latin America, Caribbean, Central America, Indigenous peoples of the Americas


Background Texas is one of several states that have barred Planned Parenthood affiliates from providing health care services with the use of public funds. After the federal government refused to allow (and courts blocked) the exclusion of Planned Parenthood affiliates from the Texas Medicaid fee-for-service family-planning program, Texas excluded them from a state-funded replacement program, effective January 1, 2013. We assessed rates of contraceptive-method provision, method continuation through the program, and childbirth covered by Medicaid before and after the Planned Parenthood exclusion. Methods We used all program claims from 2011 through 2014 to examine changes in the number of claims for contraceptives according to method for 2 years before and 2 years after the exclusion. Among women using injectable contraceptives at baseline, we observed rates of contraceptive continuation through the program and of childbirth covered by Medicaid. We used the difference-in-differences method to compare outcomes in counties with Planned Parenthood affiliates with outcomes in those without such affiliates. Results After the Planned Parenthood exclusion, there were estimated reductions in the number of claims from 1042 to 672 (relative reduction, 35.5%) for long-acting, reversible contraceptives and from 6832 to 4708 (relative reduction, 31.1%) for injectable contraceptives (P<0.001 for both comparisons). There was no significant change in the number of claims for short-acting hormonal contraceptive methods during this period. Among women using injectable contraceptives, the percentage of women who returned for a subsequent on-time contraceptive injection decreased from 56.9% among those whose subsequent injections were due before the exclusion to 37.7% among those whose subsequent injections were due after the exclusion in the counties with Planned Parenthood affiliates but increased from 54.9% to 58.5% in the counties without such affiliates (estimated difference in differences in counties with affiliates as compared with those without affiliates, -22.9 percentage points; P<0.001). During this period in counties with Planned Parenthood affiliates, the rate of childbirth covered by Medicaid increased by 1.9 percentage points (a relative increase of 27.1% from baseline) within 18 months after the claim (P=0.01). Conclusions The exclusion of Planned Parenthood affiliates from a state-funded replacement for a Medicaid fee-for-service program in Texas was associated with adverse changes in the provision of contraception. For women using injectable contraceptives, there was a reduction in the rate of contraceptive continuation and an increase in the rate of childbirth covered by Medicaid. (Funded by the Susan T. Buffett Foundation.).

Concepts: Pregnancy, Birth control, Emergency contraception, Hormonal contraception, Combined oral contraceptive pill, Menstrual cycle, Sex education, Combined injectable contraceptive


Background The recurrence score based on the 21-gene breast cancer assay predicts chemotherapy benefit if it is high and a low risk of recurrence in the absence of chemotherapy if it is low; however, there is uncertainty about the benefit of chemotherapy for most patients, who have a midrange score. Methods We performed a prospective trial involving 10,273 women with hormone-receptor-positive, human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-negative, axillary node-negative breast cancer. Of the 9719 eligible patients with follow-up information, 6711 (69%) had a midrange recurrence score of 11 to 25 and were randomly assigned to receive either chemoendocrine therapy or endocrine therapy alone. The trial was designed to show noninferiority of endocrine therapy alone for invasive disease-free survival (defined as freedom from invasive disease recurrence, second primary cancer, or death). Results Endocrine therapy was noninferior to chemoendocrine therapy in the analysis of invasive disease-free survival (hazard ratio for invasive disease recurrence, second primary cancer, or death [endocrine vs. chemoendocrine therapy], 1.08; 95% confidence interval, 0.94 to 1.24; P=0.26). At 9 years, the two treatment groups had similar rates of invasive disease-free survival (83.3% in the endocrine-therapy group and 84.3% in the chemoendocrine-therapy group), freedom from disease recurrence at a distant site (94.5% and 95.0%) or at a distant or local-regional site (92.2% and 92.9%), and overall survival (93.9% and 93.8%). The chemotherapy benefit for invasive disease-free survival varied with the combination of recurrence score and age (P=0.004), with some benefit of chemotherapy found in women 50 years of age or younger with a recurrence score of 16 to 25. Conclusions Adjuvant endocrine therapy and chemoendocrine therapy had similar efficacy in women with hormone-receptor-positive, HER2-negative, axillary node-negative breast cancer who had a midrange 21-gene recurrence score, although some benefit of chemotherapy was found in some women 50 years of age or younger. (Funded by the National Cancer Institute and others; TAILORx number, NCT00310180 .).


The prevalence of peanut allergy among children in Western countries has doubled in the past 10 years, and peanut allergy is becoming apparent in Africa and Asia. We evaluated strategies of peanut consumption and avoidance to determine which strategy is most effective in preventing the development of peanut allergy in infants at high risk for the allergy.

Concepts: Africa, Continent, Islam, Soviet Union, African Union, Strategy game, Human Development Index, Eastern world


The landscape for genetically modified organisms is changing, thanks to sharp increases in the amounts and numbers of chemical herbicides applied to GM crops and the classification of two of the most commonly used herbicides as probably or possibly carcinogenic to humans.

Concepts: DNA, Gene expression, Health, Agriculture, Genetically modified organism, Genetically modified food, Genetically modified organisms, Golden rice


Background Serum testosterone concentrations decrease as men age, but benefits of raising testosterone levels in older men have not been established. Methods We assigned 790 men 65 years of age or older with a serum testosterone concentration of less than 275 ng per deciliter and symptoms suggesting hypoandrogenism to receive either testosterone gel or placebo gel for 1 year. Each man participated in one or more of three trials - the Sexual Function Trial, the Physical Function Trial, and the Vitality Trial. The primary outcome of each of the individual trials was also evaluated in all participants. Results Testosterone treatment increased serum testosterone levels to the mid-normal range for men 19 to 40 years of age. The increase in testosterone levels was associated with significantly increased sexual activity, as assessed by the Psychosexual Daily Questionnaire (P<0.001), as well as significantly increased sexual desire and erectile function. The percentage of men who had an increase of at least 50 m in the 6-minute walking distance did not differ significantly between the two study groups in the Physical Function Trial but did differ significantly when men in all three trials were included (20.5% of men who received testosterone vs. 12.6% of men who received placebo, P=0.003). Testosterone had no significant benefit with respect to vitality, as assessed by the Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy-Fatigue scale, but men who received testosterone reported slightly better mood and lower severity of depressive symptoms than those who received placebo. The rates of adverse events were similar in the two groups. Conclusions In symptomatic men 65 years of age or older, raising testosterone concentrations for 1 year from moderately low to the mid-normal range for men 19 to 40 years of age had a moderate benefit with respect to sexual function and some benefit with respect to mood and depressive symptoms but no benefit with respect to vitality or walking distance. The number of participants was too few to draw conclusions about the risks of testosterone treatment. (Funded by the National Institutes of Health and others; number, NCT00799617 .).

Concepts: Clinical trial, Concentration,, Testosterone, Human sexual behavior, Erectile dysfunction, Psychosexual development, Libido


“Shocked” wouldn’t be accurate, since we were accustomed to our uninsured patients' receiving inadequate medical care. “Saddened” wasn’t right, either, only pecking at the edge of our response. And “disheartened” just smacked of victimhood. After hearing this story, we were neither shocked nor saddened nor disheartened. We were simply appalled. We met Tommy Davis in our hospital’s clinic for indigent persons in March 2013 (the name and date have been changed to protect the patient’s privacy). He and his wife had been chronically uninsured despite working full-time jobs and were now facing disastrous consequences. The week before this appointment, Mr. . . .

Concepts: Health care, Health care provider, Medicine, Patient, Hospital, Physician, Illness, Doctor-patient relationship


Background The age at which allergenic foods should be introduced into the diet of breast-fed infants is uncertain. We evaluated whether the early introduction of allergenic foods in the diet of breast-fed infants would protect against the development of food allergy. Methods We recruited, from the general population, 1303 exclusively breast-fed infants who were 3 months of age and randomly assigned them to the early introduction of six allergenic foods (peanut, cooked egg, cow’s milk, sesame, whitefish, and wheat; early-introduction group) or to the current practice recommended in the United Kingdom of exclusive breast-feeding to approximately 6 months of age (standard-introduction group). The primary outcome was food allergy to one or more of the six foods between 1 year and 3 years of age. Results In the intention-to-treat analysis, food allergy to one or more of the six intervention foods developed in 7.1% of the participants in the standard-introduction group (42 of 595 participants) and in 5.6% of those in the early-introduction group (32 of 567) (P=0.32). In the per-protocol analysis, the prevalence of any food allergy was significantly lower in the early-introduction group than in the standard-introduction group (2.4% vs. 7.3%, P=0.01), as was the prevalence of peanut allergy (0% vs. 2.5%, P=0.003) and egg allergy (1.4% vs. 5.5%, P=0.009); there were no significant effects with respect to milk, sesame, fish, or wheat. The consumption of 2 g per week of peanut or egg-white protein was associated with a significantly lower prevalence of these respective allergies than was less consumption. The early introduction of all six foods was not easily achieved but was safe. Conclusions The trial did not show the efficacy of early introduction of allergenic foods in an intention-to-treat analysis. Further analysis raised the question of whether the prevention of food allergy by means of early introduction of multiple allergenic foods was dose-dependent. (Funded by the Food Standards Agency and others; EAT Current Controlled Trials number, ISRCTN14254740 .).

Concepts: Epidemiology, Nutrition, Egg, Randomized controlled trial, Allergy, Food, Food allergy, Allergology


Background First-line therapy for advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) that lacks targetable mutations is platinum-based chemotherapy. Among patients with a tumor proportion score for programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1) of 50% or greater, pembrolizumab has replaced cytotoxic chemotherapy as the first-line treatment of choice. The addition of pembrolizumab to chemotherapy resulted in significantly higher rates of response and longer progression-free survival than chemotherapy alone in a phase 2 trial. Methods In this double-blind, phase 3 trial, we randomly assigned (in a 2:1 ratio) 616 patients with metastatic nonsquamous NSCLC without sensitizing EGFR or ALK mutations who had received no previous treatment for metastatic disease to receive pemetrexed and a platinum-based drug plus either 200 mg of pembrolizumab or placebo every 3 weeks for 4 cycles, followed by pembrolizumab or placebo for up to a total of 35 cycles plus pemetrexed maintenance therapy. Crossover to pembrolizumab monotherapy was permitted among the patients in the placebo-combination group who had verified disease progression. The primary end points were overall survival and progression-free survival, as assessed by blinded, independent central radiologic review. Results After a median follow-up of 10.5 months, the estimated rate of overall survival at 12 months was 69.2% (95% confidence interval [CI], 64.1 to 73.8) in the pembrolizumab-combination group versus 49.4% (95% CI, 42.1 to 56.2) in the placebo-combination group (hazard ratio for death, 0.49; 95% CI, 0.38 to 0.64; P<0.001). Improvement in overall survival was seen across all PD-L1 categories that were evaluated. Median progression-free survival was 8.8 months (95% CI, 7.6 to 9.2) in the pembrolizumab-combination group and 4.9 months (95% CI, 4.7 to 5.5) in the placebo-combination group (hazard ratio for disease progression or death, 0.52; 95% CI, 0.43 to 0.64; P<0.001). Adverse events of grade 3 or higher occurred in 67.2% of the patients in the pembrolizumab-combination group and in 65.8% of those in the placebo-combination group. Conclusions In patients with previously untreated metastatic nonsquamous NSCLC without EGFR or ALK mutations, the addition of pembrolizumab to standard chemotherapy of pemetrexed and a platinum-based drug resulted in significantly longer overall survival and progression-free survival than chemotherapy alone. (Funded by Merck; KEYNOTE-189 number, NCT02578680 .).

Concepts: Epidemiology, Clinical trial, Cancer, Metastasis, Oncology, Lung cancer, Non-small cell lung carcinoma, Chemotherapy


Background The most appropriate targets for systolic blood pressure to reduce cardiovascular morbidity and mortality among persons without diabetes remain uncertain. Methods We randomly assigned 9361 persons with a systolic blood pressure of 130 mm Hg or higher and an increased cardiovascular risk, but without diabetes, to a systolic blood-pressure target of less than 120 mm Hg (intensive treatment) or a target of less than 140 mm Hg (standard treatment). The primary composite outcome was myocardial infarction, other acute coronary syndromes, stroke, heart failure, or death from cardiovascular causes. Results At 1 year, the mean systolic blood pressure was 121.4 mm Hg in the intensive-treatment group and 136.2 mm Hg in the standard-treatment group. The intervention was stopped early after a median follow-up of 3.26 years owing to a significantly lower rate of the primary composite outcome in the intensive-treatment group than in the standard-treatment group (1.65% per year vs. 2.19% per year; hazard ratio with intensive treatment, 0.75; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.64 to 0.89; P<0.001). All-cause mortality was also significantly lower in the intensive-treatment group (hazard ratio, 0.73; 95% CI, 0.60 to 0.90; P=0.003). Rates of serious adverse events of hypotension, syncope, electrolyte abnormalities, and acute kidney injury or failure, but not of injurious falls, were higher in the intensive-treatment group than in the standard-treatment group. Conclusions Among patients at high risk for cardiovascular events but without diabetes, targeting a systolic blood pressure of less than 120 mm Hg, as compared with less than 140 mm Hg, resulted in lower rates of fatal and nonfatal major cardiovascular events and death from any cause, although significantly higher rates of some adverse events were observed in the intensive-treatment group. (Funded by the National Institutes of Health; number, NCT01206062 .).

Concepts: Blood, Myocardial infarction, Atherosclerosis, Hypertension, Stroke, Blood pressure, Artery, Orthostatic hypotension