Longer Looks: Interesting Reads You Might Have Missed
Each week, KHN finds longer stories for you to enjoy. This week's selections include stories on covid, horseshoe crab blood, sweat, cannabis, Theranos and more.
As New COVID Strain Rages, A Look Inside A Packed Louisiana Hospital: ‘We Haven’t Had Many Wins’
It’s by far the most COVID patients the 330-bed hospital has housed since the pandemic entered Louisiana in March of 2020 — a steep rise from the earlier peak of around 50 patients in last winter’s surge, said Dr. Stacy R. Newman, North Oaks’ infectious disease physician. North Oaks is one of hundreds of hospitals across Louisiana packed to the brink with COVID-19 patients as the more-virulent delta variant rips through the state’s population, which has one of the nation’s lowest rates of vaccination against the virus at 37.2%. The state set a new peak for COVID-19 hospitalizations on Wednesday with 2,247 patients, the Louisiana Department of Health said. The vast majority of those patients are unvaccinated. (Finn, 8/4)
Healthcare Workers Are Humans First, Employees Second
Sanford Health started coordinating virtual meetings in April 2020 for its medical staff, who shared how they were coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. The psychologist-led discussions aimed to be informal outlets for clinicians to learn from each other, as well as how the Sioux Falls, South Dakota.-based health system could take better care of its front-line staff. Hopefully, they recognized that it was OK to not be OK, said Dr. Luis Garcia, president of Sanford’s clinic division. “One of the realities of mental health inside and outside of medicine is we don’t talk much about it,” he said, adding that many are worried about the repercussions of sharing that they are depressed. “But in the midst of an extremely difficult situation—people dying and the uncertainty of the disease—there were moments of bonding, strengthening and recognition.” (Kacik, 8/2)
The Washington Post:
A Horseshoe Crab’s Blood Is Vital In Testing Drugs. Critics Say Using It Endangers The Ancient Creature.
Few organisms are as odd, or as old, as the horseshoe crab. That they predate the dinosaurs, a time when everything was large, might explain their oversize, helmet-shaped shells, which can grow as large as 20 inches. They limp along the tidal flats as if a smaller creature was hiding inside that shell, using it to move about incognito. Anatomically, they’re more like spiders than crustaceans, and they fluoresce under ultraviolet light. But perhaps their unique feature is how their blood, which is bright blue, coagulates when exposed to harmful bacterial endotoxins, a feature that has kept them alive for about 450 million years. Bacterial endotoxins induce inflammation and fever, and can cause anaphylactic shock and death. They are responsible for venereal disease, bacterial meningitis as well as cholera, bubonic plague and other diseases. Immune cells in the crabs’ blood trap and immobilize these type of endotoxins, rendering them inert. (Chesler, 8/1)
The Washington Post:
Don’t Get Hot And Bothered By Sweat. It’s A Healthy Way Of Cooling Down Your Body.
Perhaps you have mixed feelings about sweat. Or maybe you’re solidly on Team Yuck. “Sweat kind of gets a bad rap,” says Lindsay Baker, an exercise physiologist at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute in Barrington, Ill. “But it’s a good thing. ”That’s because sweat is the human body’s terrifically efficient way of cooling down when you’re outside in 90-degree weather or when you exercise. Indeed, our ability to sweat has allowed humans to thrive in hot climates, and to be able to be physically active during daytime hours. (Adama, 8/1)
No Hangovers Or Beer Bellies: Cannabis Firms Try To Woo Booze Drinkers
The cannabis industry has mastered the art of selling pot-infused brownies, gummies and even popcorn. But it’s struggling to boost a potentially lucrative market that centers on persuading Americans to drink their weed. Rather than rolling a joint or puffing on a vape, some of the largest cannabis companies in North America see a multibillion-dollar marijuana beverage industry waiting to be tapped as states increasingly embrace legal weed. (Demko, 8/1)
The Washington Post:
How Scientists Use Shards Of Pottery, Remnants Of Other Vessels To Learn More About Ancient Diets
When scientists recently examined the stomach contents of a 2,000-year-old sacrificial body found in a Danish bog, they learned his last meal was pretty prosaic: porridge and some fish, cooked in a clay pot. But it turns out archaeologists can still find out a lot about what people once ate, even when there are no bodies to be found. In a feature for Knowable Magazine, science journalist Carolyn Wilke uncovers how scientists are using shards of pottery and the remnants of other vessels to learn more about long-ago diets. “Gathered from bottles, fragments of ceramic pots and even relics from Bronze Age grave sites, microbes and remnants of molecules offer a bevy of new clues about ancient cuisine,” she writes. (Blakemore, 7/31)
The Wall Street Journal:
Theranos Patients: The Emerging Wild Card In The Trial Of Elizabeth Holmes
After three back-to-back miscarriages, Brittany Gould said she turned to Theranos Inc. to know if her latest pregnancy was on track. Then, one of the company’s trademark finger-prick tests indicated she was losing another baby, Ms. Gould said. The Mesa, Ariz., medical assistant recalled dreading the moment when she would have to tell her 7-year-old daughter, who was waiting for a sibling. “Mommy is not having a baby,” Ms. Gould said she told her. Like those of other patients slated as potential witnesses in the criminal trial of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes , Ms. Gould’s test was wrong. Prosecutors have accused Ms. Holmes of defrauding patients and investors by falsely claiming her invention could accurately perform lab tests on just a few drops of blood. (Weaver and Randazzo, 8/2)
The New York Times:
Chinese Video Game Shares Plunge After State Media Calls Its Products ‘Spiritual Opium’
Tencent, a technology conglomerate with a big presence in social media and entertainment in addition to video games, saw its shares drop about 10 percent at one point, though the losses moderated later on Tuesday and ended down about 7 percent. NetEase, another mainland video game company, saw its shares drop nearly 9 percent. The article’s headline — “A ‘spiritual opium’ has grown into an industry worth hundreds of billions of dollars” — left little doubt at the thrust of the piece. It cited a litany of threats posed by video games, including diverting attention from school and family and causing nearsightedness. “No industry or sport should develop at the price of destroying a generation,” it said. (Li, 8/3)