What We're Reading: Maternal, Child Mortality; Crackdown on Genetic Test Results; Rare Mosquito-Borne Illness

September 19, 2019

More women and their children are surviving today than ever before; the FDA has been quietly pressuring several companies to stop offering patients genetic test results that indicate how their genes may react to certain drugs; there has been an uptick in the number of US illnesses and deaths resulting from a rare mosquito-borne virus.

Mortality Rates for Women, Children Continue to Drop

New child and maternal mortality estimates released by United Nations groups are indicating that more women and their children are surviving today than ever before. According to the report, since 2000, child deaths have been nearly cut in half, and maternal deaths have dropped by more than one-third, which is mostly attributable to improved access to affordable and quality care. However, despite the drop, 6.2 million children aged under 15 years still died in 2018 and more than 290,000 women died from complications during pregnancy and childbirth the year prior. The estimates also highlighted significant inequalities throughout the globe, with levels of maternal deaths being nearly 50 times higher for women in sub-Saharan Africa.

Industry Pushes Back Against FDA Crackdown on Genetic Tests

The FDA has been quietly pressuring several companies to stop offering patients genetic test results that indicate how their genes may react to certain drugs, according to STAT, which also reported that the industry is pushing back. A trade group representing clinical laboratories has sent a letter to the FDA calling the move “troubling” and “inappropriate,” warning that their actions could make it harder for patients to get the right medications and the right doses. However, the FDA is arguing that it is acting out of concern for patient safety, saying that unsupported claims about genes’ impact on drug efficacy could prove dangerous if they cause patients to start, stop, or switch medications in inappropriate ways.

Cases of Rare Mosquito-Borne Virus Grow in Some States

This year has seen an uptick in the number of US illnesses and deaths resulting from a rare mosquito-borne virus, according to health officials. The virus, eastern equine encephalitis, has been diagnosed in 21 people across 6 states, reported the Associated Press. Five of those with reported diagnoses have died, and the infection is only being reported in a limited amount of states. Massachusetts has seen the most cases, followed by Michigan, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, and North Carolina. It’s not clear why the prevalence is up in 2019, but most infections occur in the summer, so health officials do not expect it to get much worse.