Health Highlights: Nov. 29, 2017

Scientists Report Major Advance Toward Creation of Artificial OrganismsFake Medicines in Poor Nations May Cause Tens of Thousands of Child Deaths a Year: WHOComputer-Challenged Doc, 84, Seeks Return of Medical License

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

Scientists Report Major Advance Toward Creation of Artificial Organisms

A major advance toward the creation of artificial organisms is described in a paper by U.S. scientists.

In an entirely new approach to genetic engineering, the team in San Diego developed a microbe whose genetic material included some lab-made instructions, the Washington Post reported.

The microbe was able to live, reproduce and to produce proteins, including molecules never before used by living organisms, according to the paper published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

This success could eventually lead to the ability to create organisms that can produce unique proteins that may be used to make better medicines and even change the function of cells, the Post reported.

"It's wave front stuff; this is the edge of science," according to Andrew Ellington, a biochemist at the University of Texas at Austin who was not involved in the research. "We are better learning how to engineer living systems."


Fake Medicines in Poor Nations May Cause Tens of Thousands of Child Deaths a Year: WHO

About 11 percent of medicines in poor nations are fake and may cause the deaths of tens of thousands of children each year, the World Health Organization says.

Drugs for malaria and bacterial infections accounted for nearly 65 percent of counterfeit medicines, according to researchers who reviewed 100 studies on more than 48,000 medicines, the Associated Press reported.

The WHO said that each year, fake medicines may be responsible for the deaths of between 72,000 and 169,000 children from pneumonia and 116,000 deaths from malaria.

The WHO defines counterfeit medicines as those that have not been approved by regulators, don't meet quality standards or deliberately misrepresent an ingredient, the AP reported.

"Imagine a mother who gives up food or other basic needs to pay for her child's treatment, unaware that the medicines are substandard or falsified, and then that treatment causes her child to die," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement. "This is unacceptable."


Computer-Challenged Doc, 84, Seeks Return of Medical License

An 84-year-old New Hampshire doctor whose lack of computer skills played a role in giving up her license to practice medicine has had her request to regain her license denied by a judge.

Dr. Anna Konopka was treating about 20 to 25 patients a week from New London and surrounding towns. Many of those patients are poor, have no insurance and have run out of treatment options. Konopka sees anyone who can pay her $50 in cash, the Associated Press reported.

Konopka's record keeping, prescribing practices and medical decision-making were challenged by the state. One specific concern was that her lack of computer skills meant she could not use the state's mandatory electronic drug monitoring program, which requires prescribers of opioid pain drugs to register.

In October, Konopka surrendered her license to practice, but later asked for permission to continue seeing patients. On Nov. 15, Merrimack Superior Court Judge John Kissinger ruled that Konopka failed to show she was forced to give up her license as she alleged, the AP reported.

Last Wednesday, Konopka asked the judge to reconsider his decision, but has yet to receive a response.

"I am fighting. Therefore as long as I am fighting, I have some hope," Konopka said.

In an effort to get Kissinger to reconsider his decision, 30 of Konopka's patients have written the judge, the AP reported.

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