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The reading room includes articles and videos of potential interest to consumers and medical professionals. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the NC Medical Board, its members and staff. Note: Some links may require subscriptions.

A lullaby to take the sting away for the littlest ones

Reported in STATNews
August 30, 2023
A newborn getting a heel prick to draw blood is an iconic image of an infant’s first days of life. The soundtrack of pitiful squalls is also familiar, but a study in Pediatric Research suggests another way. A blinded clinical trial studying 100 infants suggests playing a Mozart lullaby might lessen the babies’ pain.

Researchers assessed their pain while wearing noise-canceling headphones that blocked the Mozart but couldn’t hide the grimaces, crying, breathing, limb movements, and alertness (no pacifiers or comforting allowed).

Just over half of the newborns heard Mozart for 20 minutes before and during the heel prick and for five minutes after. The other babies heard no music. All the babies felt some pain, as measured by the observers, but the Mozart babies appeared to feel less — and only during the heel prick itself. Three minutes later all the infants were fine.

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This Protein Could Be Responsible For The Exhaustion in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Science Alert
August 16, 2023
Scientists have just found a protein that might underpin one of the most baffling illnesses there is: myalgic encephalomyelitis, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome or ME/CFS. Baffling perhaps to medical doctors who have long dismissed ME/CFS, but not so much to researchers who have steadily been building a picture of what triggers this debilitating illness, nor to those who live with its unrelenting exhaustion every day. Inside every cell are energy-making machines, the mitochondria, which power our cells, replenish our brains, and keep our muscles moving. Now a new study from a team of US researchers adds evidence to a growing theory that malfunctioning mitochondria might be one potential cause of energy-limiting illnesses such as ME/CFS and long COVID.

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Covid Eris: What to know about new variant EG.5 dominating U.S. cases

August 14, 2023
COVID infections and hospitalizations are on the rise in the U.S., Europe and Asia. Health officials are pointing at the EG.5 “Eris” coronavirus, a subvariant of the Omicron lineage that originally emerged November of 2021.

The World Health Organization (WHO) classified EG.5, which has been nicknamed by some as “Eris”, as a “variant of interest,” indicating that it should be more closely watched than others because of mutations that might make it more contagious or severe.

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Bird flu researchers turn to Finland’s mink farms, tracking a virus with pandemic potential

August 11, 2023
When infectious disease specialist Tarja Sironen and her colleagues went to a farm in Finland housing foxes and mink last week, the normal shrieking of the birds around the barns was gone. Dead gulls littered the ground. Foxes weren’t barking. In the near-silence, they were seeing the reach of the highly pathogenic avian influenza, H5N1, moving beyond millions of domestic and wild birds to outbreaks among mammals at a scale previously unseen. That includes mink, foxes, and raccoon dogs on Finnish fur farms.

“How is it mutating? That is the key question,” Sironen said. The H5N1 virus does not infect people easily right now, but, as STAT’s Andrew Joseph writes, “trying to predict an H5N1 pandemic is almost like warning about an earthquake. It could very well happen, perhaps next year, or in five years, or who knows when.”

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A new clue to the reason some people come down with long COVID

August 8, 2023
Stéphanie Longet is an immunologist and a COVID researcher at the University of Saint-Etienne in France, and just like 10-20% of adults who were infected with the virus, she continues to have symptoms well after her infection has resolved – a condition known colloquially as long COVID.

“I got COVID one year ago and I developed some persistent symptoms,” she says. “I cannot work too long. My legs are quickly exhausted. In the morning it feels like I had run a marathon during the night, and I didn’t do anything, I just slept.”

Longet and other scientists don’t exactly know why some people develop long COVID while others don’t, but preliminary research released in medRxiv in July suggests that genetics plays a role.

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