NOT LATE BUT DEFINITELY TOO LITTLE.
U.S. science watchdog groups urge further revisions on federal health agencies’ initial attempts to restore trust in government science, following President Biden’s initiative to ensure scientists’ freedom from political interference. A week post his 2021 inauguration, Biden sought a review on scientific integrity policies, resulting in guidelines issued two years later. The Health and Human Services (HHS) led with a draft policy, followed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). While some draft policies were lauded, concerns arose about potential restrictions on scientists discussing sensitive topics like fetal tissue research. Critics find the policies, aimed at enhancing scientific integrity protections, praiseworthy yet problematic. They cite ambiguous language and lack of specific penalties, fearing political appointees might flout these policies. A coalition proposed revisions, stressing the need for clearer protections for federal grant recipients and scientists wishing to speak publicly without prior approval. The policies, partly addressing past administrations’ attempts to stifle scientific discourse, aim to prevent such integrity violations. Advocates suggest legislative codification to ensure longevity beyond changing administrations. A bill towards this end saw bipartisan support in 2019, though its advancement remains uncertain. HHS and NIH are considering feedback for policy refinement, with other agencies like EPA and NOAA also expected to draft similar policies, emphasizing the necessity for a standardized approach across different agencies. (Science)
NO REST FOR THE SICK.
In Cuba, the health crisis aggravates as medical resources and personnel are scarce, severely impacting children with critical health conditions. Dr. Goar Valeriano Gonzalez communicated to Maydelis Solano that her 13-year-old son, suffering from esophageal atresia, can’t be operated on due to lack of resources. The boy, one of the five cases presented to UNICEF by Cuban activists, is fed through a tube as he awaits surgery. The healthcare system’s deterioration is highlighted by the country’s loss of 12,000 doctors last year, amidst a wider exodus due to economic hardships. The reported cases showcase a critical healthcare and humanitarian crisis, with desperate parents seeking help internationally. Despite UNICEF’s aid of $2.5 million to Cuba in 2022, many children’s medical and nutritional needs remain unmet. The crisis, exacerbated by political and economic factors, has led to a plea for international intervention, with activists demanding more substantial assistance to alleviate the suffering of Cuba’s vulnerable children. (El Pais)
FAKE OZEMPIC CAUSES SICKNESS.
Several individuals in Austria were hospitalized after using suspected counterfeit versions of Novo Nordisk’s diabetes drug, Ozempic, marking the first reported harm amidst a broader European investigation into counterfeit drugs. The affected individuals experienced hypoglycemia and seizures, indicating the fake product contained insulin instead of the actual active ingredient semaglutide. Austria’s health safety regulator BASG and the criminal investigation service issued warnings about the circulation of counterfeit injection pens. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) had also alerted about such fake pens last week. Novo Nordisk, facing an overwhelming demand for Ozempic, noted an uptick in online offers for counterfeit versions of this drug and its weight-loss medication Wegovy. The BASG hinted at criminal organizations exploiting the drug’s shortage to market counterfeit Ozempic. Investigations are ongoing in Germany and Britain regarding counterfeit pens sold from Austria to Germany, then onto British wholesalers, while the EU’s Medicine Verification System confirmed no counterfeit drugs have emerged in retail pharmacies yet. (Reuters)
FOG SPARKS DEADLY CRASH.
On a foggy Monday near New Orleans, a catastrophic chain of collisions occurred on Interstate 55 due to a “superfog” created by marsh fires’ smoke mingling with dense fog, leaving seven dead initially. The calamity involved 158 vehicles, causing 25 injuries with fears of a rising death toll as rescue operations continued through the night amidst a scene of burnt and mangled vehicles. Witnesses and victims described horrific scenes of crashes and fiery chaos, with some individuals managing to escape their cars, while others were not as fortunate. Amidst the carnage, some displayed acts of bravery, assisting others in escaping the wreckage. Authorities, dealing with the aftermath, transported 25 individuals to hospitals, while others sought medical help independently. The incident prompted Governor John Bel Edwards to call for prayers and blood donations. The crashes caused extensive traffic disruptions, with closures on parts of I-10 and the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway. Police continue investigations and inspections of the affected interstate, while there’s concern for similar incidents in the near future due to ongoing fires in the region creating dangerous “superfog” conditions. (Associated Press)
If you’re enjoying the Daily Dose, sign up for the Daily Dose Newsletter and get every morning’s best science news from around the web delivered straight to your inbox? It’s easy like Sunday morning.
INVASIVE CAIMANS IN FLORIDA.
In 2018, Sidney Godfrey joined the “Croc Docs” from the University of Florida to survey and manage invasive caiman populations in southern Florida. Originating from Latin America, caimans were brought to the U.S. for the leather and pet trades, but have since become a nuisance, potentially threatening native crocodilians and other species. Over the decade, the Croc Docs have conducted extensive surveys and worked tirelessly to control caiman populations, with their efforts seeming to yield positive results. Recent surveys show a decline in caiman sightings, suggesting that the catch-and-kill technique employed might be effective. However, the discovery of hatchlings indicates active nesting, posing challenges to eradication efforts. Financial constraints further impede the battle against this invasive species. Nonetheless, there’s optimism as areas cleared of caimans have seen the return of native crocodiles and alligators, hinting at a positive ecosystem response. The ongoing efforts by the Croc Docs highlight the gritty, yet rewarding nature of invasive species management, essential for preserving native biodiversity in places like the Everglades. (New York Times)
Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.
WORDS: The Biology Guy.
IMAGE CREDIT: The White House.