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Media Spotlight

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Minor Changes Turned Black Death Germ from Mild to Murderous

Fox News (national) – July 1, 2015

The bacterium Yersinia pestis has killed an estimated 200 million or more people through the centuries. But this germ was not always particularly dangerous. Minor genetic changes transformed it from a pathogen that caused a mild gastrointestinal infection to one that caused the fatal respiratory disease called pneumonic plague. “That’s something to keep in mind when we’re studying other bacterial pathogens,” says Wyndham W. Lathem, PhD, associate professor of Microbiology-Immunology at the Feinberg School of Medicine. “A small change is all that’s needed, and suddenly we may be faced with a new pandemic of some sort.”


Experts Urge Sparing Use of Nonaspirin Painkillers

The New York Times – July 13, 2015
The Food and Drug Administration warned that the risk of heart attack and stroke from widely used nonaspirin painkillers was greater than it previously had said. Experts said that the warning reflected gathering evidence that there was risk in taking even small amounts of nonaspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDS, and that everyone should use them only sparingly for brief periods.  “One of the underlying messages for this warning has to be there are no completely safe pain relievers, period,” says Bruce Lambert, PhD, director of the Center for Communication and Health at Northwestern University, who specializes in drug safety communication.


Northwestern Study: Your Smartphone Knows if You’re Depressed

Chicago Tribune – July 15, 2015
Researchers at the Feinberg School of Medicine say your smartphone knows when you’re depressed, citing their preliminary study of phone-use data that tracked location and time occupied on the phone. Depressed people spend far more time on their smartphones, most of the time at home or at fewer locations than people who aren’t depressed, they found. All this data easily can be collected by the phones themselves, and it can be used to help researchers studying depression, doctors treating it and patients suffering from it, says Sohrob Saeb, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow and computer scientist in Preventive Medicine at Feinberg and lead author of the study.


For Kids with Cancer, a Futuristic Chance to Save Fertility

Chicago Sun-Times – August 21, 2015
To battle infertility that cancer treatment sometimes can cause, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and some hospitals elsewhere around the country are removing and freezing immature ovary and testes tissue in hopes of being able to put it back when patients reach adulthood and want to start families. Many families are open to hearing about saving their child’s fertility. “That often is the one piece of information that gives them a glimmer of hope — that we believe that their children will live long enough to grow into adulthood and have their own family,” says Erin Rowell, MD, assistant professor of Surgery at the Feinberg School of Medicine and medical director of the Institute for Fetal Health.


Domestic Killers Are a Different Breed from Those Who Kill Strangers

The Washington Post – August 27, 2015
Men who murder their wives or girlfriends are a distinctly different group than those who kill strangers, according to a new study at Northwestern University. Chief among those differences: they are less likely to have a rap sheet for serious crimes. The murderer in a domestic homicide is also more likely to have a psychotic disorder, “but less likely to be diagnosed with an antisocial personality disorder or to have prior felony convictions,” writes lead author, Robert Hanlon, PhD, associate professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Neurology, in a paper published in the online edition of the Journal of Forensic Sciences.

HIV virus

Few Gay, Bisexual Teen Males Being Tested for HIV

Reuters – August 27, 2015
Only about one in five teenage gay and bisexual males in a new study said they’d ever been tested for HIV, despite their increased risk of infection. And almost half the teens didn’t know where they could go to be tested. “It’s important for all teens to get tested if they’re sexually active, but it’s especially important for young gay and bisexual men to be tested because they’re at such an increased risk of transmission,” says lead author Brian Mustanski, PhD, associate professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Medical Social Sciences at Feinberg School of Medicine.


Study: Lowering Beta-Blocker Dose May Boost Survival after Heart Attack

U.S. News & World Report – September 21, 2015
People treated with low-dose beta blockers after a heart attack may fare better than those given the standard dose, a new Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine study suggests. And in some cases, those on a low dose lived even longer, with a 20 to 25 percent increase in survival. To maximize effectiveness, beta-blocker dosage should probably be personalized for individual patients. “We set out on a mission to show if you treat patients with the doses that were used in the clinical trials, they will do better. We expected to see patients treated with the lower doses to have worse survival,” says lead investigator, Jeffrey Goldberger, MD, professor of Medicine in the Division of Cardiology. “We were shocked to discover they survived just as well, and possibly even better.”


After Heart Attack, Care for Women Less Aggressive, Study Says

Chicago Tribune – September 29, 2015
A study of insurance claims shows women get fewer aggressive treatments after a heart attack than men. The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association examined 2014 medical claims and found that women are 27 percent less likely than men to get angioplasties to open clogged arteries and 38 percent less likely to undergo coronary bypass surgery.

“We’ve been grappling with this for more than 20 years,” says Marla Mendelson, MD, associate professor of Medicine in the Division of Cardiology and of Pediatrics in the Division of Genetics, Birth Defects and Metabolism.

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the U.S. and is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined, according to the American Heart Association. Nearly 400,000 women died of cardiovascular disease in 2013.