Health Flash: 9.20.23

diabetes & men’s health | A study from Saint Louis University has found that erectile dysfunction (ED) in men under the age of 40 may be an indicator for undiagnosed prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. Looking at the electronic health records of 1,915,468 patients, researchers found there was 34% increased risk for prediabetes or type 2 diabetes in ED patients, and 75% developed prediabetes or type 2 diabetes within a year of ED diagnosis. “This indicates a remarkable ability to predict the potential onset of illness and treat it early with lifestyle or medication,” says Dr. Jane Tucker, associate professor of family and community medicine. These findings are important as an estimated 2.5% of the population has persistent undiagnosed diabetes, accounting for 8.5 million adults.

faster covid-19 testing
Scientists at Washington University School of Medicine have developed a new breath test to identify COVID-19 infection in less than a minute. The test has the potential to offer quick diagnoses at doctors’ offices or screen at public events and places where people live in close quarters, such as college dorms or senior living communities. “It’s a bit like a breathalyzer test that an impaired driver might be given,” says John R. Cirrito, Ph.D., a professor of neurology. “And, for example, if people are in line to enter a hospital, a sports arena or the White House Situation Room, 15-minute nasal swab tests aren’t practical, and PCR tests take even longer. Plus, home tests are about 60% to 70% accurate, and they produce a lot of false negatives. This device will have diagnostic accuracy.”

diagnosing head & neck cancer
Researchers at Saint Louis University have found that there are frequent delays in the diagnosis of head and neck cancers. When patients are experiencing neck swelling and other symptoms, they are often prescribed antibiotics rather than receiving evaluation for cancer, which is called for in the current clinical guidelines. A delay in diagnosis can necessitate more aggressive treatments with a lower cure rate. “ENT doctors usually are quite familiar with this cancer diagnosis and can use their training and tools to parse out whether it be symptoms caused by cancer or some other cause,” says Dr. Sean Massa, the study’s lead author and associate professor of otolaryngology. “But it’s much more challenging for primary care doctors to make that determination, and I worry that this knowledge is not being disseminated to the broader medical community.”

tracking alzheimer’s
In the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, tau tangles are one of the driving forces of cognitive decline. However, there has been no easy way to measure tau tangles in the brain. Research from Washington University School of Medicine and Lund University in Sweden have identified a form of tau, MTBR-tau243, that can be tracked as a marker for Alzheimer’s. “These findings will help accelerate drug development for patients with symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease,” says co-senior author Dr. Randall J. Bateman, the Charles F. and Joanne Knight Distinguished Professor of Neurology. “We are also working on developing these biomarkers as a clinical test to stage individual patients and improve patient care.”

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