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Top news stories from AMA Morning Rounds®: Week of Dec. 18, 2023


Read AMA Morning Rounds®’ most popular stories in medicine and public health from the week of Dec. 18, 2023–Dec. 22, 2023.

Reuters (12/19, Roy) reports, “The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday classified the JN.1 coronavirus strain as a ‘variant of interest’ and said current evidence shows risk to public health was low from the strain.” Experts have “told Reuters that while the strain can evade the immune system and transmit more easily than other currently circulating variants, it has not shown any signs of more severe disease.”

CNN (12/19, Goodman) reports that in the U.S., the CDC “estimates that the coronavirus subvariant JN.1 is now causing about 20% of new COVID-19 infections in this country, and it’s the fastest-growing strain of the virus.” The new variant “is descended from BA.2.86, or Pirola, a subvariant that came to the world’s attention over the summer because of the large number of changes to its spike proteins: more than 30.” Compared to BA.2.86, “JN.1 has only one change to its spike protein...but that seems to have been enough to make it a fitter and faster virus.”

The AP (12/18, Stobbe) reports, “A new study adds to evidence that severe obesity is becoming more common in young U.S. children.” According to a study published in Pediatrics, which looked at children in the Women, Infants and Children program, “researchers found that 2.1% of kids in the program were severely obese in 2010. Six years later, the rate had dipped to 1.8%. But by 2020, it was 2%.”

HealthDay (12/18, Thompson) reports, “That’s about 33,000 of the more than 1.6 million kids in the program.” The study “jibes with other studies that have noted an uptick in severe obesity among young kids, as high as 2.9% of 2- to 4-year-olds in 2018, the researchers said in background notes.”

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RevCycle Intelligence (12/18, Bailey) reports, “One-third of academic physicians have at least a moderate intention to leave their facility in the next two years, driven by burnout and a lack of professional fulfillment, a study published in JAMA Network Open found.” The study also found anesthesiologists “reported the highest rate of intention to leave at 46.8%. Physicians practicing gastroenterology (41.3%), thoracic surgery (40.2%), neurological surgery (40.0%), critical care (39.8%), and radiology (39.8%) also had high rates of intention to leave.”

Editor’s note: Occupational burnout is at an all-time high among physicians, and the AMA is leading the national effort to solve the crisis. Learn about our ongoing work to mitigate physician burnout by removing the obstacles and burdens that interfere with patient care.

Healio (12/15, Feller) reported, “A recombinant influenza vaccine offered additional protection against PCR-confirmed influenza and community-acquired pneumonia hospitalization among adults aged 50 to 64 years compared with a standard-dose vaccine, study results showed.” In the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, among “patients aged between 50 years and age 64 years, 559 participants (or two cases per 1,000) tested positive for influenza in the recombinant vaccine group compared with 925 (2.34 cases per 1,000) positive tests in the standard dose group, for a relative vaccine effectiveness against influenza infection of 15.3%.”

MobiHealthNews (12/14, Hagen) reported, “Google announced the release of MedLM, two foundational models built off Med-PaLM 2, designed to answer medical questions, generate insights from unstructured data and summarize medical information.” The company “said that through piloting” its large language models (LLMs) “with health care organizations, it has learned the most effective AI models are designed to address specific use cases. Therefore, the large model of MedLM is made to address complex tasks, while the other is a medium model that can be fine-tuned and scaled across various tasks.”

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