November 27, 2015

Discovery at the University of Missouri could lead to better HIV treatments

Scientists at the University of Missouri are celebrating a discovery made during their study of HIV. A group of scientists there have determined the structure of a key protein in HIV, which could lead to new and more effective medications. Dr. Stefan Sarafianos with the Mizzou School of Medicine says making the finding was exhilarating.

Dr. Stefan Sarafianos

Dr. Stefan Sarafianos

“Over the course of twenty years, people have tried to get this structure, so to speak. They have done fantastic work, which was very helpful to us.”

Due to the discovery, Mizzou has received a $2.28 million grant to continue drug development. Dr. Sarafianos says other drugs are needed to fight drug resistance.

“If you hit the virus at the same side with different drugs, when the virus learns how to become resistant to one of them, the virus most likely will become resistant to most of them. That’s why you need different families of drugs.”

Dr. Sarafianos says drugs used today have had a dramatic reduction in AIDS related deaths.

There are about 35 million people with HIV worldwide and approximately one million of them live in the United States.




Law requires meningitis vaccinations for students of Missouri colleges

Students at Missouri colleges must now be vaccinated for meningitis under a state law that took effect July 1.

The Missouri State Capitol (Photo courtesy:  Missouri House Communications.)

The Missouri State Capitol (Photo courtesy: Missouri House Communications.)

Dr. Susan Even with the Mizzou Student Health Center says a person who develops meningitis can get sick very quickly and the early symptoms might look like a case of influenza. The infection actually causes an inflammation in the brain and spinal cord.  Even says infants, middle schoolers and 16 to 22 year olds are most susceptible to meningitis.

She says the new law makes sense for colleges.

“Young people who are in close contact with one another, whether they’re in college residence halls or in other close settings in classrooms are also at high risk,” said Even. “Parents or maybe even physicians in outlying towns across the country may not be as aware of the potential impact of a case of meningococcal disease.”

Even says Princeton, the University of California Santa Barbara and the University of Oregon have experienced meningitis outbreaks in recent years.

Missouri bill to better cover eating disorder treatment becomes law

Governor Jay Nixon (D) has signed into law a bill to require insurance companies to consider the mental health needs, and not just the weight, of individuals with eating disorders.

Senator David Pearce

Senator David Pearce

Missouri law already requires that insurance companies cover treatment for mental health issues, and that includes eating disorders, but patients have had claims denied due to a lack of specific guidelines.

“What we’re saying is basically the insurance companies just have to abide by the current laws that are out there,” said Senate sponsor, David Pearce (R-Warrensburg).

Eating disorders are life-threatening and can require long periods of treatment to overcome. Pearce says unfortunately, some people have gone without coverage for some of the help they need.

“The patient going through eating disorders would be in a hospital or a residential treatment facility, and once they reach a certain, ideal weight then they were dismissed, or perhaps maybe their organs had started functioning at a certain level, then they were dismissed,” said Pearce.

Pearce says without mental health treatment, patients can relapse.

“We have seen patients who have declined, and some who have even died,” he said.

“What this does, it basically says they will be treated on the mental side. It also says these patients will receive treatment that’s recommended by the American Psychiatric Association, which does include almost all aspects of eating disorders,” Pearce told Missourinet.

In a statement, Governor Nixon said, “Like many mental health problems, a person suffering from an eating disorder may have no outward signs of their struggle. By requiring insurance companies to consider the comprehensive health needs of these individuals, and not just their weight, we can help Missourians struggling with these disorders receive the care they need to recover.”

Nixon added, “I want to thank Senator Pearce and Representative [Keith] Frederick for their work to bring this issue to the forefront and get this lifesaving legislation to my desk.”

Pearce says he got involved with the issue because of family in his hometown, Warrensburg, who had a daughter that died due to an eating disorder.

The law will affect policies bought, renewed, delivered or issued for delivery on or after January 1.


Missouri House panel hears testimony on move to statewide managed care

A house committee is laying the ground work to move the state’s Medicaid recipients to privatized care. Supporters and opponents are sharing what they believe it will mean for Missouri.

Dr. Chuck Hollister with the Missouri Psychological Association says he’s concerned the state will lose more Medicaid providers.

Representative Chris Kelly (tan jacket) asks a question of Budget Director Linda Luebbering during a hearing.  (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

(photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

“Your Medicaid providers haven’t received an increase in reimbursement in over 25 years,” said Hollister. “There is no money left for managed care to earn a living on. When you talk about managing care, there’s nothing to manage.”

Mark Bradford with the Ozark Psychological Association says there needs to be a bigger network of providers and they need to be paid in a timely manner.

“In the managed care network, if you ask them ‘will you do work for them?’ a lot of times those providers will balk and stall because they don’t want low pay and slow pay.”

Supporters argue there are already enough Medicaid providers.

Managed care is only used throughout central Missouri, but a statewide expansion was built into the budget passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Jay Nixon.  That means an additional 200,000 parents and children on Medicaid will be covered under managed care rather than fee-for-service. Under the plan, the elderly, blind and disabled would be exempt.




Missouri’s heavy rains wash bacteria into recreational waterways

Memorial Day marks the unofficial beginning of summer and many people are ready to go swimming, but health officials warn heavy rains may wash harmful bacteria into swimmers favorite recreational waterways.

The Little Sac River Bridge

The Little Sac River Bridge

The Springfield-Green County Health Department and the Watershed Committee of the Ozarks have started monitoring popular swimming spots in Greene County for the presence of E. coli.  The E. coli count is an indication of fecal water contamination, which can make swimmers sick.

Kathryn Wall is the Public Health Information Administrator for the Springfield-Green County Health Department.

“We found some areas that were a little bit higher than we like, the highest was the Little Sac River, and the E. coli levels there were just a little too high for our comfort level,” said Wall.  “We’re not telling people don’t go swim or anything like that, just be more aware of what you’re getting into.”

Wall said E. coli levels are often high during periods of storm water runoff.

“Don’t go swimming after really heavy rains, that’s going to tend to really wash things out into those creeks, if the water is murky, generally it’s a place to avoid,” said Wall.  “E. coli is most common in fecal material and so in the Ozarks we do have some agriculture, so some of that is going to naturally wash away into the water streams, so usually we just kind of tell people to wait it out.”

Wall said there is a certain amount of danger when E. coli levels are high.

“Too high of concentrations can make people sick and in some cases can be fatal, especially for people very young, very old, or immune compromised for one reason or another,” said Wall.

Wall said swimmers should avoid swallowing water and swimming when sick.  Wall said it’s important to thoroughly wash hands and shower after swimming.

“There a lot of people who are at the creek all day and they take a lunch and might not think about it, they get out of the water, and go straight to their lunch, and don’t think about that bacteria that’s on their hands,” said Wall.

The most recent test results for the Springfield area can be found on the Springfield-Greene County Health Department’s website.