TIME ebola

Passengers Arriving in the U.S. From Mali Will Now Be Screened for Ebola

Coast Guard Corpsman checks the temperature of a traveler at Washington Dulles International Airport
A U.S. Coast Guard Corpsman working with the Office of Field Operations checks the temperature of a traveler who has recently traveled to either Guinea, Sierra Leone or Liberia in this handout picture from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection taken at Washington Dulles International Airport on Oct. 16, 2014 Handout—Reuters

Travelers will also have to monitor their temperatures and any potential symptoms for 21 days

From Monday, airports around the U.S. will begin to screen and monitor for Ebola passengers flying into the States from the West African country of Mali.

The Department for Homeland Security (DHS) says although there are no direct flights from Mali to the U.S., around 15 to 20 travelers each day transit through other countries to reach America, NBC reports.

“The CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] recommended this measure because there have been a number of confirmed cases of Ebola in Mali in recent days, and a large number of individuals may have been exposed to those cases,” the DHS said in a statement.

Travelers flying from Mali will also have to monitor their temperatures and any potential symptoms for 21 days after they arrive.

The U.S. already carries out these protocols on passengers flying from Ebola-hit Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.


TIME Research

Here’s How Many Bacteria Spread Through One Kiss

lips kiss
Getty Images

Pucker up, ladies and germs

First base is a great place to get your mouth microbes some new friends, finds a new study in the journal Microbiome. A ten-second French kiss can spread 80 million bacteria between mouths.

Study author Remco Kort, a professor and scientist at Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), asked couples visiting a zoo in the Netherlands if they wanted to participate in a study on French kissing. 21 couples agreed and had their tongues swabbed and saliva collected, both before and after a kiss.

Researchers discovered that the bacteria on the tongues of couples was much more similar than the oral bacteria of two strangers. “Apparently, being with somebody for an extended amount of time and having a relationship leads to a similar collection of bacteria on the tongue,” Kort says.

In order to find out just how similar the shared bacteria were, one person in the couple was instructed to sip a probiotic yogurt drink, wait a bit and kiss their partner a second time. The probiotic bacteria, which aren’t usually found in the mouth, indeed transferred: along with about 80 million other bacteria. Through questionnaires, the team found that the more often a couple kisses, the more bacteria they seem to share.

“There are a number of studies that show if the diversity in bacteria increases—more different types of species—this is a good thing,” Kort says. Kissing might also act as a form of immunization, he adds, allowing you to build up resistance from exposing yourself to more microorganisms. “If you look at it from this point of view, kissing is very healthy.” (Of course, he admits, the health boons kind of depend on who you’re kissing, and what types of oral microbial colonies they have.)

If you want to learn what kind of bacterial kisser you are, grab your partner and head to Micropia in Amsterdam, the brand-new museum of microbes—like a zoo for invisible animals, Kort says. A “Kiss-o-meter,” based on this research, will rate your make out on a scale from “dry, prudent kiss,” which transfers a meager 1,000 bacteria, to a “hot” one, spreading bacteria in the millions. You’ll even get a readout of the microorganisms you’ve exchanged.

And if you’re single? There’s never been a better scientific defense to bring back the kissing booth.

TIME Infectious Disease

CDC: 172 People on Cruise Fell Ill With Norovirus

The Crown Princess cruise ship returns to the port at Cape Canaveral, Fla. on July 18, 2006. John Raoux—AP

Over 4,100 people on board and will be met by CDC staff upon arrival in San Pedro

LOS ANGELES — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 172 people on a cruise ship arriving in California on Sunday have fallen ill with the highly contagious norovirus during a nearly monthlong trip.

The Crown Princess has more than 4,100 people on board and will be met by CDC staff upon arrival in San Pedro. CDC staff will conduct testing and evaluate the response.

Princess Cruises has “enacted our stringent disinfecting protocols” developed in consultation with the CDC and will do a deep cleaning of the ship and terminal in Los Angeles before departing Sunday night for a weeklong cruise through the Mexican Riviera, said spokeswoman Susan Lomax.

In April, 129 people on the same ship contracted norovirus during a seven-day cruise off the California coast. Lomax said that the ship went through the same stringent disinfecting process after it docked.

“As it is the cold and flu season, when the stomach flu circulates on land, we encourage all of our guests to be diligent in following the widely accepted practices of frequent hand washing with soap and water and the use of hand sanitizers,” Lomax said.

Symptoms of norovirus include vomiting, diarrhea, fever and body aches. According to the CDC, most people recover within three days.

The 28-day cruise visited Hawaii and Tahiti.

TIME Research

Racism Could Negatively Impact Your Health, Study Finds

blood pressure
Getty Images

High blood pressure and kidney decline may be linked to feelings of discrimination

Feeling judged because of your race could have a negative impact on your physical health, a new study finds.

A team of researchers studied 1,574 residents of Baltimore as part of the Healthy Aging in Neighborhoods of Diversity across the Life Span study and found that 20% of the subjects reported feeling that they had been racially discriminated against “a lot.”

Even after the researchers adjusted the results for race, this group had higher systolic blood pressure than those who perceived only a little discrimination.

Over a five-year followup, the group who felt more racial discrimination also tended to have greater decline in kidney function. When the researchers, co-led by Deidra C. Crews, MD, assistant professor of medicine and chair of the diversity council at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, adjusted for age and lifestyle factors, the effect stayed constant for African-American women.

“Psychosocial stressors could potentially have an effect on kidney function decline through a number of hormonal pathways,” Dr. Crews said. The release of stress hormones can lead to an increase in blood pressure, and high blood pressure is one of the leading causes of kidney disease.

This isn’t the first time that perceived racial discrimination has been linked to chronic diseases: a 2011 study found that lifetime discrimination was linked to higher rates of hypertension.

TIME Obesity

Why You Probably Can’t Donate a Kidney Even If You Want To

When it comes to kidney donation, deciding you want to go through with it is actually the easy part. Most Americans couldn’t donate a kidney even if they wanted to, finds a new study presented at the American Society of Nephrology’s Kidney Week conference in Philadelphia.

Dr. Anthony Bleyer, professor of internal medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, and his son Anthony Bleyer, Jr., an economics major at Wake Forest University, looked at data from a representative sample of 7,000 U.S. adults from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey survey. They discovered that a full 55% of the U.S. population would be ineligible to donate a kidney because of medical conditions—most of them preventable. Based on the criteria the Bleyers used, 15% of adults would be excluded due to obesity, 19% to hypertension, 12% to excessive alcohol use and 12% to diabetes.

That’s not necessarily because a medical condition has rendered the organs damaged. “Our number one thing is we want to preserve the health of the donor,” says Dr. Bleyer. “The donors have to be in really pristine condition.”

The more you weigh, the more strain you’ll put on your remaining kidney, and obese people also have a higher risk of complications after surgery and wounds that heal more slowly, he says.

The Bleyer team also looked at how financial concerns might prevent donation. Because kidney donors don’t receive compensation for lost work time in the U.S., 36% of healthy, medically eligible people make less than $35,000 per year, so they probably couldn’t afford to donate, the study found.

“Only 6% of patients who need a transplant get a living-donor kidney transplant,” Dr. Bleyer says.

That might not be because people are getting more stingy about their organs—but poorer and sicker instead.

TIME ebola

New Ebola Treatment Filters Virus Out of the Blood

Researchers say that a new device that yanks Ebola virus from the blood may have saved an infected doctor’s life

Battling a virus is all about timing, and Ebola is no exception. Our immune systems are capable of destroying Ebola, but once in the body, the virus multiplies furiously, spreading like wildfire. Pretty soon the invader overwhelms the body’s immune system. In most cases, the virus wins.

But what if doctors could tip the odds in the body’s favor and pull out Ebola from the blood in order to give the immune cells a fighting chance? Reporting at the Kidney Week conference of the American Society of Nephrology on Friday, doctors at Goethe University hospital in Frankfurt described their experience doing just that several weeks ago when an Ebola patient arrived from Sierra Leone.

Dr. Helmut Geiger and his colleagues knew they had a challenge on their hands. They made sure the patient, a Ugandan pediatrician who had been treating Ebola patients, was hydrated and received the proper nutrients. They also tried several experimental therapies, but despite their efforts, the patient quickly deteriorated. He needed a ventilator to breathe, and as the virus ravaged his body, several of his organs, including his kidneys, failed. The medical team placed him on dialysis and hoped for the best.

MORE: Ebola Treatment Trials to Start in December

That’s when Geiger recalled reading about a novel way of treating viruses that didn’t involved drugs. Aethlon Medical, a California-based company, was testing a way to quite literally filter viruses out of the blood of infected patients. The team had been testing their device, which attached to standard kidney dialysis machines, on hepatitis C and HIV patients in India. The German doctors, desperate to help their patient, asked to test it for Ebola.

“We did not know if it was possible to retract viruses from the blood,” says Geiger. “But we knew from earlier data that viral load is directly correlated to the outcome of the patient. We thought if we could reduce the viral load through some kind of intervention, then it would be positive for the patient.”

MORE: WHO: These Are the Most Promising Ebola Treatments

Their hunch paid off. The device, called the Hemopurifier, was attached to the dialysis machine that was already filtering the patient’s blood. The specially designed filter is made of a protein that acts as glue for proteins found on the Ebola virus’s surface. Over a period of 6.5 hours, the filter extracted the virus from the blood that flows through. While most dialysis filters can pull out molecules that are less than 4 nanometers in diameter, the virus filter boasts a mesh that’s able to filter out larger viral particles that are less than 250 nanometers. That means only the virus is pulled out, and the immune cells remain in the blood, ready to fight off any remaining viral invaders.

“We had no [idea] about how much [virus] would be extracted, because this was the first patient, but I was very surprised because the drop in viral load was deeper than I expected,” says Geiger. Before the filtration began, the patient’s virus count was about 400,000 per mL blood. After the session it had dropped to 1,000 copies/mL.

MORE: The Fight Against Ebola Could Lead to Surge in Measles and Malaria

What’s more, when Geiger’s team sent the filter, which was designed to safely contain the Ebola virus it had extracted, to the University of Marburg, which has a biosafety level 4 laboratory for safely handling the virus, they learned that the device had managed to trap 242 million copies of the virus.

Freed from that viral burden, the patient soon began to improve rapidly. His own immune system began fighting off the remaining virus, and he no longer needs dialysis or a ventilator. The patient is walking and waiting to be released from the hospital.

MORE: See How Ebola Drugs Grow In Tobacco Leaves

Geiger stresses that it’s not clear yet whether the Hemopurifier alone was responsible for the patient’s recovery, since he was given other experimental therapies, but the amount of virus removed from his body and his rapid recovery after the filtration suggests that it at least played a role in helping him survive his infection.

While puling viruses out of infected individuals has never been tried before, Geiger believes it will be an important strategy for treating not just Ebola but other vial infections as well, including HIV, hepatitis and even influenza. “It’s a very interesting concept. The big advantage is that the plasma is filtered, and only the virus is removed and the other plasma components like immune cells go back to the patient. That’s important because with viral infections, the patient is in a reduced immune situation.”

The device works with most standard kidney dialysis machines, so Geiger says most hospitals would have no problem using it. And his team have worked out the mechanics of setting the blood flow to the proper levels to ensure the filter works at its best. “We have all the data that could be applied at other centers and for other users of the device,” he says.

TIME Health Care

Why New FDA Recommendations Against a Gay Blood Ban Are Meaningless

The National Gay Blood Drive is happening in 63 cities nationwide
Courtesy of Alexandra Sifferlin

New steps to ease the ban on gay blood donations might not change much

Gay men are prohibited from donating blood and tissue, regardless of their HIV status, if they’ve had sex with a man since 1977. And though technology and society have radically changed since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) implemented the ban in 1983, the measure—which still bans donation by gay men, bisexual men and men who have sex with men (MSM)—has not.

It began as a measure to prevent the spread of HIV through blood donations, back when there was no simple way to detect HIV in blood. Today, testing is simple, fast and effective.

Several prominent medical groups like the American Medical Association, America’s Blood Centers and the Red Cross have opposed the ban, calling it scientifically unsound and discriminatory. In 2013, 86 members of Congress wrote to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) admonishing their delay in addressing what they believed to be an unnecessary ban.

Since 2010, the FDA and HHS have considered revising the ban, and on Nov. 13, they finally moved forward with an advisory panel voting 16-2 to adopt a one year deferral which would allow men who have had sex with other men to give blood after remaining abstinent—not HIV negative—for one year.

Advocates are calling the solution flimsy and unrealistic, telling TIME it’s one step forward and two steps back.

“It doesn’t matter whether we go from a lifetime ban or a one- or five-year deferral, because I’m in a same sex marriage and, happily, having sex more than just once a year. I am still banned from donating, so in effect, it really doesn’t change anything,” says Jason Cianciotto, Director of Public Policy at Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC). “I’ve been in a monogamous relationship for 11 years, married for 7 years, and I am not eligible to donate blood, but a person who identifies as heterosexual and admits to having sex with someone who is HIV positive is only deferred for 12 months.”

Proponents for a more lenient ruling say that even despite the high number of sexually active gay men who will still be banned from donating, the current standards also provide a false sense of security. The ban places risk on individual identities and not on behavior, meaning a sexually active gay men who practices safe sex and is HIV negative is still deemed ineligible.

Other countries have had success in changing their policies to behavior-based deferral, prioritizing a person’s actual risky sexual practices above their sexual orientation. Italy, for example, bans donations from anyone who has recently had unsafe sex. They allow donations from gays and bisexuals who have had their blood tested and sexual activity deemed safe. The country has provided data showing MSM HIV-positive individuals do not outnumber HIV-positive individuals of other groups.

MORE: This National Blood Drive Is Fighting the FDA Ban on Gay Donors

A recent analysis from The Williams Institute estimates that if the ban were to be lifted, an additional 130,150 men would likely be able to donate 219,200 additional pints of blood each year. However, an August article published in the New York Times reports that the blood industry is shrinking due to the fact that blood transfusions are on the decline. Medical innovation has eased the need for transfusions, and therefore donations, the New York Times says.

“Changing the ban has never been a top priority for the FDA, and so I do not see this as an obstacle in allowing eligible gay/bisexual men to donate blood,” says Ryan James Yezak, founder of National Gay Blood Drive. “Part of our push for policy reform is to make the blood supply safer overall—regardless of the donor’s sexual orientation or the amount of blood that is needed at any given time.”

In July, the National Gay Blood Drive held its second annual drive in more than 60 U.S. cities to bring attention to the ban. The drive asks gay and bisexual men to show their willingness to donate blood by bringing eligible “allies”—friends or family members—to donate in their place. In the New York City drive, a total of 3,000 individuals participated in the event, saving up to 4,500 lives. The group also collected 44,326 signatures for a White House petition urging the FDA to change the ban.

Yezak calls the latest development a step in the right direction, though it doesn’t eliminate sexual orientation from the process. But to others like GMHC’s Jason Cianciotto, a one-year deferral ultimately doesn’t even budge the issue forward.

TIME ebola

WHO: These Are the Most Promising Ebola Treatments

A laboratory technican of the company Icon Genetics prepares proteines from Tobacco plants (Nicotiana benthamiana) for weighing in a laboratory in Halle
14 Aug 2014, Berlin, Germany --- A laboratory technican of the company Icon Genetics prepares proteines from Tobacco plants (Nicotiana benthamiana) for weighing in a laboratory in Halle, August 14, 2014. Icon Genetics develop a technology to mass produce Ebola vaccine with the help of tobacco plants. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt (GERMANY - Tags: HEALTH SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY) --- Image by © AXEL SCHMIDT/Reuters/Corbis Axel Schmidt—Reuters/Corbis

Experts decide which experimental Ebola treatments to test

On Nov. 11 and 12, the World Health Organization (WHO) called the world’s leaders on Ebola to decide which promising experimental therapies to begin rigorously testing in order to fight the West Africa outbreak.

There are many encouraging candidates, from the blood of Ebola survivors to drugs that use the latest developments in genetic engineering. None, however, have been properly tested for safety or effectiveness in human patients. Some have been tested in animal models of the disease and have successfully controlled the virus, but the gold standard for any human treatment, be it drug or vaccine, is testing in patients who have been affected by a disease. Since scientists can’t ethically intentionally infect volunteers with the Ebola virus, regulatory agencies like WHO are considering moving some of these treatments directly from animal studies to infected patients in West Africa.

The committee also reviewed information from 18 Ebola patients who were treated outside of West Africa, some with the experimental therapies.

Medecins Sans Frontieres recently announced that it will host three trials of such therapies at its centers starting in December. The humanitarian aid organization will help an international group of researchers test blood from Ebola survivors, as well as two drugs—favipiravir and brincidofivir, both of which interrupt the Ebola virus’s ability to replicate and were initially developed to control other viral infections.

The WHO committee also discussed how the trials should be set up in order to collect valuable data on the treatments’ effects that will guide future treatment decisions. The process is ongoing as new data and products become available, but here’s what the committee concluded so far:

Four drugs should receive priority

The committee evaluated many different types of drugs but prioritized those that manufacturers are able to make in large amounts quickly. Drugs like ZMapp, the cocktail of antibodies that successfully treated the U.S. aid workers Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, are promising but only available in small quantities. Other antibody-based therapies have the same problem, as do cutting-edge treatments that seek out and bind to the virus’s genes.

The committee therefore focused on other drugs that can be made in sufficient doses to test. These include favipiravir, brincidofivir, toremifine and interferons. While there is little evidence in humans about how well these drugs work against Ebola, their availability made them good candidates to begin testing in trials in West Africa.

Anti-viral drug lamivudine is not effective against Ebola

Data presented by experts to the committee did not show that the antiretroviral drug, which is used to treat HIV and hepatitis B infections, works against Ebola. Ebola belongs to a different family of viruses than HIV and hepatitis B, and while the drug disrupts those viruses’ ability to reproduce, it does little to stop Ebola. The committee recommended that lamivudine not be used to treat Ebola; it will include a list of other ineffective treatments on its website to guide doctors caring for Ebola patients.

Three trials of blood from Ebola survivors are underway

These trials will test both the whole blood and the plasma alone from people who have survived Ebola. WHO announced that it will begin working with local health officials to establish blood donation centers in Liberia to allow survivors to provide blood for study and potential use in treating patients.

Ensuring the proper collection and treatment of the blood is crucial to eliminate other potential infections, including malaria and HIV, the committee said. It also called for a standard way to make sure that all patients receive the same blood components. That way, the trials can precisely determine which parts of the survivors’ blood are useful in fighting Ebola, and which are not.


The Doctor on Your Wrist

Jawbone's Up 24 wristband
Jawbone's Up 24 wristband Jawbone

The next revolution in personal health may be the little band that tracks your steps

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” So said Socrates, and I’m trying to live up to the philosopher’s credo–in a 21st century way. On my wrist I wear a Jawbone UP24, a rubber bracelet that tracks my steps and calories burned over the course of the day. To make sure I don’t exceed the calories burned with calories consumed, I track my diet with the iPhone app MyFitnessPal, which syncs up with my Jawbone data. The Jawbone bracelet uses a motion sensor to track my sleep time, and the Jawbone app uses algorithms to calculate the hours I spend in light sleep and deep sleep over the course of the night. While I trained for the New York City Marathon, I tracked my runs with the iPhone app RunKeeper, which allowed me to see myself very slowly getting somewhat faster.

That kind of numeric detail probably isn’t what Socrates had in mind, but more and more of us are engaging in some form of digital self-examination. Research firm ABI estimates that 42 million wearable fitness and health devices will be shipped in 2014, up from 32 million in 2013. The movement even has a name–the quantified self–and its geekiest adherents go far beyond what I could bring myself to try. They carry digital cameras around their necks that capture a constant stream of visual memories and wear heart monitors and blood-pressure sensors up and down their torsos. They treat their bodies as guinea pigs and gather in meet-ups and conferences to swap stories–backed by data, of course–about the best ways to lose weight, work more efficiently and get smarter.

Hardcore disciples and those who, like me, just try to remember to wear a wearable share the same hope: that through collecting ever more information about our bodies and our behavior, we can find a better route to self-improvement. Doctors and researchers see something else in the movement too–a revolution that could change everything from how they care for recovering surgery patients to the way they administer certain medications. Tracking devices may eventually even upend how much you pay in health-insurance premiums. And they may ultimately change the way we relate to our own health.

But before you can really know thyself, you need to know thy data.

The logging of personal information has a rich history. Benjamin Franklin kept a meticulous chart book noting his progress on 13 virtues, and dieters in programs like Weight Watchers have long counted calories. But as anyone who has ever tried to keep a regular journal knows, recording it all on paper requires a commitment few of us can keep up for long. Digital self- tracking devices–often connected to the Internet through our smartphones–take the effort out of recording and compiling. You get better, more regular data, and it’s harder for you to fudge it to make yourself feel better. That also means the information is easily shareable with doctors.

To that end, hospitals are already a step ahead. The Cleveland Clinic has asked its employees and their family members–more than 50,000 people in all–to use the Pebble, an activity tracker, in the hope that it will encourage them to move more. So far, more than 18,000 people have met the goal of 100,000 steps a month or 600 activity minutes a month for six months. (That’s roughly 20 minutes a day.) There’s an added benefit: employees and family members who use the Pebble are eligible for a lower health-insurance premium.

Using Jawbone’s sleep app, I’ve seen how data analytics can make a daily difference. With Jawbone, I’ve come to understand that certain factors–stress, alcohol and caffeine–can influence how restful my sleep really is. The device’s accelerometer detects whether I’m moving and, roughly, whether I’m awake or in a light or deep sleep. The next morning, the app displays a graphic summary of my night. Over the weeks, I’ve been able to track how my sleep time has waxed and waned and how often I meet the 7½ hours I’ve set as a nightly goal.

I’ve found that I get the most sleep on weekends–unsurprisingly–but I’ve also noticed that my sleep tends to decline as the workweek drags on, perhaps because stress levels rise with each day. Just keeping track of how much time I’m actually spending awake has encouraged me to get to bed at a relatively reasonable hour and overcome the temptation to watch one more episode of Damages on Netflix.

Health professionals are finding that simply tracking an activity can encourage people to do more of it. In Minnesota, for instance, the Mayo Clinic experimented by using activity trackers to help with postsurgery care. In 2013 the hospital equipped nearly 150 heart-surgery patients over the age of 50 with Fitbit activity trackers on their first day of recovery. The reason: older patients tend to lose mobility in the wake of major surgery, which can slow recovery. The researchers found that patients who took the most steps every day–data tracked by their Fitbits–were significantly more likely to leave the hospital earlier than those who were less active, and they were also more likely to return home rather than to a nursing facility. Doctors knew that only because they were keeping track of a data point they had never bothered to record before.

The most valuable analysis comes when researchers are able to draw on a wide pool of data. And the growing ubiquity of fitness and activity trackers has made that pool into an ocean. It’s also caused some worries–the IT security firm Symantec reported in June that fitness trackers were often vulnerable to hacking. But the data keep flowing. Jawbone users around the world have recorded more than 130 million nights of sleep–which, as the company’s vice president of data, Monica Rogati, notes, technically makes it the biggest sleep study in the world–as well as more than 1.6 trillion steps and 180 million items of food. “You take all that data, and you can see interesting patterns emerge,” she says.

For example, Rogati knows that in the U.S., people in Southern states move the least. She knows that New Yorkers have a huge swing in sleep time between the weekdays and the weekends, whereas people in Orlando–a city well stocked with retirees–get similar amounts of sleep throughout the week. During the 2013 Super Bowl, which went down to the wire, she saw sleep numbers drop nationwide–but not during the 2014 Super Bowl, a blowout that many people tuned out early in the night. She can actually see the passage of Ramadan, a month when observant Muslims fast throughout the day, in a Middle Eastern city like Dubai. “People become less active during the day and sleep more, essentially become nocturnal,” she says. “The data tell you something about the signature of the city.”

All this information will matter only if we can learn something more valuable than the fact that a boring Super Bowl leads to an earlier bedtime. In a growing trend, Jawbone uses its data to produce personalized nudges designed to encourage users to sleep more, be more active and eat better. That analysis has also helped produce the smart-alarm function for the UP wristband. The Jawbone smart alarm tracks which sleep stage you’re in near your preferred waking time and buzzes your wrist when you’re in a light stage–hopefully nudging you out of bed at the right time biologically. “Sleep is as important as fitness and nutrition,” says Jason Donahue, product manager for data and insights at Jawbone UP. “By tracking it, you can give it the attention it deserves.”

Activity trackers are far from perfect. Some are bulky and unfashionable, and all suffer from accuracy problems. A 2014 study by researchers at Iowa State University looked at top fitness trackers and found that on average, they were 10% to 15% off in calculating the calorie burn from exercise and daily activity. But with each generation, the devices are getting smaller and more precise. The highly anticipated Apple Watch is supposed to be able to detect which activity you’re doing as you do it, along with your heart rate, which helps improve calorie-burn calculations.

Jawbone’s newest device, the UP3, will track heart rate using bioimpedance sensors, which measure the resistance of body tissue to a tiny electric current generated by the bracelet. In the future, the company believes the sensors will be able to detect skin temperature, respiration, hydration and more. That means greater quantities of finer data to feed into Jawbone’s algorithms, which in turn improves the advice the company dispenses as it tries to get you to eat better, sleep longer and be more active. “No one else has been able to get this amount of data on something small enough to wear on your wrist 24/7,” says Travis Bogard, Jawbone’s vice president of product management and strategy.

The new UP will enter an already crowded fitness-tracker market. Microsoft just released its first tracker–the Microsoft Band, which promises to track heart rate and an array of other data points. The first batch of smart watches using Google’s Android Wear operating system provides fitness functions like tracking runs or bike rides. And increasingly, most smartphones from the likes of Apple and Samsung have pedometers built right in.

That puts extra pressure on a company like Jawbone that produces dedicated activity trackers. There’s a lot riding on the success of the UP3, which Bogard and other executives at Jawbone were already using when I visited the company’s San Francisco headquarters in early October. But the excitement at Jawbone was generated less by the devices than by the data they produce–and the unexpected lessons Rogati’s team of data scientists could produce from all those bits and bytes. One wall of Jawbone’s open-plan office was covered with data stories generated by tracking millions of users, ranging from how the World Cup affected sleep patterns to a list of the most popular foods by time of day. (Beer: very popular after midnight, not so much before noon.)

Bogard believes that the future of self-tracking isn’t about the tracker; it’s about the self and the data it produces. “Our belief is that the tech itself should disappear,” he says. “The technology becomes an enabler to help us become more human.”

Once tracking has become ubiquitous, it could produce a health revolution. Right now, doctors have to wait for us to feel bad enough to bring our bodies into the shop; until we do, they’re in the dark. Data tracking could make it a lot easier for someone who is, for example, trying to manage a weight problem–especially if the data could be automatically uploaded to a doctor’s office. No more lying about how much you exercise or snack.

And personal data can mean personalized health care. The real winner may be not the company that makes the best device but the one that can produce a meaningful signal out of the noise of personal data. “No one thing works for everyone,” says Andrew Rosenthal, the group manager for wellness and platform at Jawbone. “We can help steer people toward the health solutions that work best for them.”

But as someone who began practicing self-quantifying for this story and has since become all but addicted to it, I can say there’s a personal side to this movement as well. So much of our health today feels out of our hands, the province of medical professionals. Self-quantifying has allowed me to take control of my health, to track and tweak my habits, to make myself a better person. Today I feel like a test group of one–but I’m in charge of the experiment, and I benefit from the results. You can count on it.



U.S. Panel Supports Lifting Ban on Blood Donations from Gay Men

Correction appended, Nov. 14

A federal panel voted Thursday in favor of partially lifting a 31-year ban against accepting blood donations from gay and bisexual men.

The current ban in the U.S. applies to any potential male blood donor who has had sex with another man since 1977, the start of the country’s AIDS epidemic. The FDA website states that these men are at an “increased risk for HIV, hepatitis B and certain other infections that can be transmitted by transfusion.” The Department of Health and Human Service’s Advisory Committee on Blood and Tissue Safety and Availability examined data and heard testimony on Thursday from critics of the lifetime ban, who say it is discriminatory and now unnecessary, since technological advances have made the risk infinitesimal in most cases.

The panel then voted 16-2 in support of allowing men who have had sex with other men to give blood after being abstinent for one year, Bloomberg Businessweek reports. The FDA is not obliged to follow the panel’s advice but Jennifer Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the agency, said “the meeting provided valuable information and perspectives that will help inform the FDA’s deliberations.”

Other countries, including the U.K., Australia and Canada, have revised their policies to allow gay and bisexual men to donate blood after a year or five years of abstinence from same-sex encounters.


Correction: The original version of this story misstated the organization that backed lifting the blood donor ban. It is a Department of Health and Human Services panel.

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