TIME Infectious Disease

Unlicensed Cambodian Medic Charged With Murder After Allegedly Spreading HIV

212 HIV cases were found in the community where he practiced

An unlicensed medic is being charged with murder after Cambodian medical authorities found 212 cases of HIV in the district where he had been treating patients, allegedly with contaminated equipment.

Yem Chrin treated poor patients and was believed to have healing powers, Reuters reports. However, he did not have a medical license and was allegedly delivering injections and blood transfusions using unclean equipment. Authorities tested 1,940 people in the northwestern province where Yem Chrin worked, and 212 tested positive for HIV. Some children as young as 6 years old tested positive for the virus, according to al-Jazeera.

Yem Chrin allegedly told police that he sometimes used the same syringe on two or three patients before disposing of it.

The World Health Organization and UNAIDS found that “the percentage of people that reported receiving an injection or intravenous infusion as part of their health treatment was significantly higher among the people who tested positive for HIV than the people who were HIV negative,” in the area in which Yem Chrin treated patients, Reuters reports.

The development is a setback in Cambodia’s largely successful efforts to eradicate the virus since it first spread through the country in the 1990s.

[Reuters]

TIME HIV/AIDS

This Contraceptive Is Linked to a Higher Risk of HIV

Depending on the contraceptive they’re using, women may be at higher risk of getting HIV

When it comes to the double duty of preventing both pregnancy and HIV, condoms are the best option, especially in the developing world where treatment for the infectious disease is harder to access. But the same isn’t true of other contraceptive methods, according to the latest study in Lancet Infectious Diseases.

Lauren Ralph, an epidemiologist at University of California San Francisco, and her colleagues conducted a review of all of the available studies on hormonal contraceptive methods—including injections of Depo Provera and Net-En that work to prevent pregnancy for about 12 weeks, as well as the pill. Among 12 studies involving nearly 40,000 women in sub-Saharan Africa, those using Depo showed a 40% higher risk of getting HIV than those using other methods or no contraception at all.

Previous studies suggested that Depo, which is made up of a hormone that mimics the reproductive hormone progesterone, was linked to higher risk of infection, but other studies showed conflicting results. Ralph found that only Depo was associated with a higher risk of HIV infection; there was no similar increase among women using the pill, which is composed of two hormones, estrogen and a form of progesterone. The correlation remained even after they considered potentially confounding factors, such as the women’s condom use.

While the study didn’t address the reason for the difference between oral contraception and Depo, some research suggests that their differing hormone combinations may have varying effects on the structure of the genital tract, a woman’s immune response or her vaginal flora, all of which could influence her vulnerability to acquiring HIV.

The results raise a difficult question about whether the increased risk of HIV infection warrants removing Depo from a woman’s contraceptive options in places like Africa. Worldwide, according to the authors, 41 million women use injectable contraception, and they have played a role in lowering death and health complications among women of child-bearing age. “Whether the risk of HIV observed in our study merits complete withdrawal of hormonal contraception, especially Depo, needs to be balanced against the known benefits of highly effective contraception in reducing maternal morbidity and mortality worldwide,” says Ralph, who conducted the research while at University of California Berkeley. More research needs to be done to quantify the risks and benefits of providing Depo, and these calculations also have to be adjusted for specific regions and even particular clinics. “One thing to consider is whether women have access to other contraceptive options, whether they will be willing to take up these contraceptive options, and ensuring that women will be comfortable with them,” she says. “I would love to see these findings applied to specific regions. I think that would help women make the most informed decisions.”

TIME medicine

Genetic Testing Company 23andMe Finds New Revenue With Big Pharma

The company’s database of genetic information is worth $10 million to Genentech

The past two years have been a rough and transformative time for the controversial DIY genetic testing company 23andMe. At the end of 2013, the Food and Drug Administration requested that the company shut down its main service, an analysis of a person’s genome gleaned from spit samples that anyone who purchased a kit could send in, noting that interpreting human genes—understanding what changes in DNA mean, and how they contribute or don’t contribute to disease—is still too much of a black box.

But things may be looking better for the company in 2015. On Jan. 6, it announced a $10 million partnership with biotech company Genentech, which will sequence the entire genomes of 3,000 23andMe customers with a higher risk for developing Parkinson’s disease. Genentech is hoping the information will speed development of more effective drugs against the neurodegenerative disorder, in which motor nerves in the brain start to deteriorate. “What attracted us to 23andMe and this opportunity is the work 23andMe has done together with the Michael J. Fox Foundation in the Parkinson’s space,” says Alex Schuth, head of technology innovation and diagnostics for business development at Genentech. “They have built a community of individuals and their family members who have contributed DNA samples. What is unique about this cohort is that it gives us an opportunity to connect clinical data on how patients feel and how their disease is progressing, with their genomic data. That’s unique.” The 23andMe customers will be asked to sign new consent forms as part of any Genentech studies.

MORE Time Out: Behind the FDA’s Decision to Halt Direct to Consumer Genetic Testing

The agreement is one of many that 23andMe CEO and co-founder Anne Wojcicki says are in the works, and hint at the company’s most valuable asset—the genetic information on the 800,000 customers who have sent in their DNA-laden saliva since the company began selling kits in 2006. “Databases, and big data, is suddenly trendy,” says Wojcicki, “especially in health care where people are recognizing that when you have really large numbers, you can learn a lot more. I think we are leading part of that revolution.”

But for the past year, the company hasn’t been sending back health information to customers who pay the $99 for an analysis. Instead, customers are getting reports on their genetic ancestry, with the promise that when the FDA permits it again, they will receive health-related information based on their genetic profile. Wojcicki says that since the FDA action, sales of the kits have been cut by about half, and while they are slowly climbing back up, they haven’t yet reached pre-2013 levels.

Regaining that market is a top priority for 23andMe, says Wojcicki. “Everyone at the company has some kind of role, some involvement, in thinking about the FDA,” she says. “It has transformed the entire company—our product, our execution, how to think about marketing, every aspect of it.” The two entities are exchanging requests and responses, and while she hopes to have a resolution in 2015, it’s not clear yet when the health-related services will be offered.

In the meantime, the genetic information 23andMe has already collected is becoming a potential gold mine for academic researchers and for-profit drug developers. The company has more than 30 agreements with academic researchers for which they receive no monetary compensation, so that scientists can learn more about certain diseases and contribute to basic knowledge about what goes wrong in those conditions. Wojcicki says she’s balancing opportunities with both non-profit and for-profit companies to optimize the value of 23andMe’s database. “Some research has absolutely no monetary capacity, and we should still do those, because fundamentally what 23andMe does is represent the consumer,” she says. “And some research does have monetary capacity, and we should do those too. Because the reality is that the group that is going to develop a drug or treatment or therapy for something like Parkinson’s disease is going to be a for-profit company.”

Read next: These GIFs Show the Freakishly High Definition Future of Body Scanning

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TIME Innovation

These GIFs Show the Freakishly High Definition Future of Body Scanning

Doctors at a Florida hospital get up close to bones, organs and veins, without making a single cut

General Electric released images on Wednesday from its first clinical trial of a next generation body scanner that captures bones, blood vessels and organs in high-definition.

The patients ride into the chamber of the scanner, dubbed “Revolution CT,” where a fan-shaped beam of x rays passes down their bodies and a computer reconstructs a digital model of the body, slice-by-slice. The scanner can build an image of a heart in the time it takes for a single heartbeat, according to GE.

The snapshots below, provided by GE, may look like an artist’s rendering from an anatomy textbook. In fact, they were taken from living patients at West Kendall Baptist Hospital in south Florida, the first hospital to test the new scanner in the field.

Read next: Genetic Testing Company 23andMe Finds New Revenue With Big Pharma

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME medicine

Why Working at Night Boosts the Risk of Early Death

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Image Source—Getty Images Nurses working more night shifts were at higher risk of dying early

Working while the rest of the world is sleeping may increase your risk of cancer and heart disease

Sleep isn’t just a time to rest and give your body and brain a break. It’s a critical biological function that restores and replenishes important body systems. Now, yet another study on shift workers shows that their unusual hours may be cutting their lives short—and that’s especially true for those who have rotating night shifts, rather than permanent graveyard duty.

In a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, scientists led by Dr. Eva Schernhammer, an epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, studied 74,862 nurses enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study since 1976. The nurses were an ideal group for studying the effects of rotating night shifts on the body, since RNs tend to have changing night shift obligations over an average month rather than set schedules.

MORE: The Power of Sleep

After 22 years, researchers found that the women who worked on rotating night shifts for more than five years were up to 11% more likely to have died early compared to those who never worked these shifts. In fact, those working for more than 15 years on rotating night shifts had a 38% higher risk of dying from heart disease than nurses who only worked during the day. Surprisingly, rotating night shifts were also linked to a 25% higher risk of dying from lung cancer and 33% greater risk of colon cancer death. The increased risk of lung cancer could be attributed to a higher rate of smoking among night shift workers, says Schernhammer.

The population of nurses with the longest rotating night shifts also shared risk factors that endangered their health: they were heavier on average than their day-working counterparts, more likely to smoke and have high blood pressure, and more likely to have diabetes and elevated cholesterol. But the connection between more rotating night shift hours and higher death rates remained strong after the scientists adjusted for them.

MORE: Why You Shouldn’t Read a Tablet Before Bed

The data support the idea that changing the body’s natural rhythms by being active at night and asleep during the day may have harmful consequences, especially if you shift this rhythm inconsistently. “It’s sort of like flying between London and New York every three days — constant jet lag,” says Schernhammer. “However, if you fly from London to New York and stay in New York, then jet lag would subside after a few days, and that’s what we assume happens in permanent night workers.”

Why does the body react when sleep cycles change? Previous studies showed that too little sleep or the kind that’s disrupted can alter melatonin levels so that the body never powers down and slips into restorative mode, a time when much-needed repairs are made to cells and tissues and supplies of nutrients are replenished to the body. Without this period of rest, important processes such as inflammation, fat and sugar metabolism and immune functions get out of balance, creating fertile ground for heart disease or cancer. The growing number of studies connecting shift work with unhealthy outcomes led the World Health Organization to classify shift work as a probable carcinogen in 2007.

MORE: These 6 Things Will Bring You a Great Night’s Sleep

Schernhammer and her colleagues show that the categorization may have merit, but not everyone can avoid night shift work. Researchers are studying how these people might counteract some of the effects of their unusual work hours, but none of these strategies, including light lamps and sleep aids, has so far been proven to help. In the meantime, she says that shift workers concerned about their risk should do everything they can to lower their risk of heart and cancer risk in other ways — by quitting smoking, getting enough exercise, eating a healthy diet and getting regular cancer screenings. “Hopefully in the near future we can also recommend additional measures that alleviate some of the strain that night work imposes on the circadian system,” she says, “by matching their shift schedules, to the extent possible, with their inherent sleep preferences — whether they are night owls or morning types.”

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: January 6

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. China is the key to solving the problem of North Korea.

By Christopher Hill in Project Syndicate

2. Squeezing cells to make their walls temporarily permeable could open the door to new cancer and HIV treatments.

By Kevin Bullis at MIT Technology Review

3. Survivors of domestic violence are getting immediate protection from their abusers via videoconference with a court officer from their hospital beds.

By Laura Starecheski at National Public Radio

4. Japan is testing underwater turbines to harness the power of ocean currents for clean energy.

By Brian Merchant in Motherboard from Vice

5. Drones are the new tool of choice for biologists and ecologists studying endangered species.

By Aviva Rutkin in New Scientist

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Science

The Shy Scientist Who Could See Through Skin

X-Ray Hand
George Eastman House / Getty Images Circa 1890: an X-Ray view of the hand and wrist of a four year-old child

Jan. 5, 1896: An Austrian newspaper reports Wilhelm Roentgen’s discovery of a new type of radiation, which becomes known as an X-ray

No one was initially more skeptical of the existence of X-rays than Wilhelm Roentgen — the man who discovered them.

One day in late 1895, the German physicist was preparing to begin an experiment with cathode rays, the glowing beams of electrons that pass through a vacuum tube when electricity is applied, which were a popular fixture in physics at the time. In his darkened lab, he covered the tube with black cardboard to hide its glow, but noticed a glimmer of light on a fluorescent screen across the room.

Curious, Roentgen “placed a sheet of black cardboard between the screen and the tube, then another, then a book of 1000 pages, then a wooden shelf board more than two and a half centimeters thick,” according to a story in the journal Physics Today. “The glimmer remained.”

At some point, he held up a small lead disk, and cast a terrifying shadow on the screen: the dark shape of the disk itself, along with the skeletal outline of the bones in his hand.

According to Physics Today, Roentgen was very late to dinner with his family that night. When he did show up, “he did not speak, ate little, and then left abruptly” to return to his lab. Afraid that he might have imagined the whole thing, he cautiously told a friend, as quoted by the journal Resonance, “I have discovered something interesting, but I do not know whether or not my observations are correct.” Eventually he summoned the courage to tell his wife what he’d seen, and enlisted her help in a follow-up experiment. Just before Christmas that year, he replaced the fluorescent screen with photographic paper and took the world’s first X-ray, a clear image of the bones and wedding ring on his wife’s left hand. She found the experience as unnerving as he had, exclaiming, “I have seen my death.”

When news of Roentgen’s discovery was published in an Austrian newspaper on this day, Jan. 5, in 1896, the monumental implications for science and medicine quickly became apparent. The New York Times picked up the story two weeks later, but couched it in skepticism that echoed Roentgen’s own, reporting his “alleged discovery of how to photograph the invisible.

While the Times eventually wrote more glowingly of Roentgen’s discovery, neither it nor any other newspaper revealed much about the scientist himself. Notoriously publicity-shy, he turned down countless speaking engagements and stipulated that when he died, his letters and journals should be destroyed.

He eschewed fortune as well as fame: He never patented X-rays, which he thought should be freely available to other researchers and the medical community, and, according to TIME’s brief notice at the time of his death, donated the money that came with his 1901 Nobel Prize (about $40,000) to a scientific society.

Roentgen’s generosity caught up with him near the end of his life, however. By the time he died, in 1923, his unwillingness to profit from his discovery — coupled with the economic conditions that followed World War I — had left him nearly penniless.

Read TIME’s 1956 examination of the safety of X-rays: X-Ray Danger

TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: January 2

Capitol
Mark Wilson—Getty Images The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC.

Mario Cuomo Dies at 82

Mario Cuomo, the former New York governor whose fiery, eloquent advocacy of liberal policies made him a key figurehead in the Democratic Party for years, died Thursday at age 82. He died just hours after his son was inaugurated to a second term as governor

Medicine Is About to Get Personal

How can Americans get better health care for less money? There’s a quiet experiment going on among primary-care physicians, and the results are intriguing

Weather Hampers AirAsia Recovery

Most families remain in grieving limbo as officials say it may take another week for the wreckage to be found

LeBron James Out With Injuries

The Cleveland Cavaliers said on Thursday that LeBron James will miss two weeks after he was diagnosed with a left knee strain and a lower back strain. James, who turned 30 earlier this week, had missed Cleveland’s last two games

Shanghai Seeks Answers After the New Year’s Eve Disaster

The New Year’s Eve stampede in Shanghai that killed 36 has prompted questions about crowd control in China, as the world’s most populous nation enters a holiday season characterized by massive gatherings

Most Types of Cancer Just ‘Bad Luck,’ Researchers Say

Researchers have found that bad luck plays a major role in determining most types of cancer, rather than genetics or risky lifestyle choices like smoking. In fact, two-thirds of cancers could be explained as biological misfortune

Charred Greek Ferry Towed to Italy Overnight

The charred wreck of a Greek ferry has reached an Italian port after an overnight tow across choppy Adriatic seas, and authorities will soon board it to search for any more bodies from the blaze that killed at least 11 people

Kanye and Sir Paul Team Up on ‘Only One’

Kanye West revealed a collaboration between himself on vocals and legendary Beatle Sir Paul McCartney on the keyboard just in time for the New Year. The track appears to be written from the perspective of Kanye’s late mother Donda

Florida Man Decapitates Mother

A Florida man is charged with first-degree murder after his mother was found decapitated outside their home on New Year’s Eve. Mario Gomez called 911 on Wednesday evening and told dispatchers that his brother Christian had killed their mother and cut off her head

Minimum-Wage Increases Go Into Effect Across the Country

Roughly 3.1 million workers across the United States woke up to a little New Year’s Day present on Jan. 1, when increases in the minimum wage took effect in 20 states and the District of Columbia. Hikes in more states are set to take effect later in the year

Joseph Gordon-Levitt Ties the Knot

The Walk star is officially off the market, having confirmed to PEOPLE that he married his girlfriend Tasha McCauley, the CEO of a robotics company, in a private ceremony at home on Dec. 20. Gordon-Levitt has been mostly mum about the relationship in public

Economist Piketty Declines Big French Award

Economist Thomas Piketty, who wrote Capital in the 21st Century, declined a nomination for France’s Legion of Honor award on Thursday, saying, “I refuse this nomination because I do not think it is the government’s role to decide who is honorable”

 

TIME medicine

Former U.S. Senator to Sell Pot Products

Former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel CEO pot company
Tom Williams—CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images Former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel in 2008.

Former Sen. Mike Gravel is getting into the marijuana business

Former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel is the new CEO of a marijuana-infused edible company called KUSH, a Cannabis Sativa, Inc. subsidiary.

“I’m anxious to assist in bringing this important resource to a broader market in a serious and credible way,” Gravel said in a statement.

According to the company, KUSH will focus on marketing and development for cannabis products for both recreational and medicinal use. This includes a lozenge known as the “Kubby.”

Gravel, who served two senate terms from 1969 to 1981, adamantly opposed the classification of marijuana as a Schedule I substance signed into law in 1970 by Richard Nixon. He won’t be the only politician getting into the ganja game either. Huffington Post reports that former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson is the CEO of Cannabis Sativa, Inc.

TIME medicine

Maryland Board Revokes Doctor’s Medical License for Involvement in Assisted Suicides

Dr. Lawrence Egbert no longer has his medical license

The Maryland Board of Physicians revoked the medical license of Dr. Lawrence Egbert, a physician well-known for his involvement in assisted suicide, who revealed that he has been present in hundreds of suicides.

This is not the first time Egbert has come under legal scrutiny for his work. The death with dignity advocate formerly led a group called the Final Exit Network, which says it does not actually help individuals commit suicide but provides guidance and information and companionship during the process.

Egbert’s medical license was revoked on Tuesday, ABC News reports, due to his presence in six specific suicides of Maryland residents. Neither doctor-assisted suicide nor death with dignity for terminally ill patients is legal in the state.

Egbert has publicly confirmed that he has been present in many suicides where the device used to end the patients life is often a hood that’s placed over the individual’s head and filled with helium. He told the Washington Post in 2012, “There are some people who like to suffer — that there is a religious gain in suffering. I don’t believe that.”

The Maryland Board of Physicians says Egbert was present during the suicides, rehearsals and held the patients’ hands during the process.

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