Trending News Today: Intermittent Fasting May Influence Multiple Sclerosis

Top news of the day from across the health care landscape.

In the early days of 2017, the opioid epidemic in the United States does not appear to be slowing, according to The Washington Post. In several cities and states—–such as Ohio, Maryland, and New England––overdosing fatalities have reached new peaks, recently released data reveals. According to medical examiners and health and law enforcement authorities, the number one driver of the increased fatalities is fentanyl, a synthetic opioid with a potency 50 times stronger than heroin.

A 6-month pilot study conducted at Johns Hopkins University is examining the impact of intermittent fasting on the microbiomes of individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS). According to NPR, the study participants were only allowed to eat during an 8-hour period per day, while the remaining 16 hours the patients were limited to water, coffee, and tea, with no added sugar, cream, honey or sweetener. During the study, the investigators will examine gut bacteria in the participants, before, during, and after the 6-month fasting period. Furthermore, 2 random mornings a week, the investigators will send test messages to the participants, asking them to photograph all of their food intake that day. The investigators aim to shed light on the relationships between fasting and the microbiome, and inflammation and MS in humans, NPR reported.

In a recent CDC report, only 2 of 5 Americans have received the flu shot thus far this season. According to The Washington Post, public health officials believe that creating a flu shot that is only needed once in a lifetime, or even once or twice in a decade, could be a game-changer. “If we had an effective universal vaccine, it would take a huge dent out of health care costs [and] disruption of work, school attendance, and social activities,” William Schaffner, professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University and medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious disease, told the Post. “It could change the entire way we prevent influenza.” The Post noted that several scientists have reported progress toward a universal or long-lasting vaccine. Either way, the new approach would be a huge advancement over current health practices, the report concluded.