From today’s episode of the 5 Things podcast: A new era of diagnostics for Alzheimer’s disease
Health reporter Ken Alltucker explains. Additionally, Russia is opening a new front in its fight for Ukraine, nearly 60% of Americans have been infected with COVID-19, financial journalist Bailey Schulz talks about rising natural gas prices, and a panel of the House holds a hearing on the ethical requirements of the Supreme Court.
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Hello. I’m Taylor Wilson and here are 5 things you need to know Wednesday, April 27, 2022. Today, a new era for Alzheimer’s diagnosis, plus Russia’s final front in the fight for Ukraine and more Again.
Here are some of the main titles:
- A Myanmar court has found the country’s former leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, guilty of corruption and sentenced her to five years in prison. It is the first of several corruption cases against her in the military-ruled country. It was ousted by an army takeover last year.
- Earlier in the day, Israeli forces shot dead an 18-year-old Palestinian man and injured three others during clashes in the occupied West Bank. A 16-year-old boy was also shot and injured.
- And the funeral will be today for Madeline Albright. America’s first female secretary of state died of cancer last month at the age of 84.
We may be entering a new era in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. More than half a dozen blood tests are being developed and tested to detect signs of neurodegenerative disease in elderly patients. Health journalist Ken Alltucker has more.
There has been a great deal of interest in Alzheimer’s disease research for about two decades. Drugmakers have been trying to find a drug or treatment that could slow down the disease, which causes memory and thinking problems primarily in older people. What the researchers are trying to do is come up with a blood test that could somehow detect this protein in your blood, rather than having to go through that extra step of a spinal tap or brain scan. And there’s a test on the market that’s been available since 2020. It’s mostly used for research right now, because when researchers do these big clinical trials to try to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, they have to screen hundreds, thousands of people. so that the right people enroll in the study. So that’s mostly how it’s used, but some doctors are starting to use this particular blood test.
And so that’s sort of the advancements. Now there are over half a dozen different blood tests going on right now. And the feeling is that ultimately if you get better at diagnosing the disease, you potentially have a chance to intervene, and maybe if one of these drugs turns out to be effective, that gives people a better chance of somehow slowing the progression of the disease, which is always fatal. It’s sort of the early stages right now. And whenever you get a new test or treat, cost is always an issue. How much is it going to cost a family right now, Medicare really doesn’t cover the kind of tests like brain scan and lumbar puncture. And it’s a challenge that those developers of these blood tests will also have to pay for Medicare or some other private insurer, because they can get expensive now. A brain scan, by one estimate, costs $3,000 or more. The only company that now offers a blood test charges $1,250. They’re trying to gather evidence to get insurers to pay for it, but it’s something that’s still ongoing right now.
To learn more, search for “dementia” on USATODAY.com.
Russia has opened a new front in its war against Ukraine. Earlier in the day, state-controlled natural gas giant Gazprom cut off gas to Poland and Bulgaria, two EU countries that strongly support the Ukrainian government. Both countries refused. Russia’s demands to pay in rubles, as did almost all Russian gas customers in Europe. Bulgaria gets more than 90% of its gas from Russia and is now looking to other sources like Azerbaijan. Poland has large quantities of natural gas and storage, and will soon benefit from the commissioning of two gas pipelines.
Meanwhile, there were also fears that the war would also spill over into the terrain of Ukraine’s borders. Yesterday, for the second day in a row, explosions rocked the separatist region of Transnistria in Moldova. No one claimed responsibility for the attacks, but Ukraine pointed the finger at Russia. A Russian missile also hit a bridge connecting Ukraine’s port region of Odessa with neighboring NATO member Romania. Two months after the Russian invasion, Western arms supported Ukraine. A US coalition visiting kyiv this week announced a new ammunition sale of $165 million. This angered some Russian officials, and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told state television that the West was waging a proxy war.
Taylor Wilson translating for Sergei Lavrov:
“What would you expect if NATO is essentially engaged in a war with Russia through a proxy, and arms that proxy? To be at war is to be at war.”
In the southern port city of Mariupol, local authorities said Russia hit the Azovstal steelworks with 35 airstrikes in 24 hours. This is where the last Ukrainian fighters are hiding and the crucial strategic town with some civilians.
Nearly 60% of all Americans have been infected with COVID-19. And according to new CDC data released yesterday, a large number of people were infected between last December and February. The data looked at blood drawn for medical purposes during that time and found antibodies to the virus that causes COVID-19 in nearly 60% of people compared with a third just three months earlier. Among adults under 50, 64% had antibodies in February compared to 37% in December. In people aged 50 to 64, the presence of antibodies increased from 29 to 50%. And among adults 65 and older, it rose from 19% to 33%. But the increase was highest among younger people. In children, the antibody rate increased from 45 to 75%. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said the most vaccinated age groups saw the smallest increase in infections over the winter. The antibody test used in the study would likely find out if a person has been infected at any time in the past two years, but it cannot determine how well a person is protected from becoming infected again. which fades over time. The antibodies tested are different from those created by vaccines, so it is possible to distinguish between infected and vaccinated people.
Next week, the CDC plans to release another study showing that each omicron BA.1 infection resulted in about three more infections, the highest rate of transmission seen during the pandemic. Overall infections in the United States have fallen dramatically since their peak in January, but are starting to climb again with a 25% increase from the previous week. The omicron variant is responsible for almost all new infections in the United States, but the CDC director said the BA.1 version that dominated until February has now been mostly replaced by BA.2, which accounts for 68% of nationwide infections.
Even before Russia’s decision this week to cut off natural gas to several European countries, natural gas prices have risen this year with prices not seen since 2008. That could mean higher bills. Financial journalist Bailey Schultz has more.
So far this year we’ve seen natural gas prices go up a bit where last week we saw prices hit a high not seen since 2008. And prices have come down a bit since then but they’re still quite high for what we’ve been using for the last decade or so. Basically, this means for consumers that these natural gas prices will not have an immediate impact on your energy or electricity bills. It takes a while for these price increases to show up in the bills you pay, but experts say if we have a warm enough summer and demand for natural gas remains high, it could mean higher bills this winter. .
Two things really from what the experts have told me, supply and demand and then just storage levels. The demand for natural gas is therefore very high at the moment. We had a cool winter that lasted a bit long, and therefore one of the reasons why the storage levels that we have of natural gas were quite depleted compared to what they usually are at this time of year. And then we also see the effects of the war in Ukraine, where the United States sends a good amount of liquefied natural gas to Europe, because many countries receive less gas from Russia. So that also plays a part in why we’re seeing prices go up here in the United States.
So what we saw earlier was that the prices were almost at $8 and that’s for the US natural gas benchmark called Henry Hub. Prices have come down a bit since then. Now it’s around $6.50 around that range. But what an expert told me is that he expects prices to hover around $3 or $4. And that doesn’t seem like a lot, and it’s not a lot compared to other markets like what they pay in Europe, but it’s high compared to what we usually pay. And so that kind of increase would eventually end up in consumer bills.
You can find Bailey’s full story in the description for today’s episode.
A House panel will hold a hearing today on whether to change the ethics requirements at the Supreme Court. It comes a month after reports surfaced that Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife, Ginny Thomas, texted a Trump administration official in early 2021 urging him to void the 2020 election. texts as well as her admission that she attended former President Donald Trump’s speech on January 6 before the violence erupted have reignited debate over ethical standards at the High Court. Judge Thomas sided with Trump in a case where the former president tried to keep communications related to the insurgency secret. This sparked a debate over when Supreme Court justices should recuse themselves.
Thank you for listening 5 things. You can find us seven mornings a week wherever you get your podcast. Thanks to PJ Elliott for his great work on the series, and I’m back tomorrow with 5 more things from USA TODAY.