On today’s episode of the 5 Things podcast: A new era of diagnosis for Alzheimer’s
Health reporter Ken Alltucker explains. Plus, Russia opens a new front in its fight for Ukraine, nearly 60% of Americans have been infected by COVID-19, money reporter Bailey Schulz talks about rising natural gas prices and a House panel holds a hearing on Supreme Court ethics requirements.
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Buenos dias. I’m Taylor Wilson and this is 5 Things you need to know Wednesday, the 27th of April 2022. Today, a new era for Alzheimer’s diagnosis, plus Russia’s latest front in the fight for Ukraine and more.
Here are some of the top headlines:
- A court in Myanmar has convicted the country’s former leader, Aung San Suu Kyi of corruption and sentenced her to five years in prison. It’s the first of several corruption cases against her de ella in the military-ruled country. She was ousted by an army takeover last year.
- Israeli forces earlier today shot and killed an 18-year-old Palestinian man and injured three others during clashes in the occupied West Bank. A 16-year-old was also wounded by gunfire.
- And funeral services will be held today for Madeline Albright. The first female US secretary of state died of cancer last month at the age of 84.
We may be entering a new era of diagnosis for Alzheimer’s disease. More than a half dozen blood tests are being developed and tested to detect signs of the neurodegenerative disease in older patients. Health reporter Ken Alltucker has more.
There’s been a lot of interest in Alzheimer’s research for two decades or so. Drugmakers have been trying to find a drug or a treatment that could slow the disease, which causes memory and thinking problems mainly in older adults. What researchers are trying to do is come up with a blood test that could kind of detect this protein in your blood, rather than having to go to that extra step of the spinal tap or the brain scan. And there’s one test on the market that has been available since 2020. Mainly it’s being used for research right now, because when researchers are doing these large clinical trials to try to find a treatment for Alzheimer’s, they have to screen hundreds, thousands of people to get the right people to enroll into the study. So that’s mainly how it’s being used but some doctors are beginning to use this particular blood test.
And so that’s sort of the advances. Now, there are more than a half dozen on different blood tests in the works right now. And the feeling is, eventually if you get better at diagnosing the disease that potentially you have a chance at intervening, and maybe if one of these drugs is proven to work, that it gives the people a better chance to sort of slow the progression of the disease, which is always fatal. It’s sort of early stages right now. And whenever you get a new test or a treat, cost is always an issue. How much is it going to cost a family right now, Medicare really doesn’t cover the sort of tests like the brain scan and the spinal tap. And that’s one challenge that these developers of these blood tests will have too is to get Medicare or another private insurer to pay for this because they can be expensive now. A brain scan, one estimate has it at $3,000 or more. The one company that is now offering a blood test is charging $1,250 for it. They’re attempting to build evidence to get insurers to pay for this, but that’s something that’s still in the works right now.
For more search “dementia” on USATODAY.com.
Russia has opened a new front in its war for Ukraine. Earlier today, the state-controlled natural gas giant Gazprom cut off gas to Poland and Bulgaria, two EU nations that strongly back the Ukrainian government. Both countries had refused. Russia’s demands to pay in rubles as have almost all of Russia’s gas customers in Europe. Bulgaria gets more than 90% of its gas from Russia and is now searching for other sources like from Azerbaijan. Poland has large amounts of natural gas and storage, and will soon benefit from two pipelines coming online.
Meanwhile there were also fears that the war could spill over Ukraine’s borders on the ground as well. For the second straight day yesterday, explosions rocked the separatist region of Transnistria in Moldova. No one claimed responsibilities for the attacks, but Ukraine pointed to Russia. A Russian missile also hit a bridge connecting Ukraine’s Odessa port region to neighboring Romania, a NATO member. Two months since Russia’s invasion, Western weapons have been propping up Ukraine. A US coalition visiting Kyiv this week announced a new $165 million ammunition sale. That’s angered some Russian officials and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on state television that the west is waging a proxy war.
Taylor Wilson translating for Sergey Lavrov:
“What would you expect if NATO is essentially engaged in a war with Russia through a proxy, and arms this proxy? Being at war is being at war.”
In the Southern port city of Mariupol, local authorities said Russia hit the Azovstal steel plant with 35 airstrikes in 24 hours. That’s where the last Ukrainian fighters and the crucial strategic city are holed out along with some civilians.
Nearly 60% of all Americans have been infected by COVID-19. And according to new CDC data out yesterday, a huge chunk of people were infected between this past December and February. Data looked at blood drawn for medical purposes during that timeframe and found antibodies to the virus that causes COVID-19 in nearly 60% of people up from one-third, just three months earlier. In adults under 50, 64% had antibodies in February compared with 37% in December. In those aged 50 to 64, antibody presence rose from 29 to 50%. And in adults 65 and older, it climbed from 19 to 33%. But the increase was highest among the youngest. In children, the antibody rate rose from 45 to 75%. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said that age groups who were the most vaccinated saw the smallest increase in infections over the winter. The antibody test used in the study would likely discover if someone was infected at any point over the past two years, but it cannot determine the level of protection a person has against new infection, which fades over time. Antibodies tested are different than those created by vaccines, so it’s possible to distinguish between those infected and those vaccinated.
Next week, the CDC plans to release another study showing that each omicron BA.1 infection led to roughly three more infections, the highest rate of transmission seen during the pandemic. Overall infections in the US have fallen dramatically since their January peak, but they’re starting to climb again with an increase of 25% compared to a week earlier. The omicron variant is responsible for almost all new infections in the US, but the CDC director said the BA.1 version which dominated through February has now been mostly replaced by BA.2, which makes up 68% of infections nationwide.
Even before Russia’s move this week to cut off natural gas to several European countries, natural gas prices were up this year with prices not seen since 2008. That could mean higher bills. Money reporter Bailey Schultz has more.
So far this year, we have seen natural gas prices increase quite a bit where last week we saw prices hit a high not seen since 2008. And prices have dropped a little bit since then, but are still pretty high for what we’ve been used to the past decade or so. Basically, what this means for consumers is these natural gas prices won’t immediately be impacting your energy or electricity bills. It takes some time for those price increases to make their way into the bills you pay, but experts are saying that if we have a pretty hot summer and if demand for natural gas remains high like it is, that could mean higher bills this upcoming winter .
Two things really from what experts have told me, supply and demands, and then just storage levels. So, demand for natural gas is very high right now. We had a cool winter that went a little long, and so one reason that the storage levels that we have of natural gas were pretty depleted compared to where they usually are this time of year. And then we’re also seeing impacts from the war in Ukraine, where the US is sending a good amount of liquified natural gas over to Europe since a lot of countries are getting less gas from Russia. So that’s also playing a role in why we are seeing prices spike up here in the US.
So, what we saw earlier were prices were nearly at $8 and that’s for the benchmark for US natural gas called the Henry Hub. Prices have since dropped a bit. Now, it’s around $6.50 around that range. But what one expert told me is he expects prices to hover around $3 or $4. And that doesn’t seem like much, and it’s not much compared to other markets like what they pay in Europe, but that’s high compared to what we usually pay. And so that sort of increase would eventually make its way into consumers’ bills.
You can find Bailey’s full story in today’s episode description.
A house panel will hold a hearing today on whether to change ethics requirements on the Supreme Court. That comes a month after reports revealed Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife, Ginny Thomas texted a Trump administration official in early 2021, urging him to overturn the 2020 election. Those texts along with her admission de ella that she attended former President Donald Trump’s January 6th speech before violence broke out have renewed debate over ethics standards on the high court. Justice Thomas sided with Trump in a case where the former president tried to keep insurrection-related communication secret. That sparked debate about when Supreme Court justices should recuse themselves.
Thanks for listening to 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 show, and I’m back tomorrow with more than 5 Things from USA TODAY.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism