Video: How Much Do Cloth Masks Protect You From Getting the Coronavirus?

The CDC is recommending that the general public wear cloth face masks to help decrease everyone’s chances of getting COVID-19.

So how does the virus that causes COVID-19—SARS-CoV-2—spread? And how much could cloth face masks help stop it?

We contacted some experts to find out, and to learn what materials work best if you’re making your own.

Watch video at You Tube (0:42 minutes) . . . . .

Maple Pear Toast with Fig Sesame Jam and Balsamic Drizzle


Maple Pear

2 tablespoons lightly packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 pinches of kosher (coarse) salt
2 semi-firm Bartlett (Williams) pears, halved, cored, and each half sliced lengthwise into sixths


1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon white sesame seeds, toasted
4 tablespoons fig jam
4 (3/4-inch thick) slices fruit-and-nut bread
unsalted butter, softened, for the bread
small wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


  1. Make the maple pears: Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together the brown sugar, maple syrup, and salt. Add the pear slices and gently toss to coat.
  3. Place the pears on the baking sheet and roast until the pears are tender and starting to brown around the edges, 18-20 minutes.
  4. Remove from the oven, gently turn the pears over, and set aside to cool.
  5. Make the toast: In a small saucepan, simmer the vinegar over medium heat until it has reduced by about half and is thick and syrupy, 3-5 minutes. (It will continue to thicken as it cools; if it gets too thick to drizzle, heat for a few seconds in the microwave.)
  6. In a small bowl, stir the sesame seeds into the fig jam.
  7. Toast the bread.
  8. Using a vegetable peeler, shave ribbons from the wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano.
  9. Spread some fig jam over each piece of toast, then layer a few pear slices over the jam (you may have leftover pears if your bread slices are small).
  10. Drizzle with the balsamic reduction and serve topped with the shaved cheese.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Toast

In Pictures: Home-cooked Pizza Toasts

‘Smart Toilet’ Monitors for Signs of Disease

Hanae Armitage wrote . . . . . . . . .

There’s a new disease-detecting technology in the lab of Sanjiv “Sam” Gambhir, MD PhD, and its No. 1 source of data is number one. And number two.

It’s a smart toilet. But not the kind that lifts its own lid in preparation for use; this toilet is fitted with technology that can detect a range of disease markers in stool and urine, including those of some cancers, such as colorectal or urologic cancers. The device could be particularly appealing to individuals who are genetically predisposed to certain conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, prostate cancer or kidney failure, and want to keep on top of their health.

“Our concept dates back well over 15 years,” said Gambhir, professor and chair of radiology. “When I’d bring it up, people would sort of laugh because it seemed like an interesting idea, but also a bit odd.” With a pilot study of 21 participants now completed, Gambhir and his team have made their vision of a precision health-focused smart toilet a reality.

Gambhir’s toilet is an ordinary toilet outfitted with gadgets inside the bowl. These tools, a suite of different technologies, use motion sensing to deploy a mixture of tests that assess the health of any deposits. Urine samples undergo physical and molecular analysis; stool assessment is based on physical characteristics.

The toilet automatically sends data extracted from any sample to a secure, cloud-based system for safekeeping. In the future, Gambhir said, the system could be integrated into any health care provider’s record-keeping system for quick and easy access.

A paper describing the research was published April 6 in Nature Biomedical Engineering. Gambhir is the senior author. Seung-min Park, PhD, senior research scientist; David Won, MD, PhD, former visiting scholar in the Molecular Imaging Program at Stanford; and postdoctoral scholar Brian Lee, PhD, share lead authorship.

Pulling double duty

The toilet falls into a category of technology known as continuous health monitoring, which encompasses wearables like smart watches. “The thing about a smart toilet, though, is that unlike wearables, you can’t take it off,” Gambhir said. “Everyone uses the bathroom — there’s really no avoiding it — and that enhances its value as a disease-detecting device.”

Although the idea may take some getting used to, Gambhir, who holds the Virginia and D.K. Ludwig Professorship for Clinical Investigation in Cancer Research, envisions the smart toilet as part of the average home bathroom. In facilitating that broad adaption, Gambhir designed the “smart” aspect as an add-on — a piece of technology that’s readily integrated into any old porcelain bowl. “It’s sort of like buying a bidet add-on that can be mounted right into your existing toilet,” he said. “And like a bidet, it has little extensions that carry out different purposes.”

These extensions sport an array of health-monitoring technologies that look for signs of disease. Both urine and stool samples are captured on video and are then processed by a set of algorithms that can distinguish normal “urodynamics” (flow rate, stream time and total volume, among other parameters) and stool consistencies from those that are unhealthy.

Alongside physical stream analysis, the toilet also deploys uranalysis strips, or “dipstick tests,” to measure certain molecular features. White blood cell count, consistent blood contamination, certain levels of proteins and more can point to a spectrum of diseases, from infection to bladder cancer to kidney failure. In its current stage of development, Gambhir said, the toilet can measure 10 different biomarkers.

It’s still early days, though, with a total of 21 participants having tested the toilet over the course of several months. To get a better feel for “user acceptance” more broadly, the team surveyed 300 prospective smart-toilet users. About 37% said they were “somewhat comfortable” with the idea, and 15% said they were “very comfortable” with the idea of baring it all in the name of precision health.

ID please

One of the most important aspects of the smart toilet may well be one of the most surprising — and perhaps unnerving: It has a built-in identification system. “The whole point is to provide precise, individualized health feedback, so we needed to make sure the toilet could discern between users,” Gambhir said. “To do so, we made a flush lever that reads fingerprints.” The team realized, however, that fingerprints aren’t quite foolproof. What if one person uses the toilet, but someone else flushes it? Or what if the toilet is of the auto-flush variety?

They added a small scanner that images a rather camera-shy part of the body. You might call it the polar opposite of facial recognition. In other words, to fully reap the benefits of the smart toilet, users must make their peace with a camera that scans their anus.

“We know it seems weird, but as it turns out, your anal print is unique,” Gambhir said. The scans — both finger and nonfinger — are used purely as a recognition system to match users to their specific data. No one, not you or your doctor, will see the scans.

By no means is this toilet a replacement for a doctor, or even a diagnosis, Gambhir said. In fact, in many cases, the toilet won’t ever report data to the individual user. In an ideal scenario, should something questionable arise — like blood in the urine — an app fitted with privacy protection would send an alert to the user’s health care team, allowing professionals to determine the next steps for a proper diagnosis. The data would be stored in a secure, cloud-based system. Data protection, both in terms of identification and sample analyses, is a crucial piece of this research, Gambhir said. “We have taken rigorous steps to ensure that all the information is de-identified when it’s sent to the cloud and that the information — when sent to health care providers — is protected under HIPAA,” he said, referring to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which restricts the disclosure of health care records.

Smart toilet 2.0

As Gambhir and his team continue to develop the smart toilet, they’re focusing on a few things: increasing the number of participants, integrating molecular features into stool analysis and refining the technologies that are already working. They’re even individualizing the tests deployed by the toilet. For example, someone with diabetes may need his or her urine monitored for glucose, whereas someone else who is predisposed to bladder or kidney cancer might want the toilet to monitor for blood.

Gambhir’s other goal is to further develop molecular analysis for stool samples. “That’s a bit trickier, but we’re working toward it,” Gambhir said. “The smart toilet is the perfect way to harness a source of data that’s typically ignored — and the user doesn’t have to do anything differently.”

Source: Stanford Medicine

Read also at EurekAlert!:

Can ‘smart toilets’ be the next health data wellspring? . . . . .

Blood Test Might Spot Pancreatic Cancer Early

Pancreatic cancer is known as a “silent killer” because it’s often detected far too late. But there’s hope a new blood test may be able to spot the most common type of pancreatic tumor in its early stages.

In a small study, the test also appeared to be able to accurately identify the stage of pancreatic cancer in patients — helping to determine the most appropriate treatment, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine said.

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 47,000 people die from pancreatic cancer each year. Beloved “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek is currently waging a battle against the disease.

“Right now, the majority of patients who are diagnosed already have metastatic [advanced] disease, so there is a critical need for a test that can not only detect the disease earlier but also accurately tell us who might be at a point where we can direct them to a potentially curative treatment,” study co-senior author Erica Carpenter said in a university news release. She directs Penn’s Liquid Biopsy Laboratory and is a research assistant professor of medicine.

“If validated [in a larger group of patients], this test could not only provide a key tool for at-risk patients, but also a monitoring tool for patients with certain known risk factors like BRCA mutations,” Carpenter said.

The researchers found that the test — known as a liquid biopsy — was more accurate at detecting pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) than any other known biomarker alone. A biomarker is a measurable substance in a blood test or other form of testing.

In a test of 20 patients with PDAC and 27 people who were cancer-free, the test was 92% accurate in detecting the cancer, which is better than the best known biomarker, CA19-9 (89%).

The liquid biopsy was also more accurate at staging the cancer compared to the use of radiological scans, the research team reported. The blood test was 84% accurate in determining the stage of pancreatic cancer, compared with 64% for imaging alone.

The study was published in the journal Clinical Cancer Research.

According to the study team, PDAC is the most common form of pancreatic cancer and the third leading cause of cancer deaths. The five-year survival rate is just 9%, and most patients live less than one year after diagnosis.

If the cancer is detected early, patients may be able to have surgery to remove the cancer, which can cure them, but it’s difficult to catch the cancer before it’s progressed or spread.

Patients whose cancer hasn’t spread beyond the pancreas, but who still can’t have surgery due to the size or location of the tumor, typically undergo three months of chemotherapy or radiation, and then are reassessed to determine if surgery is an option.

For patients whose pancreatic cancer has spread, there are currently no treatments that could cure them.

Dr. Wasif Saif is deputy physician-in-chief and medical director at the Northwell Health Cancer Institute in Lake Success, N.Y. Reading over the new findings, he noted that needle biopsy is currently “the gold standard to diagnose and stage the [pancreatic] tumor,” but even then, accuracy is inadequate.

“The current study offers a potential of liquid biopsy in pancreatic cancer as diagnostic tool and warrants further research in this field,” Saif said. “Liquid biopsy is usually defined as a sample of blood to look for cancer cells from a tumor that are circulating in the blood, or for pieces of DNA from tumor cells that are in the blood.”

Source: HealthDay

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