News in brief: Airborne health advisor in TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people; CFTR modulators may improve CF liver disease; Telehealth MBS items now available for hospital inpatients

Wednesday, 22 Sep 2021

Airborne health advisor in TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people

An Australian expert on air quality and health, Distinguished Professor Lidia Morawska, has been named in the 2021 TIME100 list of the most influential people in the world for highlighting the importance of airborne transmission of COVID-19.

Early in the pandemic, Professor Morawska, Director of the International Laboratory for Air Quality and Health at the Queensland University of Technology, published a warning that authorities should face the reality of airborne transmission of COVID-19.

She also led a group of about 240 international experts in an open letter saying it was time to address airborne transmission of COVID-19.

In May this year, Professor Morawska led a group of researchers from 14 countries calling for a “paradigm shift” in understanding and addressing transmission of airborne pathogens including COVID-19. Professor Morawska is on the executive of OzSAGE, a national multi-disciplinary network of experts providing recommendations on how Australia can safely reopen in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Telehealth MBS items now available for hospital inpatients

New MBS telehealth items have been introduced to cover in-hospital services for private admitted patients receiving specialist care where the doctor is unable to attend due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Available from 15 September 2021, the 40 temporary items (valid until 31 December) for specialists cover video and phone consultations for a specialist who is located in COVID-19 hotspot, or in isolation or quarantine.

According to Medicare, private health insurance rebates and gapcover schemes do not apply for these telehealth attendances.

Out of pocket costs for the new items will count towards the patient’s Medicare Safety Nets (original and extended).

In its Factsheets, Medicare says MBS specialist telehealth items do not need to be bulk billed, although this is encouraged

“The fee structure for the new items aligns with equivalent face-to-face items and existing COVID-19 telehealth specialist items introduced from March 2020,” it says.

CFTR modulators may improve CF liver disease

The cystic fibrosis treatment lumacaftor-ivacaftor may also have a beneficial effect on cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR)-associated liver disease, new research suggests.

A study of the effects of the CFTR modulators on CF liver disease was conducted in 28 adolescents homozygous for F508del.

Prior to treatment, four patients were diagnosed with multinodular liver and portal hypertension, and 19 with other forms of CF liver involvement, and 5 with no signs of liver involvement.

Following initiation of lumacaftor-ivacaftor, there was a decrease in liver enzyme blood tests, especially gammaglutamyl transferase (GGT), and this was maintained after 12 months treatment. No hepatic adverse reactions were documented, and the most “responsive” patients demonstrated a significant increase in biomarkers of CFTR activity.

“These results are suggestive of a potential beneficial effect of CFTR modulators on CF liver disease and larger prospective studies are warranted to confirm these findings and evaluate if CFTR modulators can indeed change the course of CF liver disease for the better,” the French investigators wrote in the Journal of Cystic Fibrosis.

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