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Letters: Fall/Winter 2023

Readers respond to stories from our Spring/Summer 2023 and earlier issues.

“Our best hope for staying ahead of the microbes,” writes Arturo Casadevall in last issue’s special section on infectious diseases, “is to raise the level of our science by constantly working harder and smarter.” In stories about gain-of-function research, long COVID studies, human challenge trials, and more, our other contributors offer reason for optimism. The issue’s reporting also covered xylazine’s role in the overdose crisis, firearm forensics’ weaknesses, and efforts to protect mental health in Ukraine.

Arturo Casadevall writes that for humanity to survive, we need extraordinary science and scientists. This is so true—but the results of science, like new effective drugs, also have to be accessible to all who need them. My well-being and maybe life is now dependent on a drug for a rare disease that costs just under $1 million a year. How many can afford that? —Aviva R. via web, in response to “A Constellation of Storms”

We need to sufficiently fund lung research now. When the next respiratory pandemic happens, it will be too late. Thank you, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, for shining a light on the importance of ongoing research and preparedness. —MeiLan Han, Chief of Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine, University of Michigan, via LinkedIn, in response to Spring/Summer 2023 infectious diseases special section

Fantastic work by Anna Durbin and team to establish the first Zika human infection study to help accelerate promising vaccine candidates—key when natural infection cases are low, making field trials impossible! —Shobana Ballasingam via LinkedIn, in response to “Race to the Vaccine” 

This is the first I am hearing about the animal tranquilizer xylazine being in the street supply of opioids. I’ve been aware of the extreme dangers of fentanyl being in heroin, cocaine, meth, and copycat pills that are easily manufactured and sold as benzodiazepines and opioids. Fentanyl seems to be in everything now, and a shocking number of young people are dying from a drug they weren’t even aware of taking. I am interested in the data on xylazine that will be released soon. Thank you for the lifesaving work you are doing; this article contained important new information. —Mary Ann Brown via web, in response to “Xylazine: The New Overdose Crisis” 

The drug xylazine combined with fentanyl has created not only a narcotics crisis, but a public health one as well. Specifically, here in the Kensington section of Philadelphia, this epidemic is raging. Since 2006 Xylazine has been appearing in mid-Atlantic drug markets and slowly increasing its presence. This must be addressed with education, enforcement, health care, drug treatment, wound care, and proper treatment. —Matthew Gillespie, Inspector, Philadelphia Police Department, via LinkedIn, in response to “Xylazine: The New Overdose Crisis”

To support Indigenous health, it is essential to amplify Indigenous voices, respect cultural practices, and ensure that research and interventions are community-driven. By embracing a strengths-based approach and investing in Indigenous leadership and education, we can work toward achieving health equity and improving the well-being of Indigenous communities. —John Robitscher, MPH, via LinkedIn, in response to “The Long Game” 

So glad to see a focus on faculty well-being. Hoping this will spread to other institutions. —Jennifer Manganello, PhD ’03, MPH, via LinkedIn, in response to “Workplace Well-Being, Reimagined” 

I am a gun owner but reject the 2nd Amendment. It’s outdated and should not rule today’s gun laws. Gun violence is an epidemic in America. We need to have laws that fit the time. —Booker Williams via web, in response to “A Brief History of Guns in the U.S.” (Fall/Winter 2021)

People have always found ways to avoid and end a pregnancy even before the formal medical system was a thing. That’s, in part, why regulating reproductive health technologies makes no sense. —@DrRaegan via X, in response to “A Brief History of Abortion in the U.S.” (Fall/Winter 2022)