Health Highlights: Dec. 14, 2020

Below are newsworthy items compiled by HealthDay staff:

FDA Approves Genetically Engineered Pigs For Food, Possible Medical Use

The first genetically engineered pigs for use as food or for potential future biomedical use -- such as transplantation -- in humans have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

These GalSafe pigs were created to eliminate alpha-gal sugar on the surface of the pigs' cells. People with an allergy called Alpha-gal syndrome (AGS) may have mild to severe allergic reactions to alpha-gal sugar found in red meat such as pork, beef and lamb.

In the U.S., AGS most often begins when a Lone Star tick bites someone and transmits alpha-gal sugar into the-- person's body. In some people, this causes an immune system reaction that later produces mild to severe allergic reactions to alpha-gal sugar found in red meat.

The product developer, Revivicor Inc., indicated that it initially intends to sell meat from GalSafe pigs by mail order, rather than in supermarkets, according to the FDA.

"Today's first ever approval of an animal biotechnology product for both food and as a potential source for biomedical use represents a tremendous milestone for scientific innovation," FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said in an agency news release.

The pigs haven't been evaluated by the FDA as sources of medical products for transplantation or implantation into people. Developers of such products would first have to obtain approval from the FDA before these products can be used in human medicine, the agency said.

No Early Vaccination of White House Officials

White House officials will no longer be among the first Americans to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

It had been announced by the White House that senior U.S. officials, including some aides who work in close proximity to President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, would be offered vaccination as soon as this week, the Associated Press reported.

But just hours later, Trump reversed that directive.

"People working in the White House should receive the vaccine somewhat later in the program, unless specifically necessary," Trump tweeted. "I have asked that this adjustment be made. I am not scheduled to take the vaccine, but look forward to doing so at the appropriate time."

Initial public COVID-19 vaccination is focused on front-line health workers and people in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, the AP reported.

Novelist John le Carré Dies at Age 89

Renowned spy novelist John le Carré died on Sunday at the age of 89.

The author, who was a spy before he became an author and whose books helped define the Cold War era, died of pneumonia, Johnny Geller, CEO of publisher Curtis Brown, said in a statement on Sunday, CBS News reported.

"His like will never be seen again, and his loss will be felt by every book lover, everyone interested in the human condition," Geller said. "We have lost a great figure of English literature, a man of great wit, kindness, humor and intelligence. I have lost a friend, a mentor and an inspiration."

Le Carré, whose real name was David Cornwell, is survived by his wife of almost 50 years and his four sons, CBS News reported.

Country Music Star Charlie Pride Dies at Age 86

Groundbreaking country music legend Charley Pride died Saturday at age 86.

Pride, who was country music's first Black star, died Saturday in Dallas of complications from COVID-19, according to spokesperson Jeremy Westby, CBS News reported.

Pride sold millions of records, had more than 30 No. 1 hits, won three Grammy awards, and was inducted in the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000.

"I'm so heartbroken that one of my dearest and oldest friends, Charley Pride, has passed away. It's even worse to know that he passed away from COVID-19. What a horrible, horrible virus. Charley, we will always love you," Dolly Parton tweeted.

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