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Editor’s choice

From the range of articles recently featured on TropIKA.net, Editor Paul Chinnock offers a personal selection of items of particular importance.

Virtual participation

17 Nov 2009

Posted by: Paul Chinnock - Editorial Team

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A major component of the TropIKA.net project is the “knowledge hub”, where we feature international meetings of major importance to efforts to combat the infectious diseases of poverty. A TropIKA.net team attends each meeting and – on a specially created section of the TropIKA.net website – the team posts summaries of individual sessions and overviews of each day’s proceedings. Interviews with delegates, news stories and commentaries are also provided. Not only does this service enhance the experience of those who attend the meeting, but it also allows people who are not present to become “virtual participants”. Three meetings have been featured this year, two of them within the last two weeks! Our coverage of the 5th MIM Pan-African Malaria Conference in Nairobi is our most ambitious so far, featuring interviews, news and commentaries, as well as summaries of individual sessions and day-by-day overviews. We are now in the process of covering the 13th Annual Meeting of the Global Forum for Health Research in Havana. Keep up to date with what is happening at this event by visiting the hub for this meeting.

The expert deliberations in Nairobi are of course not all that is going on. TropIKA.net has reported in the last few days on epidemics of leishmaniasis in southern Sudan and dengue fever in Cape Verde. The latter is the biggest ever dengue outbreak ever recorded in West Africa.

Many diseases afflict the world’s poorest people continuously and not just in the form of major epidemics. Pneumonia is both the world’s biggest infectious killer and the most common cause of death in children under five in developing countries. It can only be hoped that a new pneumonia action plan devised by the World Health Organization may be a signal this most neglected of diseases is at last winning recognition as a global health priority. Another WHO report featured on TropIKA.net has highlighted the unequal position of women in health care.

As well as reports, we also continue to highlight articles published in the journals – see our Research, Reviews and Editorial opinion sections. It is always an invidious task to suggest which of the recent articles in the literature are the most significant but I should like to recommend two. A review article on the global burden of blindness due to trachoma is important in its own right – at least 1.3 million people are living with blindness as a result of this infection. However, in their discussion of the assumptions that must be made in calculating disease burden, the authors demonstrate how hard it is to reach firm conclusions for any infectious disease of poverty. In contrast, there is good evidence that prevention and treatment strategies for trachoma are highly cost effective. Whether we know precisely how many DALYs or dollars are lost, the human cost of this readily preventable disease is clearly on such a scale that every effort should be made to step up action against it.

I was also impressed by the insights emerging from a systematic review of qualitative data on the barriers to effective treatment and prevention of malaria in Africa. Qualitative studies often provide such insights, and what is most striking here is the finding that only a minority of people in Africa are aware that malaria is transmitted by mosquito bites. If people do not understand how an infection is spread (or indeed that is an infection) then this will clearly have in impact on their participation in control efforts and treatment seeking behaviour.

Finally, a magazine article that I can particularly recommend was referred to in our TropIKA.net blog; it deals with the encouraging growth of public-private partnerships (PPPs) in the development of new technologies to address the infectious diseases of poverty. Let us know if you spot something in the media that is worth highlighting on the blog.

Paul Chinnock
Editor, TropIKA.net

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