26 May 2011

New website shows distribution of blinding trachoma

Posted by: Edith Certain - Editorial Team

A global coalition that fights to control a blinding disease called trachoma launched a website today that shows where international development organizations support national Ministries of Health in implementing the SAFE strategy. SAFE – endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO) – is an innovative public health approach that combines trachoma treatment (Surgery and Antibiotics) with prevention (Facial-cleanliness and Environmental improvement).

The International Coalition of Trachoma Control (ICTC) website is at http://www.trachomacoalition.org. Trachoma is the world’s leading cause of infectious blindness. The ICTC includes partners who are committed to supporting trachoma- endemic countries reach the goal of elimination of blinding trachoma by the year 2020, said Dr. Paul Emerson, director of the Carter Center’s Trachoma Control Program and chair of the ICTC.

(International Trachoma Initiative: Elizabeth Kurylo: +404-592-1420; ekurylo@taskforce.org)

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31 Mar 2011

Partnership deal will support development of potential new antimalarial

Posted by: Paul Chinnock - Editorial Team

A new treatment for malaria could be on the way with the announcement that the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) and Anacor Pharmaceuticals have entered into a development agreement relating to an Anacor compound - AN3661.

MMV is a not-for-profit public-private partnership that aims to reduce the burden of malaria in disease-endemic countries by discovering, developing and facilitating delivery of new, effective and affordable antimalarial drugs. Anacor is a US biopharmaceutical company focused on discovering, developing and commercializing novel small-molecule therapeutics derived from its boron chemistry platform.

Under the agreement, Anacor and MMV will work together on the development of AN3661 through human proof-of-concept studies. AN3661 was developed as part of a research agreement signed last year; AN3661 is the first candidate arising out of this agreement to move into preclinical development.

Anacor is also active in the search for treatments for other infectious diseases of poverty and has established partnership arrangements with: the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development; with the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (human African trypanosomiasis, visceral leishmaniasis and Chagas disease); the University of California San Francisco and the New York Blood Center (onchocerciasis); and with the Institute for OneWorld Health (diarrhoeal disease.)

More details are available in an Anacor press release.

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31 Mar 2011

Death of research pioneer

Posted by: Paul Chinnock - Editorial Team

British virologist and bacteriologist Professor Leslie Collier has died aged 90. He made major contributions to research devoted to the infectious diseases of poverty - most notably smallpox and trachoma.

An obituary of Professor Collier appears in the UK’s Daily Telegraph.

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31 Mar 2011

Vietnam’s plan to eradicate malaria

Posted by: Paul Chinnock - Editorial Team

Vietnam’s health ministry has drafted a national strategy to eradicate malaria over the next 20 years through early diagnoses, effective treatment and preventative measures.

The proposed strategy covers the period 2011-2020. The aim would be to eliminate the disease in 40 provinces and cities by 2020, and reduce the infection rate in the remaining areas to fewer than 15 per thousand persons and the fatality rate to under 2 per 10 million. The health ministry then envisages that full eradication of the disease would take place by 2030.

Further details available from Bamoi.com.

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31 Mar 2011

India’s leprosy burden featured in documentary

Posted by: Paul Chinnock - Editorial Team

The UK’s Channel 4 TV has shown a documentary in which it is claimed that leprosy may be more common in India than official figures indicate. The programme features the remarkable work of people involved in the battle against the disease.

More details and (for the next three weeks) a chance to view the programme online are available here.

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30 Mar 2011

mHealth: diagnosing infections with mobile phones

Posted by: Paul Chinnock - Editorial Team

TropIKA.net has carried many reports on the rise of mHealth - the use of mobile (cell) phones in health care. mHealth initiatives have included improving communications between remotely located health workers and HQ, recording and transmitting data, and reminding TB patients to take their medication. A report from CNN describes the work of Aydogan Ozcan of the University of California, Los Angeles, who has invented a cheap, portable microscope that uses a mobile phone camera sensor.

Ozcan’s LUCAS device (lensless, ultra-wide-field cell monitoring array platform based on shadow imaging) clips on to to the back of a standard cell phone (minus its lens) and comprises an LED light, a spatial filter, and a slot for a medical slide. The aim is to use the microscope, which could cost as little as $5-$10, in the diagnosis of malaria, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases of poverty.

Like a lot of other mHealth initiatives this is still at an early stage. Pilot projects in the field and a full evaluation of what is achieved will, as always, be necessary.

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30 Mar 2011

Improving health in Africa: the role of academia

Posted by: Paul Chinnock - Editorial Team

A collection of papers, focused on work conducted at Makerere University College of Health Sciences in Uganda, challenges the notion that Africa’s universities are ‘ivory towers’ that do not make a contribution to solving the health problems of the region.

Published as a supplement in the journal BMC International Health & Human Rights, the collection is based on work funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Collaborative Learning Initiative, which has provided two-year learning grants designed to demonstrate and incentivize the accountability of health professions schools to the problems of society. The grants brought together leading health science schools in sub-Saharan Africa with partner schools in the US to explore the value proposition that academia could bring to the pressing health problems in the region.

Beginning with an introductory article from Professor Joseph Kolars - Senior Associate Dean of Education and Global Initiatives, University of Michigan Medical School - the supplement comprises nine research articles as listed below. The open-access supplement may be accessed here: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-698X/11?issue=S1

  • A grander challenge: the case of how Makerere University College of Health Sciences (MakCHS) contributes to health outcomes in Africa
  • Situational analysis of teaching and learning of medicine and nursing students at Makerere University College of Health Sciences
  • The organization and implementation of community-based education programs for health worker training institutions in Uganda
  • Perception and valuations of community-based education and service by alumni at Makerere University College of Health Sciences
  • Assessing community perspectives of the community based education and service model at Makerere University, Uganda: a qualitative evaluation
  • Makerere University College of Health Sciences’ role in addressing challenges in health service provision at Mulago National Referral Hospital
  • The impact on nurses and nurse managers of introducing PEPFAR clinical services in urban government clinics in Uganda
  • Research translation to inform national health policies: learning from multiple perspectives in Uganda
  • Partnerships towards strengthening Makerere University College of Health Sciences: a stakeholder and sustainability analysis
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    30 Mar 2011

    Emerging and developing nations now conducting more research

    Posted by: Paul Chinnock - Editorial Team

    The dominance of Western nations in scientific research may be coming to an end, according to a report from the UK’s Royal Society, in which research output is measured on the basis of the number of articles published in peer-reviewed journals. The periods 1993-2003 and 2004-2008 are compared.

    The USA still carries out the greatest amount of scientific research but China replaces the UK in the number 2 position, with Germany, Japan, France and Canada following behind. However, some of the most striking increases in research activity have taken place in Brazil, India and South Korea. Other countries now doing more research include Iran, Tunisia and Turkey. Research in other parts of North Africa, the Middle East and South-East Asia is also growing.

    Elsewhere in the developing world, progress is patchy but Peru and Uganda, for example, increased their number of papers four-fold, comparing the two periods investigated in the report. (In sub-Saharan Africa as a whole, research spending is still around 0.5% of GDP, with only South Africa close to the goal of 1% agreed by African presidents in 1980.)

    Different countries tend to focus on research in different scientific areas. In China and India, for example, the focus is mainly on engineering. Brazil is notable for its agricultural and bioscience research. Most African research concerns agriculture and medicine.

    The authors of the report note that their data comes from the main scientific bibliographic databases and therefore omits many articles in regional, national and local journals published in non-English-speaking countries. It may therefore underestimate the amount of research carried out in the developing world.

    The report also notes that: “The scientific world is becoming increasingly interconnected, with international collaboration on the rise. Today over 35% of articles published in international journals are internationally collaborative, up from 25% 15 years ago”.

    The Royal Society report is available in full online here.

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    30 Mar 2011

    Health concerns as malaria programmes increase use of DDT

    Posted by: Paul Chinnock - Editorial Team

    The insecticide DDT is used to control malarial mosquitoes in 14 malaria-endemic countries and its reintroduction is planned in several more. The World Health Organization recommends indoor residual spraying of homes with DDT as an effective tool for inclusion in malaria control programmes. But there have always been concerns about the effects of DDT on the environment and human health. A newly published review article [1] concludes that the evidence from several recent studies suggests associations between DDT exposure and adverse health effects, including spontaneous abortions, infertility, leukaemia, pancreatic cancer and breast cancer and diabetes.

    The article - written by Henk van den Berg, an entomologist at the University of Wageningen, the Netherlands - appears in Portuguese in a little known journal Ciência & Saúde Coletiva. It is discussed in an article on SciDev.Net. van den Berg argues that, “To reduce reliance on DDT, support is needed for integrated and multipartner strategies of vector control”.

    But others would like to see more use of DDT. Restrictions on its use have become regarded as a symbol of unnecessary government intervention by right-wing groups in the USA, and the controversial US-based group Africans Fighting Malaria also advocates for expanded use; it has described concerns about the insecticide’s adverse effects as “largely illegitimate”.

    1. Van den Berg (2011). Estado global do DDT e suas alternativas para utilização no controle de vetores para prevenção de doenças. Ciênc. saúde coletiva; 16(2)575-590. Available online in Portuguese but with abstract in English: http://www.scielo.br/cgi-bin/wxis.exe/iah/

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    24 Mar 2011

    Global health leaders discuss new approach to TB vaccine funding

    Posted by: Paul Chinnock - Editorial Team

    European politicians, tuberculosis advocates and health advisers are meeting in Paris on World TB Day (24th March) to discuss an innovative financing model that would enable scientific discoveries to be translated into TB vaccines.

    The meeting is organized by TuBerculosis Vaccine Initiative (TBVI), Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Fondation Mérieux, Friends of the Global Fund Europe and the Stop TB Partnership.

    For further details see TBVI press release.

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