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Archive for July, 2009

Jul 29 2009

Philippines makes progress on malaria and filariasis

Posted by: Paul Chinnock - Editorial Team

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Good news from the the Philippines where the province of Sorsogoon (population three-quarters of a million) has been declared free of two vector-borne diseases - malaria and lymphatic filariasis.

Making the announcement, Doctor Nestor Santiago Jr., the regional health director, described the achievement as a milestone.

Sorsogoon becomes the second of the country’s 40 provinces to be declared malaria and filariasis free.

See reports from the Philippines Information Service and the Inquirer.

Jul 29 2009

India’s antiquated laws on leprosy

Posted by: Paul Chinnock - Editorial Team

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Out-of-date laws seriously infringe the human rights of people with leprosy in India.

According to the laws of some Indian states they cannot hold a driving licence, travel by train or stand in local elections. Having leprosy is also grounds for divorce. The employment that people affected by leprosy are allowed to perform is restricted, and the restrictions remain even years after a person has been cured.

An article in the Hindu newspaper calls for the antiquated laws to be changed.

Jul 29 2009

Lateral thinking in policies for health research

Posted by: Paul Chinnock - Editorial Team

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Jeff Blander is co-leader of the Technology Innovation Working Group for the Harvard Initiative for Global Health (HIGH) in the USA. In an opinion article for SciDevNet, he calls on policymakers to think outside the box to strengthen clinical research networks for global health.

Despite recent progress, the article says, there are still significant gaps in clinical research networks in developing countries that limit their ability to design, develop and test products and services in the field to fight infectious and non-communicable diseases. Blander believes that policy makers should:
- expand existing research networks and create new partnerships to integrate local disease priorities and research capabilities
- create incentives for translating research into best practices to improve the quality of patient care
- consider the views of local clinicians earlier in the design and implementation of research plans
- create incentives and investment opportunities to further encourage industry to participate.

He goes on to urge policy makers to do more lateral thinking.

Jul 29 2009

Typhoid vaccine is effective in children

Posted by: Paul Chinnock - Editorial Team

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Typhoid is considered by many to be a neglected infectious disease. Most of the 17 million cases each year occur in poor communities. While improving water and sanitation in those communities is undoubtedly the way forward in addressing the problem, it is also desirable to protect people through vaccination. Untreated, the death rate for typhoid can be up to 20%.

The Typherix vaccine for typhoid is cheap but there have been doubts as to its effectiveness in children, who are most vulnerable to the infection. Now, however, a team from India’s National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases in Kolkata has achieved encouraging results in a trial involving 37,673 children and adults in a slum district. An effectiveness rate for the vaccine of 61% was reported. It was most effective in children under 5, where the figure was 80%.

The researchers also found that the community as a whole benefited; typhoid rates fell even in people who were not vaccinated.

See a Reuters news story for more information on the study, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Jul 23 2009

Remote sensing will help predict disease epidemics

Posted by: Paul Chinnock - Editorial Team

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A report from IRIN describes the work of scientists from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Agency (NASA) who are developing remote sensing methods to monitor the environmental conditions that cause Rift Valley Fever (RVF). This viral disease, spread by mosquitoes, is a serious problem in cattle in the Horn of Africa but is also emerging as a threat to humans. Outbreaks in recent years have claimed several thousand lives.

NASA hopes to use remote sensing, “a technique that uses recorded or real-time wireless sensing devices to collect information on an object or phenomenon,” to determine the environmental conditions that lead to outbreaks. Details of the project were presented at a conference held in Cape Town - the International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium, Earth Observation - Origins to Application.

The IRIN report says also that the potential of remote sensing in the control of other infections is being investigated by the Swiss Tropical Institute and a German company, Jenoptik. According to Kathrin Weise, a Jenoptik software engineer: “The land cover classification and statistical methods … will be used in our projects to map risk areas and environmental conditions for an outbreak of epidemics of different vector-borne diseases like malaria, meningitis, and Buruli ulcer disease”.

Jul 23 2009

Plasmodium, people and penguins

Posted by: Paul Chinnock - Editorial Team

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It is rare that TropIKA.net features a news story not directly related to human health but many of our readers will I am sure be fascinated to learn that malaria is a health threat not just to people but to penguins.

Whilst mainly associated with the world’s coldest places, some penguin species spend some or all of their time in warmer climes, including the Galapagos Islands. The New Scientist reports that the Galapagos Penguin, already an endangered species, is commonly infected with Plasmodium malaria parasites. Five per cent of penguins tested were found to be infected and while they were considered still to be in good health the strain of the parasite is related to a form of Plasmodium that causes serious avian malaria amongst penguins living in zoos.

It seems that ships and flights bringing people to the islands have been responsible for introducing mosquitoes capable of transmitting the parasite. Global warming and declining fish stocks are already threatening the survival of the Galapagos Penguin. Malaria is the last thing they need.

Jul 21 2009

Communication, communication, communication

Posted by: Paul Chinnock - Editorial Team

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Research findings will not influence policy and will not be put into practice unless they are adequately communicated.

A recent article quotes Robert Terry, a former senior policy adviser at the Wellcome Trust as saying, “Just funding the research is a job only half done. A fundamental part of [our] mission is to ensure the widest possible dissemination and unrestricted access to that research.” The Wellcome is one of a growing number of funding agencies which insist that any publications resulting from projects they have supported are published with open access (OA), so that they are accessible to all - not just those with subscriptions to a particular journal.

The article in the OA journal Open Medicinegoes on to discuss the problems in the communication chain in health science and highlights the achievements of the OA movement so far. The Directory of Open Access Journals now lists 4228 OA journals. While the best known OA publishers are BioMed Central (BMC) and the Public Library of Science (PLoS), other important players include Medknow in India and SciELO in Latin America.

The authors argue that OA publishing is already making a difference, through improving access to information. It also discusses the remaining gaps in the chain and new developments (such as the increasing use of mobile phones) which could help close these gaps.

Jul 21 2009

Yemen fails to address leishmaniasis

Posted by: Paul Chinnock - Editorial Team

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The neglected infection leishmaniasis is a problem in many parts of the Middle East but it rarely receives attention in national media. A report in the Yemen Times focuses on the case of one child with the disease and goes on to look at the wider issue of providing treatment for the mainly poor rural Yeminis who have leishmaniasis.

Few doctors in the rural areas are able to diagnose the disease and even in the capital city there are problems with the supply of drugs to treat it.

Jul 21 2009

The consequences of ‘STHs’ in Tanzania

Posted by: Paul Chinnock - Editorial Team

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One of TropIKA.net’s readers in Tanzania has contacted us with news of a study that looked at the influence of infection with soil-transmitted helminthiases (hookworm, A. lumbricoides and T. trichiura) on the nutritional status of children. Rehesina Senkoro a lecturer in the Department of Microbiology, Hubert Kairuki Memorial University, Dar es Salaam sent us the folowing abstract of her study, which has not as yet been published in any journal.

“Stool samples of 314 school-age children in Kinondoni were studied in order to determine the prevalence and intensity of soil-transmitted helminthiasis (STH) and their relationships with anthropometric indices. The samples were analyzed with Kato-Katz technique. The intensity of infections was categorized as light, moderate or high according to World Health Organization. Prevalence of STH was 52.2%. Hookworm was the most common STH (25.8%) followed by A. lumbricoides (15.9%) and T. trichiura (6.1%). Prevalence of hookworm was significantly higher in out-of-school children. Heavy intensity was found in 21% of the stool samples, 40% were moderate and 39% were light. Fifteen percent of the children were below the third percentile for height while 9.2% were below the third percentile for weight. A significant relationship was found between the worm burden and the degree of stunting. High prevalence of STH infection among school age children in Kinondoni calls for intervention measures.”

These findings remind us firstly just how common STH infection is in many communities, and secondly of the serious effects they have on the development of children. Stunting (chronic malnutrition) remains a major issue in Africa.

Jul 20 2009

Neglect of Chagas disease

Posted by: Paul Chinnock - Editorial Team

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A SciDev.Net article provides an update on Chagas disease and discusses the neglect of the condition, which was first identified 100 years ago - see TropIKA.net News.

The need for new, more effective treatments is highlighted in the SciDev.Net article. Joseli Lannes, researcher at the Oswaldo Cruz Institute at Fiocruz in Brazil, and a coordinator of the Institute’s Integrated Programme on Chagas Disease, says that new species of insects are now starting to spread the disease. Chagas, the article aruges, is no longer simply a bug-transmitted disease endemic to rural areas of Latin America, but an urban, globalised disease with new clinical presentations.