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"World Health Minute 22 June 2017"

Preparedness, surveillance and response

A bird flu pandemic looms but the US is holding back the fight

Preparedness, surveillance and response

Just two mutations could turn H7N9 flu into a deadly airborne strain, but restrictions meant to protect us from a possible pandemic are making it harder to combat the next one. This year, H7N9 in China acquired a mutation that makes it kill birds, and possibly people, faster. “Without animal infection studies, we can only speculate what might happen,” says Paulson. “Biology is complex, so we can predict that one set of mutations will influence transmission, but it is only that, a prediction.” But neither Paulson nor Fouchier are allowed to make viruses with these mutations. After Fouchier created transmissible H5N1, a regulatory committee in the US tried to stop the work being published, saying terrorists could use it to create a lethal pandemic. There were also fears that other labs would try to copy the work without sufficient containment, and a dangerous virus might then escape. The H5N1 work was finally published, but the US halted Gain-of-Function (GOF) research for flu viruses, and for SARS and MERS

June 20, 2017
New Scientist

488 malaria cases in 17 days of June

Preparedness, surveillance and response

At a time when the civic body and the state government have intensified their efforts to destroy mosquito breeding sites and curb spread of vector-borne infections, malaria cases appear to be on the rise. According to data of the civic body, Ahmedabad registered 488 cases of malaria in the first 17 days of June. AMC health officials have also confirmed that they have received complaints of polluted water supply from at least 10 areas in the city. The weekly health report of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) states that six more cases of vector-borne infections including four cases of dengue and one each of chikungunya and falciparum malaria were also registered during this period

June 20, 2017
Times of India

Robust Emergency Fund Needed to Respond to Future Disease Outbreaks

Preparedness, surveillance and response

Creating a similar “rainy day” fund—and providing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with permission to use it in advance—could save lives and money, both at home and overseas. There have been some moves in this direction. President Donald Trump`s general budget proposal for 2018 includes such a fund. But it does not give any dollar figures, and the health care bill passed by the House of Representatives in May cuts at least $1 billion from annual public health funding

June 20, 2017
Scientific American

WHO says child from Raqqa among 15 new polio cases in Syria

Preparedness, surveillance and response

Seventeen children have been paralysed by polio following an outbreak of the disease in Syria that the World Health Organization says is "very serious". Earlier this month, the agency reported two polio cases in the Mayadin area of Deir al-Zour province, much of which is controlled by so-called Islamic State. Fourteen new cases have now been confirmed in the same area, while another was recorded in Raqqa province. It is the first re-emergence of polio in the war-torn country since 2014

June 20, 2017
Reuters

Health systems

China cracks down on fake peer reviews

Health systems

The Chinese government is going on the offensive against scientists who dupe journals by creating fraudulent reviews of submitted papers. A coalition of agencies led by the science ministry announced on 14 June that the government would suspend the grants of researchers involved in such fraud, which surfaced earlier this year when a cancer journal retracted 107 research papers from Chinese authors. And funding agencies in China promised to increase policing of the scientific community to prevent similar deceptions

June 20, 2017
Nature

Interview: From Hong Kong to world stage - WHO chief Margaret Chan`s endeavor to safeguard public health

Health systems

Xinhua interviews director-general of the World Health Organization Margaret Chan who expressed pride in her time at the helm of the world’s ‘doctor’ as she outlined how WHO and its partner organizations have made progress in improving people’s health and life expectancy during the 10 years she has been in charge

June 20, 2017
Xinhuanet

How to reduce maternal deaths in the worst counties to give birth in

Health systems

A prioritised set of interventions is to be applied over the next five years in Kenya. The implementation of a framework which would help achieve targets by improving coverage for key indicators. These include increasing skilled deliveries by 87 per cent, antenatal care by 69 per cent, full immunization to 76 per cent, contraceptive use to 73 per cent and pregnant women tested for HIV and post-test counselling to 75 per cent, all by 2020. Experts projected that following this, the absolute number of maternal deaths would reduce from 5,453 in 2014/15 to 3,276. To achieve these goals, the framework suggested key strategies that needed increased investments, including addressing disparities and increasing coverage through prioritising underserved counties and marginalized populations

June 20, 2017
The Star

Worldwide drug sale forecasts fall as pricing pressures mount

Health systems

Forecasts for global sales of pharmaceuticals have declined for the first time in a decade as continuing pressure on prices in the key U.S. market has caused analysts to moderate revenue expectations. Evaluate Pharma, which compiles consensus numbers based on analysts` forecasts, said worldwide drug sales were now expected to hit $1.06 trillion in 2022, down from $1.12 trillion predicted a year ago for the same period. It is the first time in 10 years that total drug sales have failed to beat the previous year`s forecast level

June 20, 2017
Reuters

Communicable diseases

Researchers develop new concept to predict universal anti-influenza drugs

Communicable diseases

University of Hertfordshire researchers have developed a new concept which could lead to the discovery of universal anti-influenza drugs. To predict the drugs, researchers first characterised the drug target – the viral PB2 protein required for the virus to become infectious – by analysing 12,000 sequences to assess its variability and identify constant regions. Secondly, they computationally scanned the PB2 protein surface for binding sites and then screened more than 40,000 molecules for binding. They also screened 1738 small molecule drugs which have been approved for humans and predicted that the antipsychotic paliperidone binds to the influenza PB2 protein. The results of this work enables laboratory-based virologists to test these computationally predicted drugs, in order to take the research onto the next stage

June 19, 2017
Medical Express

More U.S. counties are finding mosquitoes that can spread Zika

Communicable diseases

With the summer mosquito season in full swing in many states, a new report shows a significant increase in U.S. counties across the South that have reported mosquitoes capable of spreading Zika and related viruses. Two types of mosquitoes are the primary transmitters of Zika, dengue, yellow fever and chikungunya viruses. Based on updated data collected through 2016, research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 38 additional counties — primarily in Texas but as far north as Illinois — documented the presence of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, Zika`s main vector. That`s an increase of 21 percent compared with an earlier 2016 survey

June 20, 2017
Washington Post

Moving Mountains: A Surgeon’s Fight to Legalize HIV-to-HIV Organ Transplants

Communicable diseases

An interview with Peter Stock MD, a transplant surgeon at UC San Francisco whose research has formed the core of the campaign to lift the HIV-to-HIV organ transplantation ban which were, until recently, illegal under state laws which were written at the height of the AIDS scare in the 1980s. Those bans were repealed thanks in part to ground breaking research by Stock that showed that transplants in HIV patients could be done safely and effectively

June 20, 2017
University of California San Francisco

FDA approves new antibiotic to treat serious skin infections

Communicable diseases

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a new treatment for patients with acute bacterial skin infections, made by privately held Melinta Therapeutics. The drug, Baxdela, or delafloxacin, is designed to treat skin and skin structure infections caused by a range of bacteria, including methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA

June 19, 2017
Reuters

Non communicable diseases

Anti-PCSK9 vaccine lowers cholesterol, atherosclerosis in mice

Non communicable diseases

A study published in the European Heart Journal concludes that it may be possible to immunize people against developing high cholesterol and atherosclerosis, or the narrowing of the arteries. The vaccine, AT04A, consists of a molecule that prompts the body to produce antibodies against the enzyme. Once PCSK9 is inhibited, the body is able to properly clear LDL cholesterol. When the vaccine was injected in mice that were fed fatty food to induce high cholesterol and atherosclerosis, their total cholesterol fell 53%. Damage to blood vessels fell 64%, while blood vessel inflammation decreased by at least 21%, the scientists said

June 19, 2017
Fiercebiotech

Public ignorant about Noncommunicable diseases, says minister

Non communicable diseases

Health Minister Dr. Jane Aceng has called for sensitization of the public about non-communicable diseases. Speaking during an alignment meeting in Kampala, Aceng said there is an increase of NCDs, adding that about 97% of the population do not know about these diseases. She added that a recent study on NCDs shows that heart diseases are on the rise, hypertension at 10% and diabetes at 3%. Aceng said in the cost effective management of diseases, emphasis should be placed on ability to detect them as early as possible

June 19, 2017
New Vision

Global diabetes jumped 40% in the last two years, report says

Non communicable diseases

Aetna International released “Diabetes: The world’s weightiest health challenge,” that found that diabetes has nearly doubled around the world since 2014-2016 with a 69% increase in North and South America last year alone. However, the Middle East and Africa were among the hardest hit, having the highest rate of diabetes over the last two years—that were twice the size of Europe and the Americas—and triple of Southeast Asia. Stella George, M.D. and senior medical director at Aetna International, who co-authored the report says the disease has the power to destroy “economies” if we don’t try to stop it now

June 19, 2017
Fox Business

Occasional smokers who vape smoke more cigarettes

Non communicable diseases

Tobacco companies have been selling electronic cigarettes as a way to wean smokers off paper cigarettes, but a new study suggests the strategy could backfire. The report in Preventive Medicine found that young adults who occasionally smoked conventional cigarettes smoked more of them if they also used e-cigarettes. “The participants who were vaping ended up using more cigarettes. It’s actually a risk factor for increasing their cigarette use,” lead author Neal Doran said

June 19, 2017
Reuters

Promoting health through the life course

NGO to launch water initiative in Kibera

Promoting health through the life course

A Non-Governmental Organization is set to embark on a sustainable water project that is expected to transform Kibera and vastly improve the quality of life of residents there. According to the Nourafchan Foundation (TNF) the initiative will be commissioned during its inaugural community celebration, with this year’s theme titled ‘The Big Splash’. “Until recently Kibera’s only source was the Nairobi dam whose unsanitary waters are rife with infections like typhoid and cholera,” the NGO said

June 20, 2017
CapitalFM Kenya

India submits report on sustainable development goals to UN

Promoting health through the life course

The review is centred around the goals of ending poverty and hunger, and ensuring healthy lives, besides achieving gender equality, building resilient infrastructure, etc. On ending poverty in all its forms, it said there was compelling evidence that the rapid growth India has achieved following the economic reforms in 1991 had led to significant reduction in poverty. The report cited Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act to emphasise that over two billion person-days of employment were generated during 2016-17 alone, largely for the disadvantaged sections of society

June 20, 2017
Business Standard

CRISPR pioneer Jennifer Doudna on gene editing’s potential for good and evil

Promoting health through the life course

CRISPR gives scientists the power to radically and irreversibly alter the biosphere by providing a way to rewrite the very molecules of life any way we wish. There needs to be more discussions of the possibilities it presents for good and for ill. However, even though it is still a thrilling moment for life sciences, we all have a responsibility to consider any ramifications in advance and engage in an inclusive conversation about how to harness gene editing in a natural world context

June 20, 2017
Fast Company

Caring like a kangaroo: India can cut neonatal death toll, world’s highest

Promoting health through the life course

Although the rate of neonatal mortality in India has declined from 52 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 28 in 2013, the rate of decline has been slower than that of infant and under-five mortality. One of the best low-cost interventions that can save lives with babies younger than four weeks who die every year is regular skin contact, like kangaroo mothers – an expert said

June 20, 2017
Hindustan Times