Researchers from South Africa and South Korea are developing a smartphone-based device and application able to “photograph and analyze blood samples in areas far from laboratories to diagnose HIV and even measure the health of [patients'] immune systems,” Agence France-Presse reports. The device, called Smartscope, is a small microscope that clips over a phone’s camera and holds a standard chip with a blood sample, the news service notes, adding the camera then photographs the sample and the application analyzes the photo to produce a CD4 cell count. “The team hopes that trials in clinics may start next year,” according to AFP (8/31).
With nearly 6,000 reported cholera cases, including more than 100 deaths, Guinea is facing the worst cholera outbreak since 2007, and “some residents of the capital Conakry are clamoring to be vaccinated,” IRIN reports. “The cholera vaccine has shown promising results in the handful of communities where it has been used: none of those vaccinated have been infected,” the news service writes, noting, “For now cholera vaccination is not generally done on a large scale.” According to IRIN, “WHO and partner agencies are planning a cholera vaccine stockpile for epidemic control and looking at the possibility of introducing the two-dose oral vaccine into national immunization programs in endemic areas,” but the agency also “says such stockpiles should not detract from other prevention efforts: detection, diagnosis, and treatment of cases with oral rehydration and antibiotics; establishment of a safe water supply; implementation of adequate waste disposal, sanitation, and hygiene; and communication and social mobilization.”
“An outbreak of Ebola hemorrhagic fever has claimed possibly as many as 31 lives in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo since May, Health Minister Felix Kabange Numbi said Thursday,” Agence France-Presse reports. “Numbi said an international committee for technical and scientific coordination in the fight against Ebola had carried out retrospective research to find previous cases, which raised the death toll,” according to the news agency (9/13). “We can expect an increase in the number of cases as more people are tracked. These are not necessarily new cases,” WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic said, adding, “I want to stress that this is a serious outbreak, and there is a risk of the Ebola virus spreading, but we would not say that it’s out of control,” NPR’s health blog “Shots” reports (Doucleff, 9/13). “The latest WHO figures show there are now 65 probable or suspected cases of Ebola in Congo, with 108 people under surveillance,” Reuters notes (9/13). “Last month an outbreak of a more deadly Ebola strain in neighboring Uganda killed 16 people, but health workers say the two outbreaks do not appear to be related,” according to BBC News (9/13).
“More than half a million people in northern Mali, occupied by Islamist fighters, need aid to cope with rising food prices, collapsed public services and a lack of health care, the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Thursday,” Reuters reports. “Public services practically no longer function, basic health services are not provided and supplying clean drinking water is difficult. Needs are huge,” Yasmine Praz Dessimoz, head of ICRC operations for North and West Africa, said at a news conference in Geneva, according to the news agency. “The ICRC, which deploys 111 aid workers in Mali, is one of few humanitarian organizations to have access to all of northern Mali, where no United Nations aid agencies deploy any staff,” Reuters notes (Nebehay, 9/13).
Rwanda next week will host the Conference on Social Health Protection in the East African Community, which “will consider various approaches to providing universal health coverage in Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Burundi,” VOA News reports. The news service highlights a new study on universal coverage, published in the WHO Bulletin, “that reviewed health systems in 12 African and Asian countries” and, based on “impact indicators” that include “the way financial resources are collected to fund insurance plans, the amount of coverage provided to recipients, whether that coverage is provided to all segments of society and whether there’s been an improvement in the quality of life,” found “social and community health insurance plans ‘hold untapped potential’ for achieving universal coverage.” According to VOA, study author Ernst Spaan of the Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center in the Netherlands said “that the study’s findings ‘back the World Health Organization’s view that pre-paid financing mechanisms, such as health insurance, are a key route to universal coverage'” (DeCapua, 9/4).
The Affordable Medicines Facility-malaria (AMFm) — an innovative financing mechanism that subsidizes the cost of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) in order to expand access to the most effective treatment for malaria — “brought more than 100 million doses of malaria drugs to clinics and pharmacies in 2011” and “also increased access to the top malaria medicines by 26 to 52 percent in six countries,” according to results from the first phase of the program, which is hosted and managed by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, NPR’s “Shots” blog reports. The results of the evaluation, released on Wednesday in Washington, D.C., do not estimate how many lives were saved because of improved access to effective malaria medications, as “AMFm ran for only a year and half in most countries,” according to the blog. “The AMFm negotiated with drugmakers to reduce ACTs prices, and then the Global Fund subsidized the initial purchasing of the drugs by clinics and pharmacies,” the blog notes.
“Niger has nearly halved the death rate of children below five years old since 1998, a significant drop highlighting the benefits of free universal health care for children and pregnant women as well as increased donor funding for health,” according to a analysis published in the Lancet, IRIN reports. “The mortality rate reduced from 226 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1998 to 128 deaths in 2009, an annual rate of decline of 5.1 percent, said the study, noting that the slump bettered the fourth Millennium Development Goal (MDG) to cut the child mortality rate by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015,” as well as neighboring countries’ achievements, the news service notes. “Provision of insecticide-treated bednets, improved nutrition, giving vitamin A supplements, treatment of diarrhea, fevers, malaria, childhood pneumonia, and vaccinations also boosted child survival, the study found,” IRIN writes. Agbessi Amouzou, a co-author of the study, said, “The research demonstrates the success of the strategy implemented by the government and its partners, an important step toward the well-being of the Niger population,” according to the news service.
A recently released report (.pdf) commissioned by the U.K. Department for International Development (DfID) examines research projects on agriculture for nutrition and “reveals eight gaps that are currently being neglected, including specific target groups — particularly rural workers and non-rural populations — as well as a lack of methodologies to guide research in the field,” SciDev.Net reports (Piotrowski, 9/13). “With new initiatives announced at the U.K. hunger summit in August, and the new global target to reduce the number of stunted children by 40 percent by 2025 declared by the U.N.’s World Health Assembly, DfID commissioned this new report to identify poorly researched areas in the newly invigorated fight against malnutrition,” according to a DfID press release. “In its conclusion the authors suggest methods for tackling these gaps, laying out several steps which can be taken towards establishing more complete research pathways,” including the establishment of a network of researchers to improve communication, the press release notes (8/29).
The annual number of child deaths worldwide has fallen more than 40 percent since 1990, “the result of myriad improvements in nutrition, access to vaccines and antibiotics, cleaner deliveries, better care of infants immediately after birth, and the use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets,” according to “the findings of a report released Wednesday by three United Nations agencies and the World Bank,” the Washington Post reports (Brown, 9/12). “In 1990, there were 12 million deaths of young children, but the latest figures … show that deaths had fallen by nearly half, to 6.9 million, by 2011,” the Guardian writes (Boseley, 9/12). “[T]he number of deaths is down by at least 50 percent in eastern, western and southeastern Asia, as well as in northern Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean,” the report says, VOA News notes (Schlein, 9/12). However, “[i]n some, mainly sub-Saharan countries, the total number of deaths of children younger than five increased,” BBC News writes, adding, “The Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, Somalia, Mali, Cameroon, and Burkina Faso saw annual deaths of children under five rise by 10,000 or more in 2011 as compared with 1990” (Doyle, 9/13).
“In May, President Obama announced the implementation of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition that emerged out of the G8 summit at Camp David,” Zach Silberman, a policy associate with the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, writes in the USGLC’s blog, adding, “As part of the alliance, the United States launched workshops in Africa last week that are geared towards implementing the initiative’s goal of boosting public-private partnerships through cooperation between the G8 nations, African countries, and the private sector.” Silberman writes, “According to the U.S. Agency for International Development, kick-off workshops to support implementation of actions outlined in the alliance’s Cooperation Frameworks took place in Ethiopia on August 21, Ghana on August 29, and Tanzania on September 6-7” (9/10).