“Findings that a one-time oral treatment to cure yaws, a neglected tropical disease, is as effective as the currently recommended penicillin injection have prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to convene a meeting on how the disease may be wiped out,” IRIN reports. “‘We may be closer now than we have been in decades,’ Kingsley Asiedu, a yaws expert with WHO’s Department of Neglected Tropical Disease Control, told IRIN, calling the study on the bacterial skin disease, which leads to chronic disfiguration and disability in 10 percent of untreated cases, the most significant in half a century,” the news service writes.
HHS To Spend Nearly $1.8M To Review Research Volunteer Rules, Fight STDs In Guatemala; DOJ Asks Related Lawsuit To Be Dismissed
“Responding to U.S. experiments that infected Guatemalans with syphilis and gonorrhea in the 1940s, the Obama administration announced Tuesday that it will spend $1 million to study new rules for protecting medical research volunteers,” and “[a]n additional $775,000 will go to fighting sexually transmitted diseases in Guatemala,” the Washington Post reports (Vastag 1,10). “President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius all have apologized for the research, hidden for decades until a Wellesley College medical historian uncovered the records in 2009,” the Associated Press/Boston Globe notes (Pickler, 1/10).
Federal officials have asked the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) “to review the state of the science looking at human transmission of deadly bird flu, says panel chief Paul Keim of Northern Arizona University,” USA Today reports. “In December, the NSABB asked the journals, Science and Nature, to withhold details of studies that showed how to make the flu strain transmissible between ferrets, the closest mammal model for human-to-human transmission of the bug,” the newspaper notes. “‘We are now involved in a broader review,’ Keim says. … ‘This research is valuable, but saying this is just “basic” research ignores that influenza is a very special pathogen,’ Keim adds,” according to the newspaper (Vergano, 1/10).
Researchers in this PLoS Medicine article examine the efforts necessary to reach the WHO goal of reducing mother-to-child HIV transmission (MTCT) risk to less than five percent in Zimbabwe. They conclude, “Implementation of the WHO [prevention of MTCT (PMTCT)] guidelines must be accompanied by efforts to improve access to PMTCT services, retain women in care, and support medication adherence throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding, to approach the ‘virtual elimination’ of pediatric HIV in Zimbabwe,” according to the study (Ciaranello et al., 1/10). A Massachusetts General Hospital press release states the research “should help with the planning of expanded programs to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission in sub-Saharan Africa and other areas with limited health resources” (1/10).
The International Herald Tribune’s “Express Tribune” reports on a two-day HIV/AIDS awareness workshop held in Pakistan this week. Speaking on Monday at the inaugural session of the event, titled “The State of HIV in Pakistan-2011,” Amir Maqbool, acting program manager of the National AIDS Control Program (NACP), stated that HIV/AIDS could not be controlled in the country without legislation and strong financial funding for prevention and control efforts, according to the newspaper. “In the aftermath of the devolution of the Ministry of Health, there is no mechanism to implement the legislation; something which previously fell under the purview of the Senate Standing Committee on Health,” the newspaper notes. The article highlights findings from multiple studies presented at the workshop (Wasif, 1/10).
Author Laurie Garrett, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, writes in this Foreign Policy opinion piece that the announcement that researchers from Norway and the U.S. have developed a supercontagious variety of bird flu “has highlighted a dilemma: How do you balance the universal mandate for scientific openness against the fear that terrorists or rogue states might follow the researchers’ work — using it as catastrophic cookbooks for global influenza contagion?” She continues, “Along with several older studies that are now garnering fresh attention, [the research] has revealed that the political world is completely unprepared for the synthetic-biology revolution” and notes “there are no consistent, internationally agreed-upon regulations governing synthetic biology, the extraordinarily popular and fruitful 21st-century field of genetic manipulation of microorganisms.”
The Wellcome Trust reports on neglected tropical disease (NTD) research and awareness efforts in this feature story, writing, “In the past five years or so, wider attention has begun to fall on these other diseases, thanks largely to a campaign led predominantly by scientists and centered on a new name: ‘neglected tropical diseases,’ or NTDs.” The article includes quotes from “some of the scientists who coined the new phrase to raise awareness of the continuing burden of these diseases, and … Trust-funded researchers whose work is helping to develop better solutions for tackling them” (Regnier, 1/6).
“The quest for a vaccine against AIDS is gaining momentum, with research published Wednesday identifying promising new candidates that protected monkeys against a powerful strain of the virus and that soon could be tested in humans,” the Wall Street Journal reports (McKay, 1/5). Researchers treated different groups of rhesus monkeys with several different two-stage vaccine combinations and then exposed them to a simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) that was different than the one used to make the vaccines, according to Nature (Callaway, 1/4).
PSI’s “Healthy Lives” blog features a video from the University of North Carolina (UNC) Medical Center News Office in which Myron Cohen, a professor of medicine, microbiology, immunology and public health at UNC-Chapel Hill and the director of the Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases, discusses his research into HIV/AIDS prevention, including his lead role in HPTN 052. That study, which found “that the sexual transmission [of HIV] can be virtually stopped when the infected person is treated with ARVs, this year was heralded as the ‘Breakthrough of the Year’ by Science magazine,” according to the blog (1/4).
J&J Will Not Join Medicines Patent Pool; Company’s Pharma Head Says Mechanism Could ‘Cause Disaster’
Pharmaceutical company “Johnson & Johnson has rejected calls to offer patent rights on its HIV medicines to generic drug companies through a” Medicines Patent Pool, created to promote low-cost antiretroviral drugs in low-income countries and the development of new drug combinations and formulations, the Financial Times reports. “Paul Stoffels, worldwide head of pharmaceuticals at J&J, … cautioned that the pool could trigger a ‘mixing and matching’ of medicines that would cause a rapid surge in patient resistance to innovative HIV drugs” that could “cause a huge disaster,” according to the newspaper.