The debate about two studies showing that, with few genetic mutations, H5N1 bird flu strains could become more easily transmissible among ferrets, a laboratory model for humans, “has become a debate about the role of science in society. Two questions should be addressed here: should this type of research be conducted at all; and if so, should all data generated by this research be published?” Ab Osterhaus, head of the Institute of Virology, at Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam, writes in a Guardian opinion piece. A team from Erasmus conducted one of the two studies, he notes.
“As researchers from both sides of the debate over two controversial H5N1 studies weighed in [Tuesday] on full publication versus a more cautionary approach, two U.S. journals” — the Journal of Infectious Diseases (JID) and its sister publication, Clinical Infectious Diseases — “said they are developing policies to address any future such instances,” CIDRAP News writes. “We are developing policies that address these issues on a case-by-case basis, so that freedom of scientific expression can be maintained without sacrificing individual safety or national security,” JID Editor Martin Hirsch wrote in an editorial, the news service notes, adding, “He also introduced three new JID perspective pieces that discuss the difficult issues” (Schnirring, 3/28).
The Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports the findings from the second edition of the 2011 Report on Tuberculosis (TB) Research Funding and Trends from 2005-2010, released Thursday by Treatment Action Group (TAG) and the Stop TB Partnership. “TB research and development investment increased 76 percent between 2005 and 2010, but investment has slowed markedly, with only two percent growth since 2009,” the blog notes, adding, “The $630.4 million 2010 investment is only one-third of the $2 billion needed to stay on track with the Global Plan to Stop TB 10-year implementation and research strategy to eliminate TB as a public health threat by 2050” (Mazzotta, 3/28).
As their economies grow, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — known collectively as BRICS — “are injecting new resources, innovation and momentum into efforts to improve health in the world’s poorest countries, according to a report [.pdf] by Global Health Strategies initiatives [GHSi]” released on Monday, Business Live reports (Roberts, 3/26). “The report was released in New Delhi, India, where the BRICS Summit, including a heads of government meeting, will be held from 28-29 March,” a GHSi press release (.pdf) states.
Several blog posts recently commented on the upcoming World Tuberculosis (TB) Day, commemorated on March 24. “Despite a clear legislative mandate, the U.S. Global Health Initiative (GHI) has consistently failed to live up to the goals of” the Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis (TB), and Malaria Reauthorization Act, a landmark legislation passed by Congress in 2008, John Fawcett, legislative director for RESULTS, writes in the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog. He continues, “Current GHI TB treatment goals are less than 60 percent of what was mandated in the Lantos-Hyde Act,” and concludes, “As the final authorized fiscal year of the Lantos-Hyde Act is debated, there’s still time to embrace its mandate: a bold effort to confront the worldâ€™s leading curable infectious killer” (Mazzotta, 3/22). “As people across the globe celebrate World TB Day this week, several groups are highlighting the fact that the current tools to prevent, test, and treat tuberculosis (TB) are greatly outdated,” Ashley Bennett, senior policy associate at the Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC), writes in the GHTC “Breakthroughs” blog. She commends GHTC members for their efforts to develop new technologies (3/22).
In anticipation of World Tuberculosis (TB) Day, commemorated on March 24, this Lancet editorial examines TB control and elimination efforts in 2012 and beyond. “Tuberculosis killed 1.45 million people in 2010 and about 500,000 people have drug-resistant disease,” the editorial states, adding, “Despite a woeful funding gap in 2012 of $1.7 billion, tuberculosis incidence is falling (from 9.4 million in 2009 to 8.8 million in 2010).” The editorial notes, “Ten new or repurposed tuberculosis drugs are in Phase II or III trials, which hopefully will reduce treatment times to about four months, compared with present multidrug-resistant tuberculosis regimens lasting 18-24 months,” adding, “Faster treatment will greatly improve adherence, reduce transmission, and cut costs.”
“To break free of its dependence on donor money and supplies from India, Africa must develop its own pharmaceutical pipeline by creating policy frameworks that encourage a fledgling drug industry,” journalist Priya Shetty argues in this SciDev.Net opinion piece. “Although India’s drug industry continues to churn out generics against killer diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, there is no end to resistance from global pharmaceutical companies wanting to extend the duration of market exclusivity on their brand-name drugs to prevent competition from generics,” she writes, and notes, “The Council on Health Research for Development (COHRED) forum, to be held in South Africa in April 2012, will discuss how resource-poor nations can become more self-sufficient.”
Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) says the spread of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) — “a form of tuberculosis that does not respond to standard treatment and can kill in a matter of months” — “is much greater than previously thought,” VOA News reports. “‘Wherever we’re looking for drug-resistant TB we’re finding it in very alarming numbers. And that suggests to us that the current statistics that are being published about the prevalence of MDR-TB are really just scratching the surface of the problem,’ said Dr. Leslie Shanks, medical director for the group,” the news service writes (DeCapua, 3/21).
In this post in USAID’s “IMPACTblog,” guest blogger Joanna Breitstein, director of communications for the TB Alliance, describes an event organized by the Critical Paths to TB Drug Regimens that took place on Monday, “heralding the launch of a new clinical trial that tests tuberculosis drugs in combination.” During the event, “Robert Clay, deputy assistant administrator in USAID’s Global Health Bureau, said that he wants researchers and those who oversee programs in countries to work more closely together,” she writes. A link to video of Clay’s comments is included in the blog (3/20).
This post in the AIDS.gov blog provides video of Ron Valdiserri, deputy assistant secretary of health for infectious diseases, interviewing Jonathan Mermin, director of the CDC Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, at the recent 19th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI). According to the blog, “They discussed some of the significant findings from the conference including advances related to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and the growing discussions of an AIDS-free generation” (Gomez, 3/20).