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Smartphones Cheaper, More Effective Than Paper Surveys For Disease Monitoring, Study Suggests

“Using smartphones is cheaper and more effective than using paper surveys to monitor diseases in the developing world, according to a new study by Kenyan researchers with the [CDC] … presented Monday at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases in Atlanta,” the International Business Times reports. “The study compared 1,019 paper-based questionnaires to 1,019 smartphone questionnaires collected at four sample sites for influenza surveillance in Kenya,” the news service notes (3/12).

USAID’s Shah Provides ‘Critical Leadership’ In Global Health

Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC) Communications Officer Kim Lufkin discusses USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah’s second annual letter in this GHTC “Breakthroughs” blog post, writing, “Shah rightly emphasizes the role of science, technology, and innovation in meeting USAID’s international health goals.” She adds, “It’s exciting to see that Shah continues, time and again, to recognize how science and innovation can overcome some of the world’s long-standing global health problems,” concluding, “It’s heartening to have a leader at USAID who is so committed to the power of research, and who continues to provide such critical leadership” (3/12).

Women In The World Summit Panel Discusses Using Technology To Solve Global Health Problems

The Daily Beast reports on a panel discussion at the third Women in the World summit on Friday in which Barbara Bush, CEO and co-founder of Global Health Corps, and Gabi Zedlmayer, head of Hewlett-Packard’s (HP) global social innovation program, talked about “how to harness technology to solve world health problems.” According to the news service, Zedlmayer “called for a full ‘eco system': Pharma, [research & development], the works,” adding, “Much of HP’s approach is through partnerships, which the company has established with many organizations, including Global Health Corps.” Bush “talked passionately about her company’s accomplishments, … explaining that Global Health Corps was created on the Teach for America model: recruit the best and the brightest, just out of university, and send them into the field — wherever there’s a need — for one year,” the news service notes (Schwartz, 3/9).

Scientists At Seattle Conference Discuss Progress, Obstacles In Fight Against HIV/AIDS

“Scientists, stymied for decades by the complexity of the human immunodeficiency virus, are making progress on several fronts in the search for a cure for HIV infections,” but “[a] major stumbling block is the fact that HIV lies low in pools or reservoirs of latent infection that even powerful drugs cannot reach, scientists told the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, one of the world’s largest scientific meetings on HIV/AIDS,” in Seattle last week, Reuters reports. “Promising tactics range from flushing hidden HIV from cells to changing out a person’s own immune system cells, making them resistant to HIV and then putting them back into the patient’s body,” the news service writes.

Enhanced Linkage-To-Care Strategy Helps HIV Patients Receive, Remain In Care, Study Shows

At the 19th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) on Wednesday, Gabriel Chamie of the University of California, San Francisco “discussed outcomes in a routine linkage-to-care strategy versus and an enhanced strategy for accelerated antiretroviral therapy (ART) start in rural Uganda,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports. In the study, a higher percentage of people who were offered the enhanced strategy received follow-up care, began ART, and remained in care, and “Chamie highlighted the need for enhanced linkage to care efforts for patients at all CD4 cell counts,” according to the blog (Mazzotta, 3/7).

Study Highlights Challenges Of Adherence In Successful Deployment Of PrEP Interventions

“Data presented from the FEM-PrEP trial by Dr. Lut Van Damme Tuesday [at the 19th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle] highlighted the challenge that adherence plays in successfully deploying effective Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) interventions,” HIV Medicine Association Executive Director Andrea Weddle writes in this guest post in the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog. “The FEM-PrEP study was conducted to evaluate the protective effect of a daily oral dose of emtricitabine/tenofovir disoproxil fumerate (FTC/TDF) among African women, but was halted early, in April 2011,” because of “interim data analysis showing similar rates of new HIV infections among women taking daily FTC/TDF and the placebo arm,” Weddle notes. Van Damme said blood monitoring did not show levels of the drug consistent with self-reported adherence rates, according to Weddle (3/6).

Preliminary Results Of Partners PrEP Study Show Promise, Investigators Report At CROI

“Investigators gave more details about the positive results of the Partners PrEP Study Tuesday at the 19th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports. “The study of 4,700 HIV discordant couples (where one partner is HIV-infected and the other is not) looked at the potential of two different antiretrovirals for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV-1 prevention versus a placebo among heterosexual men and women in rural and urban Kenya and Uganda,” the blog notes. So far, results show 75 percent protection in the arm using two antiretrovirals and 67 percent protection in the one-antiretroviral arm, when compared with the placebo, the blog notes, adding that the “drug arms of the study are ongoing and will wrap up at the end of this year” (Mazzotta, 3/6).

Nature Examines How Funding Shortfalls Are Hindering Efforts To Use Drugs To Curb HIV Spread

Nature examines how funding shortfalls are hampering global efforts to use drugs to curb the spread of HIV, writing, “[A]t this week’s annual Conference on Retro­viruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle, Washington, there was growing concern that financial austerity in the United States and elsewhere is eating away at the funding needed for a worldwide prevention effort.” The journal cites proposed reductions “to direct international aid for HIV programs under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)” in President Barack Obama’s FY 2013 budget request and an announcement by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria last November that it had cancelled Round 11 grants “until 2014 because of tightening budgets in donor countries.”

WHO Criticized For Not Efficiently Communicating Recommendations On HIV, Contraception To African Women, PlusNews Reports

“HIV organizations, researchers and activists have criticized the WHO and UNAIDS for not clearly communicating [guidelines on HIV and hormonal contraception] to African women, who remain the most affected by the continent’s high HIV prevalence rates,” PlusNews reports. In February, the WHO confirmed its existing recommendations after a study published last year suggested that using hormonal contraceptive injections might double the risk of women acquiring HIV or transmitting the virus to a male partner, according to the news service. “However, because the U.N. agency was unable to definitively rule out the possibility that progesterone-only birth-control shots like Depo-Provera posed no HIV risk, it is now strongly advising women at risk of or living with HIV to use condoms concurrently to prevent HIV infection or transmission,” PlusNews writes.

U.S. Panel May Re-Evaluate Bird Flu Research After Scientists Present New Data About Risks To Humans

Speaking at the American Society for Microbiology’s (ASM) Biodefense and Emerging Diseases Research meeting in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, Ron Fouchier, the leader of the team at Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands that genetically altered the bird flu virus, making it transmissible between ferrets and “touching off public fears of a pandemic, said … that the virus he created was neither as contagious nor as dangerous as people had been led to believe …, prompt[ing] the United States government to ask that the experiments be re-evaluated by a government advisory panel that recommended in December that certain details of the work be kept secret and not published,” the New York Times reports (Grady, 2/29).