Scientific American examines how strains of cephalosporin-resistant gonnorhea have “been emerging in Japan, and moving east and west from there, for at least a decade.” The magazine writes, “Rapid international travel allowed the resistance mutation to hopscotch the globe,” noting antibiotic-resistant strains that have been identified in Sweden, England, Norway, the Philippines, Spain, and France. “‘We can’t go back to older antibiotics,’ says Peter Leone, who is board chair of the National Coalition of STD Directors and medical director of North Carolina’s STD prevention program. ‘Once resistance emerges in gonorrhea, it is there for good. Cephalosporins are all we have left,'” he added, according to Scientific American. The magazine writes that efforts “to educate physicians and patients, to track resistant strains and to develop new treatments … must be carefully targeted and well coordinated with one another,” and concludes, “If not, truly untreatable gonorrhea, and its expensive, destructive consequences, could be the worldwide result” (McKenna, 5/4).
Clinical trials are underway to test an azithromycin-based combination treatment for pregnant women, “which could tackle some of the leading preventable causes of death for babies in sub-Saharan Africa,” according to researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), who published a report on Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) showing that “[a] large number of pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa are infected with both malaria and sexually transmitted/reproductive tract infections (STIs/RTIs),” AlertNet reports (Mollins, 5/15). “The researchers looked at 171 studies from sub-Saharan Africa over a 20-year period, which showed whether women attending antenatal clinics were infected with malaria, or with a range of sexually transmitted and reproductive tract infections — syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and bacterial and parasitic infections of the vagina,” IRIN writes, adding, “If left untreated, these can lead to miscarriages, stillbirths, premature births and low birthweight babies” (5/16).
The Globe and Mail reports on “a massive resurgence of malaria [in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] that has baffled scientists and raised doubts about the global fight against the deadly scourge.” “Malaria is already the single biggest killer in Congo, with nearly 200,000 people dying annually, and now the trend is worsening,” the newspaper writes, noting that “the number of malaria patients has soared by a stunning 250 percent … since 2009,” according to data from Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).
In a 200th anniversary article for the New England Journal of Medicine, Salmaan Keshavjee of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Paul Farmer of Partners in Health “seek to elucidate the reasons for the anemic response to drug-resistant tuberculosis [TB] by examining the recent history of tuberculosis policy,” they write. The authors outline the history of TB drug development and how the disease became resistant to myriad drugs, and write that by the 1970s, “[t]uberculosis, whether caused by drug-susceptible or drug-resistant strains, rarely made even medical headlines, in part because its importance as a cause of death continued to decline in areas in which headlines are written. They continue, “In the United States, federal funding for tuberculosis research was cut; consequently, drug discovery, development of diagnostics, and vaccine research ground almost to a halt.”
Approximately one-third of children under the age of five in southern Afghanistan, about one million, have acute malnutrition, “with a level of deprivation similar to that found in famine zones, a government survey has found, despite the hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid that has been poured into the region,” the Guardian reports. The U.N.-supported “Afghanistan Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) found 29.5 percent of children are suffering from acute malnutrition there,” the newspaper states, noting that a level of more than 30 percent is one indicator of famine, as are death rates and families’ access to food.
USAID on Monday said it has “delivered the first two of 17 planned laboratory devices” to help quickly diagnose drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis (TB), VOA’s “Breaking News” blog reports. “It says the machines allow for technicians to diagnose multi-drug resistant tuberculosis within as little as two hours, instead of the previous time requirement of several months,” the blog writes. The “new lab devices, along with 12,000 testing cartridges, will be given to tuberculosis hospitals and clinics in more than 10 Vietnamese provinces,” according to the news service (2/6).
The WHO has disputed a study published last week in the Lancet “that claims nearly twice as many people are dying of malaria than current estimates,” VOA News reports. The WHO “says both its estimates of malaria deaths and those of the Lancet study are statistically the same for all groups in all regions,” with one exception, VOA writes, noting, “WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl says there’s a notable statistical difference in regard to children over five and adults in Africa.”
“Early diagnosis is the key to reducing the nearly eight million deaths caused by cancer across the globe annually, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) said” on Saturday to mark World Cancer Day, “stressing the importance of screening programs for healthy people to detect the disease promptly for easier treatment,” the U.N. News Centre reports (2/3). The theme of this year’s day, which is recognized annually on February 4, was “Together It Is Possible,” “reinforcing that it is only by every person, organization, and government individually doing their part that the world will be able to reduce premature deaths from cancer and other non-communicable diseases,” according to a press release from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (2/4). The WHO “reminded the world that cancer is responsible for close to 13 percent of deaths globally, accounting for 7.6 million deaths in 2008,” according to the U.N. News Centre (2/3).
Noting “there is a huge ‘cancer divide’ between rich and poor,” with more than half of new cancer cases and almost two-thirds of all cancer deaths occurring in developing countries, this year’s World Cancer Day theme, “Together It Is Possible,” “calls on all individuals, organizations and governments to do their part to reduce premature deaths from cancers by 25 percent by 2025,” Felicia Knaul, secretariat for the Global Task Force on Expanded Access to Cancer Care and Control in Developing Countries, and Jonathan Quick, president of Management Sciences for Health, write in a Huffington Post opinion piece. “But there have been four myths that have held back cancer care and control in developing countries,” they write.
“[T]he highest levels ever of drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) have been found in Russia and Moldova,” the WHO reports in research published in the February edition of the WHO Bulletin, but “the agency didn’t have data from most of Africa and India, where tuberculosis rates are much higher,” the Associated Press/USA Today’s “Your Life” reports. According to the AP, the “experts reported that about 29 percent of new TB patients in parts of Russia were drug-resistant” and that “65 percent of previously treated patients in Moldova had resistance problems.” The news service notes, “Normally, less than five percent of TB cases are drug-resistant” (2/2).