“Each year on August 20, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) celebrates [World] Mosquito Day to honor the date in 1897 when British doctor Ronald Ross discovered that female mosquitoes transmit malaria between human beings,” AlertNet reports (Mollins, 8/17). “In 1902, Ross’s discovery earned him the Nobel prize for medicine and laid the foundations for scientists across the world to better understand, beat and treat malaria-carrying mosquitoes,” Sarah Kline, executive director of Malaria No More U.K., writes in the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters” blog.
“Over diagnosis and mistreatment of malaria in central and south Asia may be widespread, leading to the neglect of other serious illnesses, according to a new study from Afghanistan,” published in the British Medical Journal last month, SciDev.Net reports. “Because malaria in this region is rare and mainly caused by a less dangerous form of the disease … overtreatment may actually be worse for public health than it is in Africa or South-East Asia,” the study says, according to the news service. “Researchers assessed the accuracy of malaria diagnoses and treatment for over 2,300 patients with suspected malaria at 22 clinics in northern and eastern Afghanistan” and “found that a large proportion of patients with negative microscopy slides were still being prescribed antimalarial treatment.” “This meant that the real causes of these diseases went untreated,” the news service writes, adding, “The findings contradict a common assumption that there is a greater risk of malaria being missed than over diagnosed in this region of low malaria prevalence, compared with Africa or South-East Asia” (Yusufzai, 8/13).
Diagnostics company Cepheid on Monday signed deals with PEPFAR, USAID, UNITAID, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to immediately reduce the price of its Xpert MTB/RIF test kit for its GeneXpert tuberculosis (TB) diagnostic system in 145 countries, Reuters reports. “The agreements will see the test sold for $9.98, down from its current price of $16.86 per test,” the news service writes, adding, “Cepheid said the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will make an initial payment of $3.5 million to make the test immediately available at the lower price” (Ail, 8/6).
The Ebola virus outbreak that began last month in Uganda is under control, with health agencies having isolated the 176 people who had even slight contact with people who have contracted the virus, Joaquim Saweka, the WHO representative in Uganda, told reporters on Friday in the capital, Kampala, the Associated Press/NPR reports. At least 16 Ugandans have died of the disease in the most recent outbreak, the news service notes. Doctors were slow to recognize the disease because most patients showed atypical symptoms, the AP adds (8/6).
“The first case of cholera has emerged among thousands of people in an impromptu refugee camp in eastern Congo who fled fighting between a new rebel group and government forces backed by U.N. peacekeepers,” according to Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the Associated Press/Washington Post reports (Muhumuza, 8/3). The first case was detected on Friday, and since then at least nine people have died of the disease, MSF said, according to Al Jazeera (8/5).
The number of confirmed or suspected cases of Ebola in Uganda has risen to 36, according to a WHO spokesperson, who added the disease remains confined to the rural Kibaale district, NPR’s health blog “Shots” reports. “A team, led by the CDC, WHO and Uganda’s Ministry of Health, are now on the scene to determine the scope of the outbreak and then control it,” according to the blog (Doucleff, 7/31). CNN’s “The Chart” blog reports that 14 people have died of the disease, which has a 25 to 90 percent fatality rate in African outbreaks, according to a WHO fact sheet (7/31).
Ahead of World Hepatitis Day on July 28, the WHO “announced on Wednesday measures to fight the ‘hidden epidemic’ … which kills more than one million people a year,” Agence France-Presse reports. The virus “affects 500 million people worldwide but can go unnoticed for years and even decades,” the news service reports (7/25). “‘The vast majority of people infected with hepatitis are unaware, undiagnosed and untreated,’ said Dr. Sylvie Briand, of the [WHO] Pandemic and Epidemic Disease Department. ‘Only by increasing awareness of the different forms of hepatitis, and how they can be prevented and treated, can we take the first step towards full control of the disease and save thousands of lives,'” the U.N. News Centre notes (7/25).
Jennifer Furin, an infectious diseases physician and medical anthropologist who specializes in the management of tuberculosis (TB) and HIV in resource-poor settings, writes in a post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog that “when it comes to the great advancements made in global HIV and TB care, children are being left behind.” She continues, “All children with HIV and TB deserve access to diagnosis and treatment, and the death of even a single child from either one of these diseases signifies a global failure. … It is time to require that pediatric formulations of TB and HIV medications be developed.” She notes that StopTB.org will host a talk show on July 22 featuring women and young people who have been affected by TB and HIV (7/17).
The New York Times examines how “[t]eams of veterinarians and conservation biologists are in the midst of a global effort with medical doctors and epidemiologists to understand the ‘ecology of disease.'” According to the newspaper, “Sixty percent of emerging infectious diseases that affect humans are zoonotic — they originate in animals. And more than two-thirds of those originate in wildlife.” USAID is funding a project called Predict, which is attempting to forecast and predict disease outbreaks based on environmental factors and human impact, such as deforestation or urbanization, the newspaper notes. “The best way to prevent the next outbreak in humans, specialists say, is with what they call the One Health Initiative — a worldwide program, involving more than 600 scientists and other professionals, that advances the idea that human, animal and ecological health are inextricably linked and need to be studied and managed holistically,” the New York Times writes (Robbins, 7/14).
“Cuba’s health ministry on Saturday reported 158 cases of cholera, nearly three times as many as previously disclosed, but said there were no new deaths and the outbreak appears to have been contained and on the wane,” the Associated Press/Washington Post reports (7/14). In a statement, the health ministry “denied there had been a ‘spread’ of cholera on the Communist-ruled island, blaming the incidents outside the affected town of Manzanillo on ‘isolated cases,’ that would be ‘treated and studied promptly,'” Agence France-Presse writes. “Health officials have said they believe heavy rains and hot temperatures contributed to the outbreak,” the news agency notes (7/15).