GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog reports on a potential public-private partnership that aims to bring tuberculosis (TB) vaccine trials to the gold mines of Southern Africa, where, “[f]or every 100,000 workers …, 3,000 have tuberculosis, and many have often-fatal, drug-resistant strains of TB.” The blog writes that mining company “Anglo American announced Tuesday at the GBCHealth Conference [in New York] that it has agreed in principle to make its mines available for TB vaccine trials organized by Aeras, a non-profit that has 12 TB vaccine candidates now in various stages of research,” noting, “No formal agreement has been reached, but Anglo American’s spokesman vowed to make it happen.”
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).
“Low-quality and fake anti-malarial drugs flooding into markets in Asia and Africa are driving drug resistance and threatening gains made in the fight against the disease in the past decade, according to a study” conducted by researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and published Monday in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases, Reuters reports (Kelland, 5/21). In an analysis of “27 sets of tests of antimalarial drugs purchased in Southeast Asia and Africa between 1999 and 2010,” “[a]bout a third of the drug samples from both continents failed,” the New York Times writes, noting, “Some were clearly criminal counterfeits, some were expired drugs that had been repackaged and some were poorly made with too little active ingredient” (McNeil, 5/21).
Bloomberg Markets Examines Spread Of Multidrug-Resistant Bacteria In India, Discusses Global Implications
Bloomberg Markets magazine in its June issue examines microbes that incorporate the New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase-1, or NDM-1, gene, making them resistant to nearly all available antibiotics. The article focuses on India, where the gene is thought to have developed due to the widespread and uncontrolled use of antibiotics, but notes that cases of NDM-1 antibiotic-resistant bacteria have been documented in Canada, France, Italy, Kosovo, and South Africa, without patients having traveled to India. Bloomberg describes how the gene was discovered and named; how NDM-1 is affecting India’s medical tourism industry; what the Indian government and health officials in the country and elsewhere are doing to fight multidrug-resistant bacteria; and how NDM-1 is spreading through the water and possibly food supply in India. “The number of countries reporting NDM-1 will continue to grow as more bacteria pick up the gene and people transport it around the globe,” Bloomberg writes (Gale/Narayan, 5/7).
“[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).
Approximately 85,000 HIV-positive people in Burma, also known as Myanmar, are in need of antiretroviral treatment (ART) and cannot access it “due to a lack of funding, despite renewed international engagement with the government amid a wave of political reform, according to a report released Wednesday” by the medical aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the Associated Press/CBS News reports (2/22). “At the launch of a new report called ‘Lives in the Balance,’ MSF said that only a quarter of the estimated 120,000 people living with HIV and AIDS were receiving treatment, and that it was turning people away from its clinics,” BBC News writes. While plans were made last year among MSF and its partners to scale up treatment for HIV and tuberculosis (TB), “those proposals were shelved after the Global Fund” to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria cancelled its Round 11 grants, according to the news agency. “The money was expected to provide HIV drugs for 46,500 people in Myanmar, along with treatment for another 10,000 people sicken[ed] by drug-resistant tuberculosis in the country, [the report] said,” BBC writes (Fisher, 2/22).
In an interview with Xinhua on Tuesday, Francis Adatu, head of the national leprosy and tuberculosis (TB) program in Uganda, warned that TB “remains a major public health problem” and that multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) has emerged in the country, the news service writes. “‘According to our prevalence survey we found MDR-TB in 1.3 percent among new cases and 12.3 percent among people who have been exposed to drugs or treated over and over again,’ Adatu said,” Xinhua writes, noting that Adatu said treatment for MDR-TB was much more expensive than for drug-susceptible TB.
The Affordable Medicines Facility-malaria began as a pilot program in 2010 to “provide a ‘co-payment’ to the manufacturers of [artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs)], thereby allowing commercial wholesalers and private or government health services to purchase the drugs at a fraction of the already low negotiated price,” Kenneth Arrow, a Nobel laureate in economic sciences in 1972 and an emeritus professor of economics at Stanford University, writes in a New York Times opinion piece. The program subsidized ACTs — a newer, more effective malaria treatment — to “sell [them] as cheaply as [less-effective] chloroquine in Africa’s private pharmacies and shops, where half of all patients first seek treatment for malaria-like fevers,” he states. “Strikingly, it has worked,” Arrow writes, noting a recent independent review of the program published in the Lancet.
According to a new report (.pdf) released by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) at the Union World Conference on Lung Health in Kuala Lumpur, many tuberculosis (TB) programs “under-diagnose, under-treat or completely leave children with TB out, despite the increase in pediatric TB, and rising numbers of children who are infected with drug-resistant forms of TB strains,” PlusNews reports. The report, based on “data collected over three years from over 2,000 children with TB in 13 MSF projects across six countries,” found that diagnosis of children using the most commonly used TB test is inaccurate and pediatric TB drug formulations and treatment guidelines are inadequate, the news service notes. MSF called for the development of new TB tests that do not require sputum samples or laboratory infrastructure and “urged WHO to provide clear guidance to drug manufacturers on needed fixed-dose combinations of first-line drugs to support implementation of the new WHO-recommended dosages,” PlusNews writes (11/16).
The Los Angeles Times’ “Booster Shots” blog features an interview with Otto Yang, a professor at the Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, who speaks about drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) and the implications of a highly drug-resistant strain found in India. Yang said, “Obviously [the drug-resistant TB] could be devastating if it spreads, because treatment options are so limited. So far it seems not to have been as contagious as other strains, possibly because the mutations required to make it drug-resistant also make it a little less virulent” (Brown, 1/18).