In this entry in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog, Kolleen Bouchane, director of ACTION, an international partnership of advocates working to mobilize resources to treat and prevent the spread of tuberculosis (TB), examines the need for improved TB vaccines and diagnostics in order to curb the spread of multidrug-resistant TB, especially among children, and highlights ACTION’s new report (.pdf), “Children and Tuberculosis: Exposing a Hidden Epidemic,” which she says “exposes the link between TB and orphaned and vulnerable children, malnourished children or children living with HIV.”
Arjen Dondorp, deputy director of the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Research Unit at Mahidol University in Bangkok, Thailand, and colleagues discuss the need to combat antimalarial drug resistance in this New England Journal of Medicine opinion piece, writing, “Researchers, funders, and policy leaders must recognize the urgency of the problem, take action to address simultaneously several important knowledge gaps, and focus immediately on eliminating the threat of artemisinin resistance.”
“Extending the Cure,” a research project of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy that looks at antibiotic resistance, on Wednesday launched a map “designed to be a tool for public health, researchers, doctors, the media and the public to track resistant pathogens, which is a growing problem around the world,” the Washington Post’s “The Checkup” blog reports. The “ResistanceMap,” funded in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, “compiles data from a variety of sources,” including the CDC, FDA, European Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance Network and Canadian Antimicrobial Resistance Alliance, the blog notes. “Among the trends the map illustrates is that Western Europe is doing a better job than the United States of controlling certain resistant microbes, … [t]he United States and Ireland have the highest rates of vancomycin-resistant enterococcus (VRE),” and “[t]he South has higher rates of resistance compared to the West or Northeast in the United States,” the blog writes (Stein, 9/21).
While the number of malaria deaths has fallen by one-fifth over the past decade globally, according to a report released by Roll Back Malaria on Monday, “India is still recording high numbers of deaths, which some experts say are underestimated,” Agence France-Presse reports. The WHO “says about 5,000 children and 10,000 adults die each year from malaria in India,” AFP reports, adding, “However a study published last year by the Lancet said there are more than 200,000 malaria deaths each year and that WHO’s reporting is flawed.”
In this Atlantic Magazine opinion piece, Megan McArdle, senior editor at the Atlantic, echoes a warning by the FDA issued in 2001 which stated, “Unless antibiotic resistance problems are detected as they emerge, and actions are taken to contain them, the world could be faced with previously treatable diseases that have again become untreatable, as in the days before antibiotics were developed,” .
Scientists at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Colorado State University report in the September 4 issue of Nature Medicine that “[a] potential vaccine against tuberculosis [TB] has been found to completely eliminate tuberculosis bacteria from infected tissues in some mice,” according to a HHMI press release. “The vaccine was created with a strain of bacteria that, due to the absence of a few genes, are unable to avoid its host’s first-line immune response,” the release states, adding, “Once this first-line defense has been activated, it triggers the more specific immune response that can protect against future infections” (9/4). A spokesperson for the campaign group TB Alert told BBC News, “These are interesting experiments but it is too early to tell what impact they will have on the development of a safe and effective vaccine,” the news service reports (Gallagher, 9/4).
“An analysis of 30,000-year-old bacteria whose DNA has been recovered from the Yukon permafrost shows that they were able to resist antibiotics,” providing “the first direct evidence that antibiotic resistance is a widespread natural phenomenon that preceded the modern medical use of antibiotics,” according to a study in Thursday’s issue of the journal Nature, the New York Times reports.
In this U.N. Dispatch blog post, Mark Leon Goldberg, managing editor of the blog, examines the costs of second-line antiretroviral treatments (ARVs), which “are several orders of magnitude more expensive than traditional, first-line ARV treatments” and are a “huge barrier to providing care” for resource-poor countries. He writes of “a huge gap in the way governments and donors have historically approached people living with HIV,” adding that “as more people access first-line treatment, there will be more opportunities for people to develop resistance to that first line. Donors and governments in the developing world simply can’t afford that kind of outlay.”
“Health workers often treat patients for malaria even when a test indicates a different cause of the illness,” a behavior seen across sub-Saharan Africa “that worries many health experts,” PRI’s The World reports. “Prescribing malaria medication to patients who don’t need it wastes precious resources in a country already dealing with drug shortages â€¦ leav[ing] patients untreated for the real cause of their sickness. And it can lead to drug resistance, making malaria parasites harder to eliminate when people really do contract the disease,” according to The World.
As countries increase the use of the GeneXpert test, a two-hour molecular TB test released in 2010, “enabl[ing] them to diagnose more patients with drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB), a worldwide shortage of the drugs to treat these patients is likely, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) warns,” according to PlusNews.