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The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation

Voluntary Moratorium On H5N1 Avian Flu Research Likely To End Soon

Following the conclusion of a two-day meeting at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) this week — meant “to gather feedback from flu researchers, others in the science community, and the public on its draft framework for funding H5N1 gain-of-function studies and to continue an international dialogue on issues related to benefits and risks of the research” — “experts anticipated that a voluntary moratorium on work with lab-modified strains that have increased transmissibility might end soon,” CIDRAP News reports (Schnirring, 12/18). “That’s because officials at the National Institutes of Health say they will be moving swiftly to finalize a new process for deciding whether or not to fund proposed experiments that could potentially create more dangerous forms of the bird flu virus H5N1,” NPR’s “Shots” blog notes.

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The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation

Meeting Participants Discuss HHS Framework For Funding H5N1 Avian Influenza Research

CIDRAP News reports on a two-day meeting at the National Institutes of Health during which “researchers, biosecurity experts, and others” discussed the “crafting [of] a framework for funding H5N1 avian influenza gain-of-function studies.” The meeting “is the latest chapter in an intense scientific controversy that was triggered by the publication of two recent studies involving lab-engineered H5N1 strains that showed signs of being transmissible in mammals,” according to the news service. “The global scientific community is closely watching the framework discussions, because the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is one of the world’s biggest funders of H5N1 research, including the two studies that sparked the controversy,” CIDRAP writes, adding, “Studies on H5N1 are considered a key pandemic preparedness step, and research findings have been used to help governments guide the development of vaccine and antiviral countermeasures.” According to the news service, “The HHS will post a summary and video of the meeting at a later date for those who weren’t able to attend, and it is encouraging people to submit written comments by Jan 10, 2013” (Schnirring, 12/17).

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The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation

Small Ceramic Indoor Cookstoves Do Not Reduce Pneumonia Incidence Among Children, Study Shows

“Small ceramic indoor stoves, such as those sold by women in AIDS self-help groups in Africa, do save fuel and cut down on eye-irritating smoke, a new study has found — but they do not save children from pneumonia,” the New York Times reports. “The study, published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, compared 168 households in rural Kenya that used either ‘upesi jiko’ [ceramic] stoves or traditional three-stone indoor fires,” the newspaper writes, noting, “Biweekly visits by researchers found that children in both the stove and open-fire homes got pneumonia equally often” (McNeil, 12/17). Though the ceramic stoves have some benefits, such as reduced smoke in the home and lower risk of burns, Rob Quick, a medical epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a member of the research team, said, “[O]ur group is studying six novel cookstove technologies designed to cleaner burning, and we should have results in the next few months to see if one or more of these cookstove designs offer potential for reducing the risk of pneumonia,” according to VOA News (Lewis, 12/17).

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The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation

U.S. Government’s Draft Guidance On Funding For H5N1 Research Receives ‘Mixed Reception,’ Science Reports

“Researchers are giving a mixed reception to a draft U.S. government plan to do more stringent funding reviews of certain kinds of H5N1 avian influenza research — and perhaps even require some studies to be kept secret,” Science reports. “The proposal, presented last week at a meeting of the government’s National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) in Bethesda, Maryland, is the latest fallout from the controversy surrounding two studies in which scientists engineered the H5N1 virus, which normally causes deadly infections in birds, to move between mammals, potentially opening the door to a human pandemic,” the magazine continues. The plan contains “seven criteria that a study would have to meet to be eligible for NIH funding,” the magazine notes and includes reaction from several researchers. According to Science, “NIH says it will soon release for public comment a white paper that details the plan, and officials will present it at an international workshop on H5N1 research that HHS is hosting in Bethesda on 17 and 18 December” (Malakoff, 12/7).

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The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation

GAVI Alliance Launches Pneumonia Vaccine Project In Nicaragua

“A new vaccine against the most deadly forms of pneumonia, one of the world’s biggest killers of children, [was] launched in Nicaragua [on Sunday] as part of an effort to prevent 700,000 deaths in poorer countries by 2015,” Reuters reports (Kelland, 12/10).

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The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation

Scientific American Examines Efforts To Increase Influenza Virus Monitoring In Pigs To Prevent Pandemics In Humans

Scientific American examines how, in an attempt to improve early recognition of viruses that could give rise to pandemics in people, such as last year’s H1N1 swine flu, scientists are looking to better understand “the viruses that infect the estimated 941 million domesticated pigs around the world.” However, as the article notes, “[i]ntensive monitoring of pig viruses is unlikely to come any time soon … Most pork-producing countries do not test their pigs at all, and in some that do—such as the U.S.—the testing is done on behalf of the pork producers, who have little economic incentive to share what they find. The reason: pig farmers know pork prices plummet when pigs and flu are linked in the news.”

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The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation

Also In Global Health News: Reducing Violence Against Women; Bartering For Medical Care In Zimbabwe; Guinea Worm Eradication; Childhood Vaccination Successes, Challenges

AOL News Examines Fight Against Domestic Violence, Private Sector Role AOL News examines how the U.N. is working to include corporations in the effort to reduce domestic violence against women, which “includes beatings, rape, human trafficking and female genital mutilation.” According to the article, “more than 100 countries still don’t have laws against domestic…

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The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation

FDA Recommends H1N1 For Inclusion In Next Year’s Flu Vaccine

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Monday recommended that the H1N1 (swine flu) strain be added to next year’s seasonal flu vaccine, “putting an end to separate shots deployed against the pandemic,” Bloomberg reports. The FDA committee voted unanimously to make the H1N1 strain one of the three strains included in the shot, according to the news service. “The panel’s recommendations are routinely adopted and used to guide vaccine manufacturers,” Bloomberg writes (Randall, 2/22).

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The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation

Opinions: U.S. Global Health Initiative; WHO And H1N1

U.S. Isn’t Backing Off Its Commitments To International Health President Barack Obama’s FY2011 budget demonstrates that the U.S. “isn’t backing off its commitment to aid other nations,” according to a VOA News editorial by the U.S. government. “Specifically, President Obama is proposing to boost U.S. efforts to promote health and…

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The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation

Recent Releases In Global Health

Lancet Comment Examines Interconnectedness Of Global Health, Public Health “Global health and public health are indistinguishable,” according to a Lancet Comment that examines the interconnectedness of the fields. “Yet global health is still often perceived as international aid, technologies, and interventions flowing from the wealthier countries of the global north…

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