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Also In Global Health News: Active TB Genetic Marker Found; African Bishops Fight HIV; Polio Eradication; PEPFAR In Dominican Republic

Active TB “Genetic Signature” Found

Researchers have identified a “genetic signature” in the blood of active tuberculosis patients in the U.K. and South Africa that could one day lead to a test to predict who among latent carriers might develop the disease, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature, Reuters reports (Kelland, 8/18). It is estimated that about 10 percent of the 2 billion people who have latent TB will develop the active form of the disease, the U.K. Press Association notes. (8/18). Currently, a skin or blood test can pick up latent TB infections, but “it is impossible to predict who will get the full-blown disease,” the BBC writes. The researchers plan to monitor the study patients with the genetic marker to determine whether they develop active TB. “If you could predict which so-called carriers of TB will progress to the full-blown disease, this would have major ramifications for stopping the global epidemic,” said lead researcher Anne O’Garra of the Medical Research Council’s National Institute for Medical Research. “We just have to prove it now, but it’s very promising,” she added (Briggs, 8/18).

Retired African Bishops Launch Anti-HIV Campaign

“African retired bishops have started a new campaign in the move to reverse the increasing prevalence rates of HIV/AIDS among their communities,” Daily Monitor reports. At an African Union retreat for retired bishops, the religious leaders started the “2031” campaign to “save families, communities and nations from HIV/AIDS,” the newspaper reports. Reverend Canon Gideon Byamugisha “said the campaign is seeking to have leadership responsibility, moral mandate and partnerships needed to continue teaching in strong, public, unconditional and unapologetic terms that stigma, discrimination and violence towards people living with or vulnerable to HIV/AIDS is unacceptable,” according to Daily Monitor. The article also examines the campaign’s focus on youth (Kasozi, 8/19).

Scientific American Examines Cultural Obstacles To Polio Eradication

Scientific American examines the history of polio, which despite being preventable, “still maims and cripples 1,000 people annually.” The article notes the history of worldwide polio eradication efforts, stating that “cultural animosities in isolated pockets of the world have conspired to keep global health authorities from stamping out the disease altogether.” The author gives the example of a large effort by the WHO to vaccinate 15 million children in Nigeria, which was “tarred and feathered” by Islamic leaders. A revised WHO strategy resulted in a successful vaccination campaign, and “only a handful of cases have been recorded this year.” The article includes comments from WHO spokesperson Sona Bari, who spoke about involving local people in vaccination campaigns (Svoboda, 8/18).

PEPFAR To Give $75M Over Five Years To Dominican Republic

The U.S. government, through PEPFAR, “is donating $75 million to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS in the Dominican Republic, where officials link a rise in cases to migration from Haiti, home to the highest infection rate in the Caribbean,” the Associated Press/Taiwan News reports. The money will be used to train health workers and educate the country’s vulnerable populations, including immigrants and poor women. David Losk, local PEPFAR coordinator, “said some health officials in the Dominican Republic still refuse to treat HIV/AIDS patients because of discrimination and fear of becoming infected” (8/18).