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Also In Global Health News: African Bank Donates To Global Fund; Dengue-Blocking Mosquitoes; Maternal Health In Afghanistan; Leishmaniasis Drug; HIV/AIDS In Ukraine; Malnutrition In Mozambique; MDR-TB Study

Africa’s Access Bank Donates $1M To Global Fund

Africa’s Access Bank “has announced a donation of the sum of $1 million to the Global Fund’s Gift from Africa” project redeemable over a 3-year period (2010 – 2012),” according to the New Times/allAfrica.com. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, Access Bank’s group managing director, said “the Gift from Africa project provides the Bank with an opportunity to lead other African private sector institutions and demonstrate to the world that Africans are prepared to share the responsibility for solving Africa’s challenges,” adding that the Bank hopes to become a “significant partner” of the Global Fund (9/30). A press release details this and other recent donations to the Gift from Africa project (9/22).

Dengue-Blocking Mosquitoes Approved For Release In Northern Australia

It was is being described as a “world first,” mosquitoes “infected with a bacteria known to block transmission of dengue fever have been approved for release into the wild in Australia’s north,” the Herald Sun reports. The Eliminate Dengue Project “has received final regulatory and safety approvals” and plans are underway to begin field trials “early next year.” Project leader Scott O’Neill said, “If it works it could be a sustainable low-cost approach to dengue control which will be much better, we think, and more environmentally friendly than spraying lots of insecticides into the environment to kill the mosquitoes” (9/30).

NPR Reports On Program To Lower Maternal Mortality In Afghanistan; New Numbers Show ‘Marginal Reduction’

NPR’s Morning Edition reports on Jhpiego, a USAID-funded, Johns Hopkins-affiliated program that that trains midwives across Afghanistan. NPR reports from rural Badakhshan Province, where “more than one out of every five babies dies at birth.” The program also supplies health workers with misoprostol, which can stop bleeding in women who live so far away they can’t make it to the clinic on time. The report profiles midwives who have been trained by the program and Nasratullah Ansari, technical director of the program (Montagne, 9/29).

Meanwhile, IRIN reports: “Almost a decade of donor funded health projects has resulted in a marginal reduction in maternal and child mortality, according to new estimates set out in a UN report [.pdf] on maternal health. Maternal deaths have fallen from 1,600 per 100,000 live births in 2001 to 1,400 in 2010, still the second highest in the world.” The article quotes the Afghanistan’s Health Minister Suraya Dalil and U.N. WHO country Representative Peter Graaff (9/28).

Oral Visceral Leishmaniasis Treatment Receives Orphan Drug Status

iCo Therapeutics Inc. said Wednesday that its oral program iCo-009 for the treatment of visceral leishmaniasis received Orphan Drug status from the FDA, RTTNews reports. The drug is an oral formulation of Amphotericin B, which is currently only available in intravenous formulations. “With the grant of Orphan Drug status for its product, the company can avail state assistance, including waiver of certain taxes and application-filing fees, study design support, grant funding for clinical trials and seven years of marketing exclusivity after the approval of the drug,” according to the news service (9/29).

GlobalPost Examines Ukraine’s Changing HIV/AIDS Population, Government Response

GlobalPost reports on HIV/AIDS in Ukraine, “already the country hardest-hit in Europe, with an estimated 360,000” cases. The news service reports, “experts say that they have been tracking an alarming trend in the past years: HIV is increasingly moving from isolated, individual niches into the general population. And both health officials and NGOs agree that the country’s response is vastly underfunded.” The article discusses the work of ENEY, an AIDS activist organization and quotes Anna Shakarishvili, the director of the U.N.’s HIV/AIDS program in Ukraine and Svitlana Cherenko, head of the country’s health ministry, who “said that they need five times the $40 million that is now allotted to combat the disease adequately” (Stern, 9/29).

Mozambique Cabinet Approves 10-Year Malnutrition Plan

“The Mozambican Council of Ministers (Cabinet) on Tuesday approved a ten year plan to reduce chronic malnutrition,” Mozambique News Agency/allAfrica.com reports. The plan includes an effort to reduce malnutrition from 44 percent “to 30 percent in 2015, and 20 percent in 2020.” The news service continues, “The government spokesperson, Deputy Justice Minister Alberto Nkutumula, told reporters that the strategic objectives of the plan are to improve nutritional status, particularly of children under the age of five, and to improve the health and nutrition of women” (9/29).

Study: MDR-TB Spreads As TB Infection Rate Lowers

A computer simulation has shown that as the rate of tuberculosis (TB) infection has been going down in the U.S., “the country may now be more susceptible to new nastier drug-resistant form [MDR-TB],” according to research published in PLoS One, the Baltimore Sun’s “Picture of Health” blog reports. “The model also showed that without proper treatment of TB cases, there is also an increased risk,” according to the blog (Cohn, 9/28). “The ability of MDR-TB to spread depends on the prevalence of drug-susceptible TB … The most successful approach to reduce this risk for MDR-TB epidemics in the U.S. would be to ensure that populations around the world combine high rates of case findings that are tightly coupled to high compliance with directly observed drug therapy,” said David Bishai, senior author of the study in a press release (9/27).