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Also In Global Health News: Plague In China; U.S. Contribution To Clean Water Initiatives; TB Vaccine Trial; HIV In Mozambique; New HIV Strain

Third Person In China Dies Of Pneumonic Plague, Officials Seal-Off Area

A third person died of pneumonic plague in China on Monday, local health authorities said, Xinhua reports. The outbreak began on July 30 and an additional nine people in the town of Ziketan are reportedly ill (8/3). “Pneumonic plague, which attacks the lungs, is closely related to bubonic plague,” writes the New York Times. “An official who answered the emergency line at Renmin Hospital in Ziketan, where the outbreak is centered, said that all roads into and out of the area had been closed, but that residents remained free to move about within the town,” according to the newspaper. A WHO spokesperson said the agency is “concerned and monitoring the situation closely” (Wines, 8/3). The Associated Press reports, “Medical staff are disinfecting the area and killing rodents and insects that can be carriers for the bacteria, a notice on the provincial health department Web site said. Authorities are keeping close track of people who came into contact with those infected” (Sanderson, 8/4).

BMJ Examines Appeals For U.S. Contribution To Developing Countries’ Clean Water Initiatives

British Medical Journal examines calls for U.S. legislation to improve access to clean water and sanitation in the developing world. “The representatives of various charities campaigning for better water supplies made their case at a Capitol Hill briefing” last week, according to the British Medical Journal. “Congress made access to safe water and sanitation a policy objective” for USAID when it passed the Water for the Poor Act in 2005, the journal writes. Though the agency helped millions gain access to safe water and improved sanitation, “figures from the WHO show that 1.1 billion people, nearly a fifth of the world’s population, do not have access to safe water and that 2.6 billion (40 percent) do not have access to adequate sanitation.” The article explores several approaches to making access to safe water and sanitation sustainable (Roehr, 8/3).


TB Vaccine Enters Efficacy Stage

A new tuberculosis vaccine has entered the efficacy stage of clinical trials for “the first time in 80 years,” Inter Press Service reports. The vaccine is being tested in Worcester, South Africa, and was developed by the South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative, with support of the Aeras Global TB Vaccine Foundation. Jerry Sadoff, president and CEO of Aeras, said, “The vaccine has entered last stage of Phase-II, which means that the drug is not toxic and has been found to be effective.” IPS writes, “While the developers are optimistic about the outcome, lung health and TB experts are warning against being overly excited” (Mannak, 8/3).

Mozambicans Protest Health Ministry’s Treatment Of People Living With HIV/AIDS  

“Hundreds of protesters took to the street in Mozambique’s capital Monday to protest health ministry policies that they say are jeopardizing HIV care in one of the world’s worst affected countries,” Agence-France Press reports. According to the protesters, the decision by health authorities to close HIV centers and integrate care for people living with HIV/AIDS into healthcare systems has reduced the number of patients seeking treatment (8/3). Including comments by a representative from an organization that provides antiretrovirals in Mozambique, AIM/allAfrica.com writes that the closure of the centers that provided specialized care for people living with HIV “had made the problem of access to anti-retrovirals more serious” (8/3).

Scientists Discover New Strain Of HIV Closely Related To Simian Virus

Scientists have discovered a new strain of HIV in a 62-year-old woman from Cameroon that “differs from the three known strains … and appears to be closely related to a form of simian virus recently discovered in wild gorillas,” according to a study in today’s edition of the journal Nature Medicine, the AP/Washington Times reports. The study was funded by the NIH and the Tietze Foundation (8/3). “The discovery of this novel HIV-1 lineage highlights the continuing need to watch closely for the emergence of new HIV variants, particularly in western central Africa, the origin of all existing HIV-1 groups,” researchers note in the study (Reuters, 8/3). According to the AP/San Francisco Chronicle, the woman had no contact with gorillas or meat from wild animals and “currently shows no signs of AIDS and remains untreated, though she still carries the virus, the researchers said.” The article adds, “How widespread this strain is remains to be determined. Researchers said it could be circulating unnoticed in Cameroon or elsewhere” (Schmid, 8/3).