Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Improved water-disinfecting solar-powered bottle by students gets $40,000 prize

University of Washington engineering students have won an international contest for their design to monitor water disinfection using the sun's rays. The students will share a $40,000 prize from the Rockefeller Foundation and are now working with nonprofits to turn their concept into a reality.

Team member Jacqueline Linnes, who recently completed her bioengineering doctorate, traveled to Bolivia last year with the UW chapter of Engineers Without Borders. While there, she and other students treated their drinking water by leaving it in plastic bottles in the sun.

The concept is an old one. Solar disinfection of water in plastic bottles, also called SODIS, is promoted by many nonprofits. It offers a cheap and easy way to reduce some of the roughly 1.5 million diarrhea-related children's deaths each year. But global adoption has been slow, partly because it is hard to know when the water is safe to drink.

The UW entered a competition to design an indicator for Fundación SODIS, a Bolivia-based nonprofit dedicated to testing and promoting this method. Solar disinfection in water bottles removes more than 99.9 percent of bacteria and viruses, with results similar to chlorination.

The UW device lets users know when the sun's rays have done their job.

Computer models show malaria-infected RBCs stiffen, restrict capillary flow

A team of researchers at Brown University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has completed the first modeling, followed by experiments, of how red blood cells are infected by a malarial parasite that attacks the brain. The researchers report that infected cells stiffen by as much as 50 times more than healthy cells. Infected cells also tend to stick along blood vessel walls, impeding the flow of blood to critical organs. Results appear in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Although the incidence of malaria has declined in all but a few countries worldwide, according to a World Health Organization report earlier this month, malaria remains a global threat. Nearly 800,000 people succumbed to the mosquito-borne disease in 2009, nearly all of them in the developing world.

Physicians do not have reliable treatment for the virus at various stages, largely because no one has been able to document the malaria parasite’s journeys in the body.

Now researchers at Brown University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have used advanced computer modeling and laboratory experiments to show how malaria parasites change red blood cells and how the infected cells impede blood flow to the brain and other critical organs.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

WHO plans to integrate world's traditional medicine in one database

Yojana Sharma of SciDev.net reports on the WHO initiative to set up a global database of traditional medicines, due in 2011.

The first global database documenting the effectiveness of traditional medicines, which are widely used as the first source of healthcare around the world, has been announced by the WHO.

The International Classification of Traditional Medicine will be set up in the first half of next year to document traditional medicines and, for the first time, provide effectiveness data based on common standards.

"A number of countries have databases on traditional medicine, but because there have been no international standards until now, the data could not be compared," said Molly Meri Robinson Nichol, a technical officer at the WHO. "Western medicine has a vast database on diseases, but we do not have that information on traditional medicine, which makes it impossible to make a statement on its effectiveness."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Recent review of African health research reveals gaps, opportunities

The McLaughlin-Rotman Center for Global Health has published a series of open-access papers that paints a detailed picture of the state of health innovation research in Africa (link to BiomedCentral International Health and Human Rights, December 2010). Dr. Peter Singer and Dr. Ken Simiyu share their research findings in this engaging studio discussion.

Key findings of the group include issues in the stagnation of viable technologies, such as diagnostic tests, medical devices, and plant medicine due to lack of commercialization.

Other barriers in bringing these important innovation to the people include lack of infrastructure and scientific equipment, lack of capital financing and enterpreneurship, and inappropriate regulation and policies.

Suggestions to improve these issues comprise the need for a viable innovation network between scientists and entrepreneurs, addition of some modest funds to continue and validate the research, and addressing the gap in research infrastructure and scientific equipment.

These models parallel the situation of health research in Southeast Asia, where similar opportunities and challenges exist for health innovation. These investable ideas, if properly channeled, stand to make a huge difference in the people of Africa and Southeast Asia in the future. It is envisioned for these countries to develop health research so that they can create local products, grow local industries for health products, and provide solutions to local health needs of today.

Reference: McLaughlin-Rotman Center for Global Health. (2010, December). African Innovation: New Hope for Local Health Issues. Accessed December 2010. Retrieved from http://www.mrcglobal.org/projects/african_innovation.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Higher Actual Dengue Incidence Numbers in Cambodia than in National Reports, 2006–2008

Dengue vaccines are now in late-stage development, and evaluation and robust estimates of dengue disease burden are needed to facilitate further development and introduction. In Cambodia, the national dengue case-definition only allows reporting of children less than 16 years of age, and little is known about dengue burden in rural areas and among older persons. To estimate the true burden of dengue in the largest province of Cambodia, Kampong Cham, we conducted community-based active dengue fever surveillance among the 0-to-19–year age group in rural villages and urban areas during 2006–2008.

General Findings
The large-scale active surveillance study for dengue fever in Cambodia found a higher disease incidence than reported to the national surveillance system, particularly in preschool children and that disease incidence was high in both rural and urban areas. It also confirmed the previously observed focal nature of dengue virus transmission.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Small tech with big promise for healthcare

Nanotechnology should not suffer the same fate as GM — potential health and environmental hazards should be monitored and regulated early on. David Dickson, director of SciDev.Net, discusses the promise of nanomaterials. 

If a new and potentially hazardous field of technological innovation is to flourish in a social environment,  two factors are essential, even if the hazards are still relatively speculative.

The first is a clear demonstration of its value to individual welfare, creating a demand for what it promises.

The second is evidence that the potential dangers can be adequately monitored, and regulations put in place to minimise the chance that harmful effects will occur.

Nanotechnology for health: Facts and figures

Can developing countries use nanotechnology to improve health? Priya Shetty looks at nanomedicine's promise at a SciDev report.

Nanotechnology — the science of the extremely small — holds enormous potential for healthcare, from delivering drugs more effectively, diagnosing diseases more rapidly and sensitively, and delivering vaccines via aerosols and patches.

Nanotechnology is the science of materials at the molecular or subatomic level. It involves manipulation of particles smaller than 100 nanometres (one nanometre is one-billionth of a metre) and the technology involves developing materials or devices within that size — invisible to the human eye and often many hundred times thinner than the width of human hair. The physics and chemistry of materials are radically different when reduced to the nanoscale; they have different strengths, conductivity and reactivity, and exploiting this could revolutionise medicine.

For example, a major challenge of modern medicine is that the body doesn't absorb the entire drug dose given to a patient. Using nanotechnology, scientists can ensure drugs are delivered to specific areas in the body with greater precision, and the drugs can be formulated so that the active ingredient better permeates cell membranes, reducing the required dose.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Boston University researchers create novel rapid biosensor

The portable detector platform, comprising plasmonic nanohole arrays (PNAs), can be adapated for hospitals, malls, and airports

A team of researchers headed by Hatice Altug (ECE) and John Connor (Microbiology) has developed a novel biosensor that directly detects live viruses from biological samples even without sample preparation. They have reported on this breakthrough in the November 5 online edition of Nano Letters.

The biosensor comprises plasmonic nanohole arrays (PNAs), or arrays of apertures with diameters of about 250 to 350 nanometers on metallic films, that transmit light more strongly at certain wavelengths.

A live virus (e.g., Ebola, monkeypox, or smallpox virus) in blood or serum, for example, can bind to the sensor surface. A change in the effective refractive index in the close vicinity of the sensor will shift the resonance frequency of the light transmitted through the PNAs. The degree of this shift reveals the presence and the concentration of the virus in the solution.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Symposium aims to place health systems as cornerstone in health research

The First Global Symposium on Health Systems Research, organized by the WHO this week (16–19 November) in Montreux, Switzerland, aims to foster international studies on health systems. T.V. Padma reports on SciDev.Net.

The First Global Symposium on Health Systems Research is expected to establish health systems research as a "third pole" of health research, alongside biomedical and clinical research.

Research on how to improve health delivery and health outcomes has long been neglected and must be put on researchers' agendas, a WHO expert has said ahead of the first global meeting on such research.

Tim Evans, WHO's outgoing assistant director general for information, evidence and research, told SciDev.Net that scientific research is needed to ensure that everyone benefits from healthcare delivery.

The symposium aims to dispel the idea that healthcare delivery is a 'common sense' problem unrelated to high-quality science, said Evans, who chairs the meeting's steering committee.

The meeting is expected to be "a watershed" in sharing evidence on how to use science to accelerate health coverage, he added.

Over 1,300 researchers from 100 countries will gather to provide evidence-based information to policymakers on how to expand the reach of healthcare systems in developing countries.

WHO endorses MODS, NRI and CRI to assess TB in resource-limited settings

In a policy statement by the World Health Organization on July 2010, MODS, CRI, and NRA assays have been given the vote of confidence by the international agency for use by laboratory officials and health care providers for diagnosis of MDR-TB (multi-drug resistant tuberculosis) cases.

Colorimetric redox indicator (CRI) methods comprise growing Mycobacterium tuberculosis isolates in conventional culture. A microscopically observed drug susceptibility (MODS) assay comprises observing micro-colony growth and typical cord-formation of M. tuberculosis in sealed microtitre plates containing liquid culture medium, through an inverted microscope. Nitrate reductase assay (NRA), on the other hand, involves a direct test on smear-positive sputum specimens and an indirect test on M. tuberculosis isolates grown from conventional solid culture.

All three methods exhibit high specificity and sensitivity. These criteria, among others, have led the WHO to recommend the use of selected non-commercial culture and DST methods as an interim solution in resource-constrained settings, under clearly defined programmatic and operational conditions, while capacity for genotypic and/or automated liquid culture and DST are still being developed.

Reference: World Health Organization. 2010, July. Non-Commercial Culture And Drug-Susceptibility Testing Methods For Screening Of Patients At Risk Of Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis: Policy Statement. Retrieved November 15, 2010. Accessed at http://www.who.int/tb/dots/laboratory/whopolicy_noncommercialculture_and_dstmethods_july10.pdf.

Mixed success in science for developing world, says UNESCO

Developing countries more than doubled their output of scientific publications between 2002 and 2008, but their share of patent applications remained extremely low. Mico Tatalovic reports on SciDev.Net.

The developing world's share of science publications rose from a fifth to nearly a third during this time, according to the 'UNESCO Science Report 2010: Current Status of Science around the World'.

The report, published today (10 November), assessed the number of publications recorded in Thomson Reuters' Science Citation Index between 2002 and 2008, during which the total number of global science publications increased by around 35 per cent.

Much of the increase in the developing world is because of the growth of Brazil, China and India. The report found that least developed countries (LDCs), a subset of developing countries, have also increased their publications output — by 80 per cent. But this is from the starting point of 2,000 papers a year, compared with the total developing country output of 165,000 papers, and thus represents only 0.4 per cent of the world's total output.

Why has the Global Forum for Health Research collapsed?

Poor countries striving to improve their health systems deserve better than the unexplained implosion of the Global Forum for Health Research. Beverly Peterson Stearns reports on SciDev.Net.

Barely a year ago nearly 1,000 people from 80 countries gathered enthusiastically at the Palacio de Convenciones in Havana, Cuba, under the banner 'Innovating for the health of all'. More than half came from low- and middle-income countries. They were attending the annual meeting  of the non-profit organisation the Global Forum for Health Research (GFHR), eager to hear about inventive and effective ways to conduct research, and urgently seeking to improve health in their countries.

Now, less than a year after taking office, the forum's executive director, Anthony Mbewu, has resigned, and the forum itself is in failing health. The prognosis is poor. Very few remain in its Geneva secretariat. Many employees have quit, been fired, or have retired early.

Time for explanations

Why did this international organisation, set up in 1998, founder so spectacularly and so quickly when the need for health research remains so great? More importantly, what now are the prospects for ordinary people in developing countries? They pinned their hopes on local leaders in health and research who, in turn, sought guidance from experts at the annual forums.

South Africa's Sunday Times, which reported Mbewu's resignation on 31 October, said that his appointment as head of the forum had drawn criticism from HIV/AIDS activists. They had charged Mbewu, the former president of South Africa's Medical Research Council, with supporting the Mbeki government's denial of HIV and AIDS.

But in Havana the controversy was largely unrecognised. Mbewu responded to a reporter's question about the criticisms saying, "I'm a researcher, not an activist." At the time, that seemed a sufficient answer for his fellow health researchers too. They seemed satisfied that Mbewu's appointment by the forum — a respected organisation originally set up under the auspices of the WHO — meant his qualifications had been well-vetted.

A year on, many of the health leaders and researchers who gathered in Havana will convene in Montreux, Switzerland, at the First Global Symposium on Health Systems Research (16–19 November).  Will any of them probe the GFHR's collapse — or will they politely not mention it?

The Foundation Council, the forum's policy- and decision-making body, should bear responsibility for explaining what has happened to this small but once-vibrant organisation, to which so many from developing countries looked for guidance. But the responsibility is not theirs alone. The entire health research community has a duty to not turn a blind eye to the forum's failure.

A betrayal of trust?

I was in Havana as a freelance writer drafting a report on that meeting, similar to others I wrote for the Forum about  previous meetings in Mexico City (2004), Mumbai (2005), Cairo, (2006), Beijing (2007) and Bamako (2008). The great strength of these annual meetings was making well-known health researchers, public health experts, economists and innovators accessible to the people who need their help the most.

The meetings were moved each year to a new venue. That allowed field workers, students, community physicians and academics in some of the world's poorest countries to attend. There were a few large plenary sessions and many small group sessions that encouraged interaction. Even people without computers could be part of this network.

Impressive young people from poor countries sat in discussion groups next to rich entrepreneurs, respected academics and government decision-makers, all talking about problems held in common. I listened with growing optimism that progress in global health could come through collaboration that reached across the divides of poverty, borders, and politics.

The meetings' official programmes highlighted the Millennium Development Goals; combating disease and poverty; equitable access; capacity building and health systems; and innovation.

But discussions ranged much further and deeper, covering subjects some countries would rather not have highlighted: an obesity epidemic in Mexico, crushing poverty in India, female genital mutilation in Egypt, HIV/AIDS in China, counterfeit drugs in Africa, and embargoes and naturopathic medicines in Cuba. Each annual meeting was, in the fullest sense of the word, a forum.

I was astonished by how quickly and quietly the health of the GFAR deteriorated.  I heard reports as the staff diminished.  I read that employees were bringing lawsuits alleging unfair dismissal.  Gill Samuels, chair of the forum's 20-member foundation council, confirmed in an email to me that Mbewu had resigned. But she denied that there are legal cases pending. "Nothing else to add at the moment," she wrote in answer to my query.

Nothing to add? I hope there will soon be a considerable amount to add. Samuels, who comes from the pharmaceutical industry, and the others who sit on the council and come from foundations, universities, governments and institutes, are responsible for appointing the director and overseeing the forum's budget and plan of action.

Their explanations — or lack of them — will affect the credibility not only of the forum, but of any existing or future organisation seeking the trust of researchers and of those depending on them.

Beverly Peterson Stearns is a freelance writer and author. She lives in the United States.

Reference: Stearns, B. 2010. Why has the Global Forum for Health Research collapsed? Retrieved November 15, 2010. Accessed at SciDev.Net's website at: http://www.scidev.net/en/opinions/why-has-the-global-forum-for-health-research-collapsed-.html.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

AIDS Vaccine for Asia Network (AVAN): Expanding the Regional Role in Developing HIV Vaccines

Kent SJ, Cooper DA, Chhi Vun M, Shao Y, Zhang L, et al. (2010) AIDS Vaccine for Asia Network (AVAN): Expanding the Regional Role in Developing HIV Vaccines. PLoS Med 7(9): e1000331. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000331

The HIV/AIDS pandemic continues to spread and an AIDS vaccine is urgently needed. While facing unprecedented challenges, AIDS vaccine development activities are continuing around the globe. Recent results of the Thai Phase III vaccine trial are renewing such efforts. In accordance with the goals of the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise, there is now clear recognition of the role that regional alliances can play in fostering and facilitating AIDS vaccine development, and there is broad agreement that international collaborations are the most effective way forward to develop and evaluate the next generation of AIDS vaccine candidates.

In response to these challenges, the Asian region has recently formed the AIDS Vaccine for Asia Network (AVAN).

AVAN has been initiated to meet these needs and actively facilitate the development of a regional AIDS vaccine strategy that accelerates research and development of an AIDS vaccine through government advocacy, improved coordination and harmonization of research; develops clinical trial and manufacturing capacity; supports ethical and regulatory frameworks; and ensures community participation.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Scripps researchers develop new detection test for river blindness parasite

Innovation will help eliminate tropical malady

In a press release by the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, california, the institute announced that its scientists have developed the first screening method that rapidly identifies individuals with active river blindness, a parasitic disease that afflicts an estimated 37 million people. The test could change the current strategy of mass treatment in areas where river blindness, also known as onchocerciasis, is suspected.

The study was published online on October 5, 2010, by the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

"A sensitive and reproducible diagnostic test for this disease is crucial for the success of worldwide control and elimination programs," said Kim Janda, Ph.D., a professor in the Departments of Chemistry and Immunology and Microbial Science, member of The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology, and director of The Worm Institute for Research and Medicine (WIRM) at Scripps Research. "This diagnostic tool could be a game-changer for how the disease will be treated in the future."

Judith Denery, Ph.D., a senior research associate in the Janda laboratory and the paper's first author, adds, "Because current tests often give false negatives, they are unreliable indicators of infection. For organizations such as the World Health Organization and others working to eliminate the disease, this lack of accuracy is frustrating, time-consuming, and costly."

Enhanced Detection, Diagnosis of Leishmaniasis in Bangladesh

Mondal D, Nasrin KN, Huda MM, Kabir M, Hossain MS, et al. (2010) Enhanced Case Detection and Improved Diagnosis of PKDL in a Kala-azar-Endemic Area of Bangladesh. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 4(10): e832. doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0000832

To support the Bangladesh National Kala-azar Elimination Programme (NKEP), the group investigated the feasibility of using trained village volunteers for detecting post-kala-azar dermal leishmaniasis (PKDL) cases, using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for confirmation of diagnosis and treatment compliance by PKDL patients in Kanthal union of Trishal sub-district, Mymensingh, Bangladesh.

In this cross-sectional study, Field Research Assistants (FRAs) conducted census in the study area, and the research team trained village volunteers on how to look for PKDL suspects. The trained village volunteers (TVVs) visited each household in the study area for PKDL suspects and referred the suspected PKDL cases to the study clinic. The suspected cases underwent physical examinations by a qualified doctor and rK39 strip testing by the FRAs and, if positive, slit skin examination (SSE), culture, and PCR of skin specimens and peripheral buffy coat were done. Those with evidence of Leishmania donovani (LD) were referred for treatment. All the cases were followed for one year.

The total population of the study area was 29,226 from 6,566 households. The TVVs referred 52 PKDL suspects. Probable PKDL was diagnosed in 18 of the 52 PKDL suspect cases, and PKDL was confirmed in 9 of the 18 probable PKDL cases. The prevalence of probable PKDL was 6.2 per 10,000 people in the study area. Thirteen PKDL suspects self-reported from outside the study area, and probable and confirmed PKDL was diagnosed in 10 of the 13 suspects and in 5 of 10 probable PKDL cases respectively. All probable PKDL cases had hypopigmented macules. The median time for PKDL development was 36 months (IQR, 24–48). Evidence of the LD parasite was documented by SSE and PCR in 3.6% and 64.3% of the cases, respectively. PCR positivity was associated with gender and severity of disease. Those who were untreated had an increased risk (odds ratio = 3.33, 95%CI 1.29–8.59) of having persistent skin lesions compared to those who were treated. Patients' treatment-seeking behavior and treatment compliance were poor.

Improved detection of PKDL cases by TVVs is feasible and useful. The NKEP should promote PCR for the diagnosis of PKDL and should find ways for improving treatment compliance by patients.

External Quality Control Assessment for the Molecular Diagnosis of Dengue Infections

Domingo C, Niedrig M, Teichmann A, Kaiser M, Rumer L, et al. (2010) 2nd International External Quality Control Assessment for the Molecular Diagnosis of Dengue Infections. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 4(10): e833. doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0000833

Currently dengue viruses (DENV) pose an increasing threat to over 2.5 billion people in over 100 tropical and sub-tropical countries worldwide. International air travel is facilitating rapid global movement of DENV, increasing the risk of severe dengue epidemics by introducing different serotypes. Accurate diagnosis is critical for early initiation of preventive measures. Different reverse transcriptase PCR (RT-PCR) methods are available, which should be evaluated and standardized. Epidemiological and laboratory-based surveillance is required to monitor and guide dengue prevention and control programmes, i.e., by mosquito control or possible vaccination (as soon as an effective and safe vaccine becomes available).

The purpose of the external quality assurance (EQA) study described is to assess the efficiency and accuracy of dengue molecular diagnosis methods applied by expert laboratories.

Study Design
A panel of 12 human plasma samples was distributed and tested for DENV-specific RNA. The panel comprised 9 samples spiked with different DENV serotypes (DENV-1 to DENV-4), including 10-fold dilution series of DENV-1 and DENV-3. Two specificity controls consisted of a sample with a pool of 4 other flaviviruses and a sample with chikungunya virus. A negative control sample was also included.

Thirty-seven laboratories (from Europe, Middle East Asia, Asia, the Americas/Caribbean, and Africa) participated in this EQA study, and reports including 46 sets of results were returned. Performance among laboratories varied according to methodologies used. Only 5 (10.9%) data sets met all criteria with optimal performance, and 4 (8.7%) with acceptable performance, while 37 (80.4%) reported results showed the need for improvement regarding accomplishment of dengue molecular diagnosis. Failures were mainly due to lack of sensitivity and the presence of false positives.

The EQA provides information on each laboratory's efficacy of RT-PCR techniques for dengue diagnosis and indicates for most laboratories an urgent need to improve sensitivity and specificity.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

New dermal patch delivers influenza vaccine for needle phobics

PVP microneedles confer better immunity compared to intramuscular injections in mice.

Researchers from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia have developed a new method for influenza prophylaxis, published in Nature Medicine [1].

Sullivan et al. has fabricated plastic microneedles made of polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP) to encapsulate a dried form of inactivated influenza virus. The microneedles penetrate the skin up to the portion of the dermis where antigen-presenting cells are present, and where PVP encapsulation dissolves and releases the influenza vaccine.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

New incentives offered for solutions to current biomedical challenges

Innocentive, an open innovation company, has opened up new challenges in the field of biomedicine on its website. Among them are to find:
  • urinary biomarkers for lupus nephritis
  • novel therapeutic concepts to treat cancer
  • novel detection technologies for cellular metabolites
  • non-destructive delivery of macromolecules to live tissues
  • predictive models for segmentation of populations (for applications in clinical trials for drug development)
  • strategies to maintain fully differentiated human primary renal proximal tubular epithelial cells
  • strategies for differentiation of renal proximal tubular cells from hES or hiPS cells

If you or your laboratory are planning or currently working on brilliant solutions to these challenges, you have a big chance to win 10,000-50,000 US dollars, or even up to 1,000,000 US dollars.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Influence of Age, Sex, Ethnicity and IgE on Human Exposure and Immunity to Schistosomiasis Infections

Pinot de Moira A, Fulford AJC, Kabatereine NB, Ouma JH, Booth M, et al. (2010) Analysis of Complex Patterns of Human Exposure and Immunity to Schistosomiasis mansoni: The Influence of Age, Sex, Ethnicity and IgE. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 4(9): e820. doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0000820

Numerous factors may influence Schistosoma infection intensity and prevalence within endemic communities, including exposure-related factors such as local environment and behaviour, and factors relating to susceptibility to infection such as immunology and genetics. While animal studies performed in the laboratory can be tightly controlled, human populations are highly heterogeneous, varying according to demographic characteristics, genetic background and exposure to infection. The heterogeneous nature of human water contact behaviour in particular makes it difficult to distinguish between a lack of cercarial exposure and reduced susceptibility to infection as the cause for low levels of infection in the field.

Methods and Principal Findings

In this study we investigate risk factors for Schistosoma mansoni infection in a rural Ugandan fishing community receiving treatment as part of a multi-disciplinary longitudinal reinfection study. More specifically, we examine the influence that age, sex and ethnic background have on susceptibility to reinfection after anti-helminth drug treatment, but use individual estimates of cercarial exposure and multivariable methods in an attempt to remove noise created by environmental and behavioural heterogeneities. We then investigate whether schistosome-specific IgE immune responses could account for any remaining variations in susceptibility to reinfection. Our findings suggest that observed ethnic- and sex-related variations in S. mansoni reinfection were due to variations in cercarial exposure, as opposed to biological differences in susceptibility to infection. Age-related differences in reinfection were not explained by exposure, however, and appeared linked to the balance of IgE and IgG4 to the tegumental antigen SmTAL1 (formerly Sm22.6), which itself was significantly related to resistance to reinfection.


This study highlights the benefit of taking a multidisciplinary approach in complex field settings; it allows the ecology of a population to be understood and thus more robust conclusions to be made.

Material reposted under the Creative Commons License.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Multi-Country Evaluation of Two Commercial Dengue Diagnostic Kits

Guzman MG, Jaenisch T, Gaczkowski R, Ty Hang VT, Sekaran SD, et al. (2010) Multi-Country Evaluation of the Sensitivity and Specificity of Two Commercially-Available NS1 ELISA Assays for Dengue Diagnosis. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 4(8): e811. doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0000811

Early diagnosis of dengue can assist patient triage and management and prevent unnecessary treatments and interventions. Commercially available assays that detect the dengue virus protein NS1 in the plasma/serum of patients offers the possibility of early and rapid diagnosis.

Methodology/Principal Findings

The sensitivity and specificity of the Pan-E Dengue Early ELISA and the Platelia™ Dengue NS1 Ag assays were compared against a reference diagnosis in 1385 patients in 6 countries in Asia and the Americas. Platelia was more sensitive (66%) than Pan-E (52%) in confirmed dengue cases. Sensitivity varied by geographic region, with both assays generally being more sensitive in patients from SE Asia than the Americas. Both kits were more sensitive for specimens collected within the first few days of illness onset relative to later time points. Pan-E and Platelia were both 100% specific in febrile patients without evidence of acute dengue. In patients with other confirmed diagnoses and healthy blood donors, Platelia was more specific (100%) than Pan-E (90%). For Platelia, when either the NS1 test or the IgM test on the acute sample was positive, the sensitivity versus the reference result was 82% in samples collected in the first four days of fever. NS1 sensitivity was not associated to disease severity (DF or DHF) in the Platelia test, whereas a trend for higher sensitivity in DHF cases was seen in the Pan-E test (however combined with lower overall sensitivity).


Collectively, this multi-country study suggests that the best performing NS1 assay (Platelia) had moderate sensitivity (median 64%, range 34–76%) and high specificity (100%) for the diagnosis of dengue. The poor sensitivity of the evaluated assays in some geographical regions suggests further assessments are needed. The combination of NS1 and IgM detection in samples collected in the first few days of fever increased the overall dengue diagnostic sensitivity.

Material reposted under the Creative Commons License.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Companies join forces in war on disease

As complex diseases grow more expensive to treat, and treatments increasingly expensive to develop, more companies may be looking at an innovative model set up last year by two of the biggest of Big Pharma.

Last November, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Pfizer created ViiV Healthcare, a joint venture focusing on the research, development and commercialisation of HIV medicines. Pfizer's chief executive, Jeff Kindler, said ViiV had the capability to “reach more patients and accomplish much more for the treatment of HIV globally than either company on its own”. The new joint venture will use revenue from its existing HIV treatments, which totalled some £1.6 billion (US$2.38 billion) in 2008, to support investment in its pipeline and programmes.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Organizational Meeting 2nd Video

Organizational Meeting of Country Coordinators
Pan Pacific Manila, Philippines
October 21, 2009

Create your own video slideshow at animoto.com.

Organizational Meeting 1st Video

Organizational Meeting of Country Coordinators
Pan Pacific Manila, Philippines
October 21, 2009

Create your own video slideshow at animoto.com.

Identification of Attractive Drug Targets in Neglected-Disease Pathogens Using an In Silico Approach

Crowther GJ, Shanmugam D, Carmona SJ, Doyle MA, Hertz-Fowler C, et al. (2010) Identification of Attractive Drug Targets in Neglected-Disease Pathogens Using an In Silico Approach. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 4(8): e804. doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0000804

Increased sequencing of pathogen genomes and the subsequent availability of genome-scale functional datasets are expected to guide the experimental work necessary for target-based drug discovery. However, a major bottleneck in this has been the difficulty of capturing and integrating relevant information in an easily accessible format for identifying and prioritizing potential targets. The open-access resource TDRtargets.org facilitates drug target prioritization for major tropical disease pathogens such as the mycobacteria Mycobacterium leprae and Mycobacterium tuberculosis; the kinetoplastid protozoans Leishmania major, Trypanosoma brucei, and Trypanosoma cruzi; the apicomplexan protozoans Plasmodium falciparum, Plasmodium vivax, and Toxoplasma gondii; and the helminths Brugia malayi and Schistosoma mansoni.

Methodology/Principal Findings

Here we present strategies to prioritize pathogen proteins based on whether their properties meet criteria considered desirable in a drug target. These criteria are based upon both sequence-derived information (e.g., molecular mass) and functional data on expression, essentiality, phenotypes, metabolic pathways, assayability, and druggability. This approach also highlights the fact that data for many relevant criteria are lacking in less-studied pathogens (e.g., helminths), and we demonstrate how this can be partially overcome by mapping data from homologous genes in well-studied organisms. We also show how individual users can easily upload external datasets and integrate them with existing data in TDRtargets.org to generate highly customized ranked lists of potential targets.


Using the datasets and the tools available in TDRtargets.org, we have generated illustrative lists of potential drug targets in seven tropical disease pathogens. While these lists are broadly consistent with the research community's current interest in certain specific proteins, and suggest novel target candidates that may merit further study, the lists can easily be modified in a user-specific manner, either by adjusting the weights for chosen criteria or by changing the criteria that are included.

Material reposted under the Creative Commons License.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Targeting HIV at its source

Promising cure for HIV induces apoptosis, targets infected cells in vitro

Current HIV treatments do not eradicate HIV from host cells but rather inhibit virus replication and delay the onset of AIDS. However, a new research published in BioMed Central's open access journal, AIDS Research & Therapy describes an innovative approach to eliminate HIV in host by targeted killing of only HIV infected cells. This approach if successful could lead into an anti-HIV therapy that will eradicate the virus.

On infection, HIV spreads through the human body after the viral DNA is incorporated into the genome of host cells. Current Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapies (HAART) work by blocking HIV replication at various steps but does not eliminate the infected cells. Now, Professors Abraham Loyter, Assaf Friedler and their colleagues at Hebrew University, Jerusalem, focussed on the elimination of infected cells.

Effects of global health initiatives on national health systems

Recent Global Health Initiatives (GHI) have been created to address single disease issues in low-income countries, such as neonatal tetanus, poliomyelitis, trachoma, etc. Empirical evidence on the effects of such GHIs on local health systems remains scarce.

This study by Dormael and colleagues explored positive and negative effects of the Integrated Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) Control Initiative, comprising mass preventive chemotherapy for five targeted NTDs, on Mali's health system where it was first implemented in 2007.

The paper offered that disease-specific interventions implemented as parallel activities in fragile health services may further weaken their responsiveness to community needs, especially when several GHIs operate simultaneously. Health system strengthening will not result from the sum of selective global interventions but requires a comprehensive approach.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

MRSA-lysing paint for hospital walls

Building on an enzyme found in nature, researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have created a nanoscale coating for surgical equipment, hospital walls, and other surfaces which safely eradicates methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), the bacteria responsible for antibiotic resistant infections.

In tests, 100 percent of MRSA in solution were killed within 20 minutes of contact with a surface painted with latex paint laced with the coating.

The new coating marries carbon nanotubes with lysostaphin, a naturally occurring enzyme used by non-pathogenic strains of Staph bacteria to defend against Staphylococcus aureus, including MRSA. The resulting nanotube-enzyme "conjugate" can be mixed with any number of surface finishes — in tests, it was mixed with ordinary latex house paint.

Zooming into this wormy world

A set of informational maps displaying prevalence and distribution of worm infections in each African country was launched 17 August. This Wormy World, with URL at www.thiswormyworld.org, is the first of a series of Global Atlas of Helminth Infections that provides an open-access, free information resource vital for planning and implementation of deworming programs.

This Wormy World identifies areas in a country that most urgently require mass treatment to control infection and predicts the risk of infection in areas where data is lacking. The Global Atlas of Helminth Infections has been produced by an international collaboration lead by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Partnership for Child Development at Imperial College London. For a decade, the group has been gathering survey data to describe the distribution and prevalence of worm infection.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Promoting a reward scheme for public health innovation

Will offering a hefty cash prize to inventing entities bring more innovative strategies to long-standing world challenges? Some say it will, and indeed it has. A recent Economist article cited a burgeoning sector in the private commercial air-space service after the successful $10M Ansari X prize was given out in 2004.

Such a reward scheme has been a practice since 1714 in Britain. The question begs, will it work in the public health sector? It remains to be seen, such as with the Advanced Market Commitment (AMC)'s $1.5-billion challenge to beef up production of pneumococcal vaccines to supply developing countries.

Further, why not come up with a parallel punishment mechanism? If research institutes are so adamant in requesting for initial funding, why have we not seen such eagerness to promote their supposed output? I wonder.

1. The Economist. (2010, August 5).
And the winner is…
3. The Global Health Case Study Initiative.

4. WHO Bulletin. (2008, May 5).
Controversial funding mechanism to fight pneumonia.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The art of funding science

Finding the appropriate funding for modern science is an important topic. The availability of money can drive scientific inquiry just as powerfully as curiosity or necessity can.

Several TEDTalks discuss this often-hidden driver of scientific research. Highly recommended is the TEDTalk from medical activist Michael Milken. In his work fighting prostate cancer, Milken has developed a groundbreaking approach to funding medical research to get significant, near-term results.

Look, too, to Alan Russell for a searing vision of how current research is funded. After sharing 15 minutes of jaw-dropping stories about regenerative medicine, he outlines in 3 brisk minutes the politics behind why the United States is slow to fund this work.

And Peter Diamandis of the X Prize shares his vision of a bold new kind of research funding, based on a big idea and a big reward.

More: Antonio Giordano, a cancer researcher at Temple University in Philadelphia, had a vision to help some brilliant Italian cancer researchers work within the US's comparatively well-funded research system. Where did he go for seed money? From the pizza magnate Mario Sbarro, who then helped build a creatively-funded research effort with Temple University, the Sbarro Health Research Organization.

Material reposted from the TED Blog under the Creative Commons License.

Creative strategies for obtaining informed consent in rural clinical trials

David Diemert of George Washington Unversity and his collaborators in Brazil used an informational video to explain a hookworn vaccine trial in the rural community of Minas Gerais in Southeastern Brazil. The group measured attitudes, fears, and perceptions through a structured questionnaire before and after the clinical trial.

In the paper, they observed that video materials were a successful tool among patients in resource-limited populations to increase understanding about the purpose of vaccination and possible adverse effects of a novel vaccine under study. Although more than 90% said that they would participate in a hookworm vaccine trial, an increase in the number who expressed fear of being vaccinated with an experimental vaccine was seen after viewing the video (51.4% post-video versus 29.2% pre-video).

The group concluded that educational tools can be specially designed to significantly improve understanding and likelihood of obtaining truly informed consent for participation in clinical research.

read full article: Gazzinelli, et al. 2010. CT educ thru analogies

Material reposted under the Creative Common License.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Nature Asia Pacific releases 2009 index

The Nature Publishing Group (NPG) Nature Asia-Pacific has pioneered an effort to rank the research output of institutions in the Asia Pacific region with the release of the Nature Asia-Pacific Publishing Index.

The index provides data on the number of primary research articles published in Nature journals by institutions from the Asia-Pacific region, India, and Australasia. The Nature Asia-Pacific Publishing Rankings 2009 is the first print issue of this ambitious and pioneering project.

According to a written introduction by David Swinbanks, publishing director and CEO of NPG Nature Asia-Pacific, the index also displays "rankings by country, institution and research journal as well as historical data by country extending back to 1998. This historical data shows the dramatic rise of output of high quality research from some countries in region, in particular China".

The 2009 report is free for download at http://www.natureasia.com/en/publishing-index/2009/. Unregistered users of the site are advised to sign up for free.

disease burden correlates with national IQ

Christopher Eppig and colleagues made an intriguing proposition that infections and parasites affect brain development.

In the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Eppig's paper argues that national intelligence is correlated negatively with the national rate of infectious disease. Support is provided by correlation and linear modelling techniques. The graph shows the position of countries included in the study in terms of disease burden and national IQ level.

Like all other hypotheses for causation, these proposals must be taken with a grain of salt. Further studies must be done to establish causation, such as by longitudinal studies on the rate of infectious disease over time.

It has been previously theorized that national differences on intelligence may explain the differences in economic development of rich and poor countries. Now, policymakers is provided some evidence that lack of development itself, e.g., inadequate social welfare and health provisions, may explain the difference in intelligence.

read full article: Eppig, C. et al. 2010. Parasite prevalence and the worldwide distribution of cognitive ability

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

At last, malaria-free mosquitoes

by Patrick Reilly, July 16, 2010

In a study published on July 15 in PLoS Pathogens, researchers demonstrate how to genetically alter mosquitoes so they no longer transmit the Plasmodium falciparum parasite, which causes malaria in humans.

read full PLoS Pathogens article: Riehle, et al. 2010. Akt activation in Anopheles mosquitoes

AIDS 2010 Session: The Search for an HIV Vaccine

The Search for an HIV Vaccine
Where Are We, Where Are We Going, and How Can We Get There Faster?

session transcript (pdf): The Search for an HIV Vaccine

This AIDS 2010 satellite features expert discussion on recent progress and future directions in HIV vaccine research and development. The session includes:

* a review of the last 25 years of HIV vaccine research and development;

* a panel discussion on the progress that's been made including discussions on next steps following the RV144 Thai prime-boost study results and in developing the next generation of vaccine candidates for testing;

*an update on the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise Scientific Strategic Plan for the field; and

*a panel discussion on the way forward, which will consider some of the cross-cutting considerations such as industry engagement, developing world infrastructure, community engagement, opportunities for young and early-career investigators, mobilizing resources and building clinical trial and regulatory capacity.

Online coverage of XVIII International AIDS Conference in Vienna

The International AIDS Society partners with Kaiser Family Foundation to offer daily, comprehensive coverage of the ongoing conference for free. Worldwide online access to the XVIII International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2010) taking place in Vienna, Austria on July 18-23, 2010 includes daily webcasts, live coverage, podcasts and news recaps.

Kaiser, an independent operating foundation and non-partisan source of facts, information, and analysis, based in Menlo Park, CA, USA, is the official webcaster for AIDS 2010, providing daily coverage of conference developments on its website, http://www.kff.org/aids2010.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

US NIH Funds 10 International Centers of Excellence for Malaria Research

Thursday, July 8, 2010
Courtesy: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

In an effort to accelerate the control of malaria and help eliminate it worldwide, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, today announced approximately $14 million in first-year funding to establish 10 new malaria research centers around the world.

The seven-year awards will establish the International Centers of Excellence for Malaria Research (ICEMRs) in regions where malaria is endemic, including parts of Africa, Asia, the Pacific Islands and Latin America. These regions include some of the focus countries of the President’s Malaria Initiative, an effort that since 2005 has worked to fight malaria in the regions most affected by the disease. Infection by malaria-causing parasites results in approximately 240 million cases around the globe annually, and cause more than 850,000 deaths each year. Teams of scientists involved in the ICEMR program will be conducting research in more than 20 countries.

“One of our primary goals with these centers is to fund cutting-edge research in malaria-endemic areas that will keep up with the rapidly changing epidemiology of the disease,” says NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D.

Malaria has been eliminated from many parts of the globe, but 40 percent of the world’s population still live in areas where they are at risk for contracting the disease. According to Lee Hall, M.D., Ph.D., chief of the Parasitology and International Programs Branch in NIAID, sustainable and effective malaria control requires research in multiple settings on the complex interactions among the parasite, the mosquito vector, the local ecology and the human host.

“The ICEMR program seeks to address this need by creating a network of multidisciplinary research centers in malaria-endemic settings,” Dr. Hall says. “The centers aim to generate critical knowledge, tools and evidence-based strategies to support intervention and control programs by government organizations and health care institutions.”

The centers will integrate clinical and field approaches with laboratory-based immunologic, molecular and genomic methods. They will adapt their research to changes in malaria epidemiology and emerging research needs as well as opportunities within the specific regions. Their findings are expected to help inform how new interventions and control strategies are designed and evaluated in the future.

Each center will:

* Design and conduct multidisciplinary research on the epidemiology, transmission and pathogenesis of malaria in endemic geographic regions

* Design and conduct special projects to capitalize on new opportunities and emerging public health needs

* Develop and conduct training and career development programs for researchers from malaria-endemic areas

Overall, these centers are expected to bring critical infrastructure to these endemic regions and help build training and research capacity to combat malaria worldwide.

The principal investigators selected to establish the ICEMRs are as follows:

Malaria Transmission and the Impact of Control Efforts in Southern Africa
Principal Investigator: Peter Agre, M.D.
Lead Institution: Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore

Center for the Study of Complex Malaria in India
Principal Investigator: Jane Carlton, Ph. D.
Lead Institution: New York University School of Medicine, New York City

Southeast Asia Malaria Research Center
Principal Investigator: Liwang Cui, Ph.D.
Lead Institution: Pennsylvania State University, University Park

Program for Resistance, Immunology, Surveillance & Modeling of Malaria in Uganda
Principal Investigator: Matthew Dorsey, M.D.
Lead Institution: University of California, San Francisco

Latin American Center for Malaria Research and Control
Principal Investigator: Socrates Herrera-Valencia, M.D.
Lead Institution: Caucaseo Scientific Research Center, Cali, Colombia

Research to Control and Eliminate Malaria in SE Asia and SW Pacific
Principal Investigator: James Kazura, M.D.
Lead Institution: Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland

Population-based Approach to Malaria Research and Control in West Africa
Principal Investigator: Donald Krogstad, M.D.
Lead Institution: Tulane University, New Orleans

Malaria Evolution in South Asia
Principal Investigator: Pradipsinh Rathod, Ph. D.
Lead Institution: University of Washington, Seattle

Determinants of Malaria Disease in Malawi
Principal Investigator: Terrie Taylor, D.O.
Lead Institution: Michigan State University, East Lansing

Peruvian/Brazilian Amazon Center of Excellence in Malaria
Principal Investigator: Joseph Vinetz, M.D.
Lead Institution: University of California, San Diego

Philippine FDA reminds consumers against herbals without label

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in Manila issued an advisory on July 06 against herbal products having no labels.

Ang FDA ay nakatanggap ng mga salaysay o reklamo ukol sa paggamit ng mga PRODUKTONG HERBAL NA WALANG LABEL na nagdulot ng masamang epekto sa tao. Ang publiko ay pinaaalalahanan na mag-ingat at huwag uninom o gumamit ng mga produktong ito (FDA has received complaints regarding unlabeled herbal products. Everyone is reminded to be wary and not to take these products)," according to Advisory 2010-007 signed by FDA Director Nazarita Tacandong.

Further, the advisory warns the public that products not registered with FDA may have no proof of safety or scientific basis of therapeutic effect. "Hindi rehistrado sa FDA ang mga produktong herbal na ito kung kaya walang siyentipikong pagsasaliksik at dokumentadong mga patunay na ligtas at epektibo ang paggamit nito".

This comes a month since FDA in Manila has given full support to Administrative Order 2010-0008 of the Department of Health (DOH), which informed the public that food/dietary supplements are not drugs and should not be used to treat disease.

In requiring manufacturers to translate "No Approved Therapeutic Claims" into Filipino in herbal product labels, the herbal industry through CHIPI (Chamber of Industries of the Philippines, Inc) immediately filed a petition before the Manila Regional Trial Court. Judge Lucia Purugganan then issued a preliminary injunction order to temporarily stop the DOH directive and maintain the status quo until the issue will have been resolved by the two parties.

Read DOH-FDA Advisory 2010-007

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

aseandi.org goes online

ASEAN Network for Drugs, Diagnostics, and Vaccine Innovation

The website-database of ASEANDI (ASEAN Network for Drugs, Diagnostics, and Vaccine Innovation) was launched online last July 06, 2010. The website, aseandi.org, contains recent information on research activities in the ASEAN region on infectious and tropical diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, leprosy, dengue, trichosomiasis, among others.

Meanwhile, watch out for the upcoming ASEAN-wide stakeholders meeting where research producers, funders, and regulators come together to discuss the business plan and general direction of ASEANDI. More news in the coming weeks.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Addressing clinical research gaps in developing world

Outsourcing clinical trials in emerging markets is a rising trend in the pharmaceutical industry. While such study sites offer distinct advantages for infectious diseases and diseases of poverty, gaps in resources must be addressed, particularly training, experience, critical thinking, and professional recognition of clinical trialists, to increase capacity and quality of clinical studies done in Africa and elsewhere.

Also, ICH-GCP 1996 guidelines are subject to sponsor's interpretation, and Western standards on data quality and ethics are not often appropriate for local research sites in the developing world. A pilot collaborative programme at pilot.globalhealthtrials.org has been created to promote country-based trials in developing countries covering a broad range of disease or condition.


Read full article: Lang, et al. 2010. Clinical research in resource-limited setting

Material rewritten under the Creative Commons license.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

TED Talks: James Nachtwey raises public awareness of XDR TB

Photodocumentator James Nachtwey shares powerful images taken by his camera as he travels to Thailand, Siberia, India and other places around the world. He reminds us of the tragedy of tuberculosis and the threat of the extensively drug resistant variety.

TED Talks: James Nachtwey fights XDRTB

[ted id=360]

Material reposted from TED.com under the Creative Commons license.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Philippine tech transfer act signed into law

The Office of the Philippine President has officially enacted RA 10055 (An Act Providing the Framework and Support System for the Ownership, Management, Use, and Commercialization of Intellectual Property Generated from Research and Development Funded by Government and for Other Purposes), or simply the Philippine Technology Transfer Act of 2009. It was signed by President Arroyo last March 23,2010 at the Malacanang Palace.

The law stipulates the Department of Science and Technology, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines, and all related agencies to come up with implementing rules and regulations (IRR) to establish the system for technology transfer in the Philippines.

Said act will enable government-funded researches by local public and private R&D institutions to have government-aided commercialization prospects through the creation of a Technology Licensing Office. The law also encourages all R&D institutions to set up their own tech transfer units.

read its entire length: Republic Act 10055 (pdf)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Increased Availability Accelerates Drug Resistance

Noble efforts to increase accessibility of drugs for TB, malaria, and HIV to the developing world has yielded a dreaded side effect: increasing drug resistance.

In the newly published report, "The Race Against Drug Resistance" by the Center for Global Development, a non-governmental organization based in Washington, data reveals that millions of children die in developing countries each year from drug resistant diseases, and the death toll and dollar costs will continue to rise.

Rachel Nugent, chair of the expert working group of this report, quips, "Drug resistance develops naturally, but careless practices in drug supply and use are hastening it unnecessarily".

read full article: Combating Drug Resistance

download CGD report: CGD. 2010. against drug resistance

Monday, June 14, 2010

ASEAN harmonizes pharmaceutical standards, to benefit consumers

Member countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) have agreed to harmonize existing pharmaceutical regulations in the region, with the aim to help free trade in the region. Delegates from all over ASEAN convened at the 16th ASEAN consultative committee for standards and quality-pharmaceutical product working group (ACCSQ-PPWG) meeting in Manila last May 25-29, 2009. This is in alignment with the objective of the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA).

Friday, June 11, 2010

Scare study raises measles, mumps incidence in UK

The Economist writes how a single published case series in Lancet in 1998 was ballooned by media hype and stirred doubt among Britons on MMR vaccine effectivity. In the following years, cases of measles and mumps spiked in England. After a decade, the link between MMR vaccination and behavioral disorder has not been proven, and Dr. Wakefield was struck off the UK medical register in May 2010.

Involving the Corporate Sector in Disease Control

The Economist writes that the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GBC) believes in the increasing importance of public-private partnerships (PPPs). No government or NGO in the developing world will succeed in fighting HIV, malaria, or TB on its own. One successful PPP model was initiated with Pfizer's network of sales reps and Washington DC's health department. Indeed, to quote, "at the end of the day, it is everybody’s business”.

read full article: Altogether now: Enlisting business to fight HIV

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

TED Talks: Whitesides invents lab on a chip

Traditional lab tests for disease diagnosis can be too expensive and cumbersome for the regions most in need. George Whitesides' ingenious answer, at TEDxBoston, is a foolproof tool that can be manufactured at virtually zero cost.

George Whitesides: A lab the size of a postage stamp

Material reposted from TED.com under the Creative Commons license.

TED Talks: Garrett recalls lessons from the 1918 flu

In 2007, as the world worried about a possible avian flu epidemic, Laurie Garrett, author of "The Coming Plague," gave this powerful talk to a small TED University audience. Her insights from past pandemics are suddenly more relevant than ever.

Laurie Garrett on lessons from the 1918 flu

Material reposted from TED.com under the Creative Commons license.

TED Talks: Vertes looks into the future of medicine

Eva Vertes -- only 19 when she gave this talk -- discusses her journey toward studying medicine and her drive to understand the roots of cancer and Alzheimer’s.

Eva Vertes looks to the future of medicine

Material reposted from TED.com under the Creative Commons license.

TED Talks: Mullis designs potential cure for difficult infections

Drug-resistant bacteria kills, even in top hospitals. But now tough infections like staph and anthrax may be in for a surprise. PCR developer and Nobel-winning chemist Kary Mullis, who watched a friend die when powerful antibiotics failed, unveils a radical new cure that shows extraordinary promise.

Kary Mullis' next-gen cure for killer infections

Material reposted from TED.com under the Creative Commons license.

TED Talks: Larry Brilliant calls for pandemic control

Accepting the 2006 TED Prize, Dr. Larry Brilliant talks about how smallpox was eradicated from the planet, and calls for a new global system that can identify and contain pandemics before they spread.

Larry Brilliant wants to stop pandemics

Material reposted from TED.com under the Creative Commons license.

TED Talks: Pisani Rationalizes the Wisdom of Whores

Armed with bracing logic, wit and her "public-health nerd" glasses, Elizabeth Pisani reveals the myriad of inconsistencies in today's political systems that prevent our dollars from effectively fighting the spread of HIV. Her research with at-risk populations -- from junkies in prison to sex workers on the street in Cambodia -- demonstrates the sometimes counter-intuitive measures that could stall the spread of this devastating disease.

Elizabeth Pisani: Sex, drugs and HIV -- let's get rational

Material reposted from TED.com under the Creative Commons license.

Monday, June 7, 2010

TED Talks: Hans Rosling's View on HIV and AIDS

Hans Rosling reveals the beauty of statistics in unraveling the complex risk factors of one of the world's most misunderstood diseases: HIV/AIDS. He argues that preventing transmissions -- not drug treatments -- is the key to ending the epidemic.

Hans Rosling on HIV: New facts and stunning data visuals

Material reposted from TED.com under the Creative Commons License.

TED Blog: Hans Rosling and the world's most important trends

TEDBlog had a chat with Hans Rosling, the extraordinary global health professor that makes data come alive. He had his third TEDTalk and again wowed us all, explaining complex information with animated graphs and quite a humor. In this interview, he delves into his theories on concurrency and AIDS transmission, our ideological ruts, and developing the Obama-meter!

Q&A with Hans Rosling: A deeper look at AIDS transmission and disease stats

TED Talks: Seth Berkley on the smart vaccine strategy

In this TED Talk, Seth Berkley explains the genetic diversity of influenza and HIV, retrovaccinology, and smart vaccine design and delivery which will bring us closer than ever to eliminating a host of global threats -- from malaria to AIDS to flu pandemics.

TED Talk: Seth Berkley: HIV and flu - the vaccine strategy

Material reposted from TED.com under the Creative Commons License.

TED Blog: Seth Berkley and His Search for an AIDS Vaccine

TED Blog talked to epidemiologist and founder of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), Seth Berkley. He told the story of the beginnings of IAVI, exploring why different decisions have historically been made in response to the HIV pandemic and explaining why a vaccine makes sense today. Read on to understand how we've progressed in the way that we think about treating AIDS and other global-scale viruses.

Q&A with Seth Berkley: The search for an AIDS vaccineQ&A with Seth Berkley: The search for an AIDS vaccine

Friday, June 4, 2010

Studying psychological effects of toxoplasmosis in the 21st century

The Economist Magazine. 2010. Toxoplasmosis and psychology: A Game of Cat and Mouse


Compelling research on Toxoplasma gondii's genes for dopamine-synthesizing enzymes sparks creative speculation on the nature of toxoplasmosis. More pieces of evidence are presented from odd behaviors of infected mice and correlates between national mental state and burden of infection.

Plan of Action for NTD Control, Elimination

This PLoS NTD editorial article provides several arguments that the fight against NTDs can be forwarded more successfully. While more health products are made accessible, proper national leadership and strategic global efforts are ever more crucial for NTD control epecially in developing countries.

pdf: Hotez & Pecoul, 2010. manifesto for NTD control

Hotez PJ, Pecoul B (2010) ‘‘Manifesto’’ for Advancing the Control and Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 4(5): e718. doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0000718

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Which New Approaches to Tackling Neglected Tropical Diseases Show Promise?

This PLoS Medicine Debate examines the different approaches that can be taken to tackle neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Some commentators, like Jerry Spiegel and colleagues from the University of British Columbia, feel there has been too much focus on the biomedical mechanisms and drug development for NTDs, at the expense of attention to the social determinants of disease. Burton Singer argues that this represents another example of the inappropriate “overmedicalization” of contemporary tropical disease control. Peter Hotez and colleagues, in contrast, argue that the best return on investment will continue to be mass drug administration for NTDs.

Spiegel, et al 2010. PLoS Medicine 7(5):e1000255

Spiegel JM, Dharamsi S, Wasan KM, Yassi A, Singer B, et al. 2010 Which New Approaches to Tackling Neglected Tropical Diseases Show Promise?. PLoS Med 7(5): e1000255. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000255

Monday, May 31, 2010

Map of Health Research in the Philippines

Below is a Google map of  institutions in the Philippines that are involved in funding, undergoing, and monitoring health-related research and pharmaceutical development.

View target respondents in a larger map

ASEAN Subcommittee on Biotechnology Approves Establishing a Regional Innovation Network

On its 40th meeting in Bali, Indonesia, the ASEAN Sub-Committee on Biotechnology endorsed the proposal for the mapping activity on Infectious Tropical Diseases in ASEAN member countries.  It is grounded on the idea that collaboration in the mapping of the product R&D is essential in the establishment of an ASEAN Network for Drugs and Diagnostics Innovation (ASEANDI), which is a way to promote innovation and enhance progress in product discovery and development in the region.