Disease Diagnosis/Detection

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Smartphones Cheaper, More Effective Than Paper Surveys For Disease Monitoring, Study Suggests

“Using smartphones is cheaper and more effective than using paper surveys to monitor diseases in the developing world, according to a new study by Kenyan researchers with the [CDC] … presented Monday at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases in Atlanta,” the International Business Times reports. “The study compared 1,019 paper-based questionnaires to 1,019 smartphone questionnaires collected at four sample sites for influenza surveillance in Kenya,” the news service notes (3/12).

Narcotic Drug Use Should Be Treated As Illness, U.N. Drug Office Director Says

“Prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, reintegration and health have to be recognized as key elements in our strategy” to fight drug demand, supply and trafficking, U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime Executive Director Yuri Fedotov said Monday at the opening session of the U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna, United Press International reports. Fedotov added, “Overall, our work on the treatment side must be considered as part of the normal clinical work undertaken when responding to any other disease in the health system,” according to UPI (3/12). “He called on countries to recognize that drug dependence, which claims some 250,000 lives annually, is an illness,” the U.N. News Centre writes (3/12).

Misconception That Syphilis Has ‘Disappeared’ Presents Major Impediment To Preventing Infant Deaths

In this Globe and Mail opinion piece, columnist Andre Picard examines the efforts of a new group, the Global Congenital Syphilis Partnership — which includes the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Save The Children, the CDC, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and the WHO — to “make screening for syphilis a routine part of pregnancy care with the goal of eliminating congenital syphilis.” Picard writes, “According to the World Health Organization, some 2.1 million women with syphilis give birth every year,” and notes, “Almost 70 percent of their babies are stillborn, and many of the rest suffer from low birth weight (putting them at great risk for a host of illnesses), hearing loss, vision loss and facial deformities.”

Scientists At Seattle Conference Discuss Progress, Obstacles In Fight Against HIV/AIDS

“Scientists, stymied for decades by the complexity of the human immunodeficiency virus, are making progress on several fronts in the search for a cure for HIV infections,” but “[a] major stumbling block is the fact that HIV lies low in pools or reservoirs of latent infection that even powerful drugs cannot reach, scientists told the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, one of the world’s largest scientific meetings on HIV/AIDS,” in Seattle last week, Reuters reports. “Promising tactics range from flushing hidden HIV from cells to changing out a person’s own immune system cells, making them resistant to HIV and then putting them back into the patient’s body,” the news service writes.

Global Burden Of Disease Revision Covers 225 Health Conditions, 50 Risk Factors

At a plenary session Thursday at the 19th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, Christopher Murray of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) “presented preliminary data from the 2010 revision of the Global Burden of Disease,” which “is aimed at analyzing global health trends to quantify the comparative magnitude of health loss due to diseases, injuries and risk factors by age, sex and geography for specific points in time,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the study is a collaboration of IMHE, the University of Queensland, the WHO, and the Harvard and Johns Hopkins Schools of Public Health, according to the blog, which notes that the analysis of 225 health conditions and more than 50 risk factors is expected to be published this year and made available to the public online (Lubinski, 3/8).

Challenges To Achieving An AIDS-Free Generation

In a plenary presentation at the 19th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Seattle on Wednesday, Dorothy Mbori-Ngacha of UNICEF examined the challenges to reaching the goal of an AIDS-free generation, by “eliminat[ing] 90 percent of HIV infections among children by 2015,” and “outlined the four pillars of achieving that goal,” including preventing HIV among women, preventing unintended pregnancies, preventing mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT), and supporting HIV-positive women and their families, the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” reports. She called for strengthening family planning programs in the context of PMTCT, prioritizing “pregnant women for access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) or microbicides,” implementing strategies to initiate and care for women in treatment programs, and intervening early in pregnancy, according to the blog (Lubinski, 3/7).

Enhanced Linkage-To-Care Strategy Helps HIV Patients Receive, Remain In Care, Study Shows

At the 19th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) on Wednesday, Gabriel Chamie of the University of California, San Francisco “discussed outcomes in a routine linkage-to-care strategy versus and an enhanced strategy for accelerated antiretroviral therapy (ART) start in rural Uganda,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports. In the study, a higher percentage of people who were offered the enhanced strategy received follow-up care, began ART, and remained in care, and “Chamie highlighted the need for enhanced linkage to care efforts for patients at all CD4 cell counts,” according to the blog (Mazzotta, 3/7).

Ugandan Government Draws Up Response Plan To Combat ‘Nodding Disease’

The Ugandan government is creating a “wide-ranging response plan” to “nodding disease, a mysterious ailment characterized by seizures, nodding of the head, mental retardation and stunting, which affects thousands of children in [northern Uganda],” IRIN reports. The WHO has recorded 3,097 cases of the disease and at least 170 deaths, often caused by starvation “because the condition makes it impossible to eat,” the news service writes.

South Africa Announces Initiative To Test Thousands Of Miners For TB

“South Africa wants to test hundreds of thousands of miners for tuberculosis [TB] and ensure sufferers get treatment over the next year,” David Mametja, head of South African National Department of Health’s TB program, said Tuesday at a workshop organized by the Stop TB Partnership, the Associated Press/Washington Post reports. Mametja “said the government is concerned the high prevalence of the disease among miners is holding an entire region back in the fight against TB,” and that while “it may be impossible to reach the nearly 600,000 miners in South Africa in one year, even those at highest risk in the gold industry, … setting an ambitious target is a way to show ‘it’s not business as usual,'” the AP writes.

Zimbabwe’s Mugabe Urges Lawmakers To Be Tested For HIV, Publicly Reveal Status As Part Of New Initiative

In an announcement launching the Zimbabwe Parliamentarians Against HIV (ZIPAH) in Harare on Thursday, Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe said since he came to office in 1980 “quite a number of” his cabinet ministers have died of AIDS-related causes, and he challenged government officials to get tested for HIV and publicly reveal their status, the Zimbabwean reports (3/1). Chaired by lawmaker Blessing Chebundo, ZIPAH “aims to end HIV transmission among legislators and increase cooperation with other groups,” according to VOA News, and “so far 175 parliamentarians, including 25 staff members, have joined the program.” Chebundo “said the first public testing will take place in two months,” the news service notes.