“Multidrug-resistant [tuberculosis (TB)] is at epidemic proportions in some parts of the world — a growing problem the U.S. is surprisingly unprepared for,” the Wall Street Journal reports. Noting “[t]he U.S. beat back multidrug-resistant tuberculosis [MDR-TB] in the 1990s,” the newspaper continues, “Today, however, a new threat is emerging as drug resistance worsens abroad and far more dangerous strains develop and spread, including some that are all but untreatable with standard drugs.” The Wall Street Journal examines reasons behind a resurgence of MDR-TB in the U.S., treatment and control efforts, and how “funding and expertise are in decline” (12/19).
PEPFAR will purchase up to 150 rapid tuberculosis (TB) Xpert testing devices and cartridges to test about 450,000 people for TB, “addressing a need to improve diagnoses of drug-resistant strains of disease, and to identify the disease in HIV-positive people in sub-Saharan Africa and Myanmar, the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator announced” Tuesday, the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports. “The investment is part of an ongoing effort,” according to the blog, which notes, “The announcement of the program’s added investment in the Cepheid Xpert tests, following the pre-World AIDS Day release last week of PEPFAR’s blueprint for creating an AIDS-free generation backs the plan’s stated purpose of applying evidence-based approaches and scientific advances to confront the global HIV epidemic” (Barton, 12/4).
Noting “there is a huge ‘cancer divide’ between rich and poor,” with more than half of new cancer cases and almost two-thirds of all cancer deaths occurring in developing countries, this year’s World Cancer Day theme, “Together It Is Possible,” “calls on all individuals, organizations and governments to do their part to reduce premature deaths from cancers by 25 percent by 2025,” Felicia Knaul, secretariat for the Global Task Force on Expanded Access to Cancer Care and Control in Developing Countries, and Jonathan Quick, president of Management Sciences for Health, write in a Huffington Post opinion piece. “But there have been four myths that have held back cancer care and control in developing countries,” they write.
“Researchers have identified a mysterious new disease that has left scores of people in Asia and some in the United States with AIDS-like symptoms even though they are not infected with HIV,” the Associated Press reports. “This is another kind of acquired immune deficiency that is not inherited and occurs in adults, but doesn’t spread the way AIDS does through a virus, said Dr. Sarah Browne, a scientist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases,” who “helped lead the study with researchers in Thailand and Taiwan where most of the cases have been found since 2004,” according to the news service. “Researchers are calling this new disease an ‘adult-onset’ immunodeficiency syndrome because it develops later in life and they don’t know why or how,” AP writes, adding, “The fact that nearly all the patients so far have been Asian or Asian-born people living elsewhere suggests that genetic factors and something in the environment such as an infection may trigger the disease, researchers conclude” (Marchione, 8/22).
Diagnostics company Cepheid on Monday signed deals with PEPFAR, USAID, UNITAID, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to immediately reduce the price of its Xpert MTB/RIF test kit for its GeneXpert tuberculosis (TB) diagnostic system in 145 countries, Reuters reports. “The agreements will see the test sold for $9.98, down from its current price of $16.86 per test,” the news service writes, adding, “Cepheid said the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will make an initial payment of $3.5 million to make the test immediately available at the lower price” (Ail, 8/6).
The number of confirmed or suspected cases of Ebola in Uganda has risen to 36, according to a WHO spokesperson, who added the disease remains confined to the rural Kibaale district, NPR’s health blog “Shots” reports. “A team, led by the CDC, WHO and Uganda’s Ministry of Health, are now on the scene to determine the scope of the outbreak and then control it,” according to the blog (Doucleff, 7/31). CNN’s “The Chart” blog reports that 14 people have died of the disease, which has a 25 to 90 percent fatality rate in African outbreaks, according to a WHO fact sheet (7/31).
“Over diagnosis and mistreatment of malaria in central and south Asia may be widespread, leading to the neglect of other serious illnesses, according to a new study from Afghanistan,” published in the British Medical Journal last month, SciDev.Net reports. “Because malaria in this region is rare and mainly caused by a less dangerous form of the disease … overtreatment may actually be worse for public health than it is in Africa or South-East Asia,” the study says, according to the news service. “Researchers assessed the accuracy of malaria diagnoses and treatment for over 2,300 patients with suspected malaria at 22 clinics in northern and eastern Afghanistan” and “found that a large proportion of patients with negative microscopy slides were still being prescribed antimalarial treatment.” “This meant that the real causes of these diseases went untreated,” the news service writes, adding, “The findings contradict a common assumption that there is a greater risk of malaria being missed than over diagnosed in this region of low malaria prevalence, compared with Africa or South-East Asia” (Yusufzai, 8/13).
The South African “government plans to bring down new HIV infection rates to zero in the next 20 years, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said on Saturday” at a World Tuberculosis (TB) Day even at the Goldfields mine in Carletonville, Gauteng, SAPA/Independent Online reports. “He said the National Strategic Plan for HIV, TB and sexually transmitted infections (STI) would aim [to] eliminat[e] new HIV and TB infections, mother-to-child HIV infections, and have zero preventable deaths as well as discrimination associated with” HIV and TB, according to the news agency (3/26). Motlanthe also “launched a plan to diagnose tuberculosis in the country’s gold mines, where the disease’s incidence is the highest in the world,” Agence France-Presse writes, adding, “Motlanthe said the goal was to ‘ensure that all mine workers, particularly in the gold mining sector, are screened and tested for TB and HIV over the next 12 months'” (2/24).
Speaking on Saturday at a World Tuberculosis (TB) Day event, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “called for a global effort to diagnose and treat tuberculosis,” United Press International reports (3/24). According to the WHO, 8.8 million people contracted TB in 2010, and 1.4 million people died of the disease, primarily in low and middle-income countries, CBS News’ “Health Pop” blog notes (Castillo, 3/24). “Let us vow to end the neglect of TB and to end deaths from this disease in our lifetime,” Ban said, adding, “It is critical to support those who lack the means to respond with the care and treatment they need to enjoy healthy and productive lives. … With the right interventions, we can make a major difference,” according to the U.N. News Centre (3/24).
Philippines Health Department Reports 72% Increase In Number Of HIV Cases Recorded In February 2012 Versus 2011
“Philippine health authorities diagnosed 274 people with new cases of HIV/AIDS in February this year, the health department said, adding the new figure represented a 72 percent rise compared with 159 cases reported in February 2011,” Gulf News reports. According to the health department, 235 of the cases were attributed to sexual transmission, and more than half of those were among men who have sex with men, the news service notes. The presidential palace requested that Health Secretary Enrique Ona implement an information campaign to spread awareness of how to prevent HIV infection, according to Gulf News (Dacanay, 3/28). Department of Health spokesperson Eric Tayag “told ANC [news service] that this year alone, the agency is spending more than P315 million [$7.3 million] to fund services and distribute medicines to combat the virus,” ANC/ABS-CBNnews.com notes (3/28).