“Health officials in southern China are proposing new legislation to require real-name registration for HIV testing, a move aimed at lowering infection rates that has sparked controversy over personal privacy,” the Wall Street Journal’s “China Real Time Report” blog reports. It notes that China’s Xinhua News Agency recently reported that the legislation, proposed in China’s Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, also would mandate people testing positive for HIV must inform their spouses and partners.
“Scientists have come up with a test for the virus that causes AIDS that is 10 times more sensitive and a fraction of the cost of existing methods, offering the promise of better diagnosis and treatment in the developing world,” Reuters reports. “The test uses nanotechnology to give a result that can be seen with the naked eye by turning a sample red or blue, according to research from scientists at Imperial College in London published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology,” the news agency writes (Wickham, 10/28). “The test can be configured to a unique signature of a disease or virus — such as a protein found on the surface of HIV,” and if the marker is present, a chemical reaction causes a blue result and a red result if the marker is not present, according to BBC News. “Early testing showed the presence of markers of HIV and prostate cancer could be detected,” BBC News notes, adding, “However, trials on a much larger scale will be needed before it could be used clinically” (Gallagher, 10/28).
A new pilot project in Cambodia is allowing more than 3,000 volunteer health workers to use a special mobile phone text messaging service to report new cases of malaria, in addition to providing no-cost testing and treatment “in remote parts of the impoverished nation, where access to health services can be difficult,” Agence France-Presse reports. When a person tests positive for malaria, health workers begin them on treatment immediately and send a text message with the patient’s age, gender, type of malaria, and location “to the district health center, provincial health officials and a national malaria database in the capital Phnom Penh — a process that used to take a month,” AFP notes. “The information is also fed into Google Earth to create a map of reported cases and of potential hotspots of [malaria drug] resistance,” a problem in western Cambodia, according to the news service. “Together, the data helps officials track each case and make sure the right treatment is available or that more medication is supplied when stocks are running low,” AFP writes, adding, “Some 230 volunteers have used the mobile phone service so far and there are plans to eventually include all volunteers in the project,” which is being implemented by the Malaria Consortium (Se, 9/17).
Global Health Funding Cuts Threatening Fight Against HIV, TB In Eastern Europe, Central Asia, NGO Report Says
The fight against HIV and tuberculosis (TB) in Eastern Europe and Central Asia is being threatened by cuts in global health funding, according to “a report [.pdf] by leading European non-governmental health organizations,” Reuters reports. In the report, “experts called on the European Union to step in to fill the gaps left by global donors to countries within and neighboring its borders,” the news service notes. According to Reuters, “[c]ountries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia have some of the world’s fastest growing HIV epidemics,” and “Europe is also home to the world’s highest documented rates of drug-resistant TB” (Kelland, 9/18).
Researchers from South Africa and South Korea are developing a smartphone-based device and application able to “photograph and analyze blood samples in areas far from laboratories to diagnose HIV and even measure the health of [patients’] immune systems,” Agence France-Presse reports. The device, called Smartscope, is a small microscope that clips over a phone’s camera and holds a standard chip with a blood sample, the news service notes, adding the camera then photographs the sample and the application analyzes the photo to produce a CD4 cell count. “The team hopes that trials in clinics may start next year,” according to AFP (8/31).
In this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Christine Rousseau, a program officer at the foundation, describes the importance of diagnostics in HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis (TB) care and treatment and writes, “This brings me to the tremendous role that China’s entrepreneurs can play as partners in global health. China is a country with a huge capacity for innovation as well as the resources required to create new products. We believe that China is uniquely positioned to develop new health technologies that can benefit people in the developing world faster and more effectively than product developers elsewhere.” She notes “the HIV and TB teams of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will be presenting the business case for a new generation of diagnostics to Chinese researchers, product developers, and investors at the China Diagnostics Conference in Shanghai on September 25 and 26” (9/24).
Al Jazeera examines how “[a] series of public-health campaigns, including more aggressive screening, have been credited with a drop in tuberculosis [TB] cases in Kenya” in this video report. “The screening and treatment program, regarded as one of the best in the developing world, is credited with taking the rate of TB infections in the East African country from a high of 116,000 in 2006 to 106,000 last year,” but not without “an economic and political price,” the news service reports. “For TB screening and treatment programs to be effective, supply chains for drugs and equipment and proper training for staff and administrative back-up must be in place,” Al Jazeera reports (Greste, 1/9).
Researchers in this PLoS Medicine article examine the efforts necessary to reach the WHO goal of reducing mother-to-child HIV transmission (MTCT) risk to less than five percent in Zimbabwe. They conclude, “Implementation of the WHO [prevention of MTCT (PMTCT)] guidelines must be accompanied by efforts to improve access to PMTCT services, retain women in care, and support medication adherence throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding, to approach the ‘virtual elimination’ of pediatric HIV in Zimbabwe,” according to the study (Ciaranello et al., 1/10). A Massachusetts General Hospital press release states the research “should help with the planning of expanded programs to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission in sub-Saharan Africa and other areas with limited health resources” (1/10).
In a January 17 statement, India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare “dismissed reports that a form of incurable tuberculosis [TB] has arrived in the country,” saying “that a team of doctors sent by the ministry found that seven of the patients are responding to treatment” and the cases would be classified and managed as extremely drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB), Nature News Blog reports (Jayaraman, 1/19). “Earlier, doctors in Mumbai said 12 patients had a ‘totally drug resistant’ form of TB, and three had died,” according to BBC News. “A WHO official in India told the BBC that there is no recognized case of totally drug resistant TB anywhere in the world,” the news service writes (1/20).
Health Officials Working To Identify Respiratory Illness Responsible For Deaths Of More Than 60 Cambodian Children
WHO and Cambodian health officials are investigating “the source of an unidentified illness” — characterized by high fevers, severe respiratory problems, “and in some cases neurological symptoms” — that has killed more than 60 children in the country since April, NPR’s health blog “Shots” reports (Hensley, 7/5). “The undiagnosed syndrome has been reported in 67 hospital patients since April, 66 of whom have died, said Aphaluck Bhatiasevi, a WHO spokeswoman, in a telephone interview from Phnom Penh today,” Bloomberg writes, adding, “It’s unlikely influenza is the cause, she said” (Gale, 7/6). To date, only one of the children admitted to hospital has survived the unknown disease, the Wall Street Journal notes.