KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

FDA Approves Experimental Zika Test To Be Used On Blood Donations In Areas With Active Transmission

New York Times: FDA Clears Use of New Test to Screen Blood Donations for Zika
“The Food and Drug Administration announced Wednesday that it would allow the use of an experimental test to screen blood donations for contamination with the Zika virus…” (Saint Louis, 3/30).

Reuters: FDA permits use of Roche test to screen donated blood for Zika
“…The test, manufactured by a New Jersey-based unit of Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding AG, may be used for screening donated blood in areas with active mosquito-borne transmission of Zika virus, the FDA said…” (Grover, 3/30).

Wall Street Journal: FDA Allows Zika Test for Blood Donations
“…Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said the screening test is an important step in maintaining the blood supply’s safety, especially in U.S. territories experiencing active transmission…” (Steele, 3/30).

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Early Ultrasounds Might Not Detect Zika-Related Microcephaly; MRI Scans Could Be Better Predictor, Study Says

News outlets report on a study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine describing a case of fetal abnormality detection in a pregnant woman with Zika infection.

NPR: Pregnant Women May Be Able To Get Answers About Zika Earlier
“…The case — published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine — offers insights into how Zika infects a fetus and suggests ways women may be able to find out earlier whether babies will have birth defects. … [W]ith this new case, doctors could see brain abnormalities by MRI before there were signs of microcephaly…” (Doucleff, 3/30).

Reuters: Early ultrasounds may not detect microcephaly in mothers with Zika: study
“… ‘What our paper suggests is that physicians should use caution in reassuring patients who have normal fetal ultrasound examinations early in their pregnancies,’ said Adre du Plessis, director of the Fetal Medicine Institute at Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C., a coauthor of the study published on Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. Du Plessis said single ultrasounds may not capture infection-associated fetal brain abnormalities that may worsen over the course of the pregnancy…” (Steenhuysen, 3/30).

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Scientists Using Fetal Tissue Research, Genome Mapping To Answer Questions About Zika Virus

Nature: Zika highlights role of controversial fetal-tissue research
“A protein that helps Zika virus infect adult skin cells might also give the virus access to stem cells that make brain cells, suggests a study carried out on donated human fetal tissue. The result — published [Wednesday] in Cell Stem Cell — is part of a growing body of research that seeks to determine how Zika might cause birth defects, but that requires a type of tissue that is increasingly controversial for researchers in the United States…” (Hayden, 3/30).

New York Times: Team of Rival Scientists Comes Together to Fight Zika
“With the Zika virus spreading largely unchecked in Latin America and the Caribbean by way of a now-notorious insect, some of the nation’s leading mosquito researchers are striving to assemble a state-of-the-art DNA map that they say will help them fight the disease with the mosquito’s own genetic code…” (Harmon, 3/30).

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NPR Speaks With Experts About How To Eradicate Aedes Mosquitoes

NPR: A Starry-Eyed 4-Step Guide To Wiping Out A Mosquito
“…Most scientists we interviewed, as it turns out, would be all right with saying goodbye to the species. Aedes aegypti carries other deadly diseases harmful to humans, like yellow fever and dengue. Animals don’t depend on this species as a major food source, and the critters don’t pollinate plants. And anyway, they’re an invasive species, infiltrating our cities, where they thrive. So we asked experts: Do we have the means to get rid of a species of mosquito? And if they were in charge, how would they do it?…” (Gharib, 3/30).

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Devex Interviews FAO Deputy Director-General About Agency's Zika Response

Devex: FAO: Against Zika virus, no one can fight alone
“…Devex spoke to Food and Agriculture Organization Deputy Director-General Maria Helena Semedo about her personal experience with the [Zika] virus and FAO’s recommendations to minimize the threat by reducing the spread of the virus…” (Donelli, 3/30).

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Brazil's Number Of Dengue Cases Up 50% Over Last Year; Disease's Spread Outpacing Zika Virus

Wall Street Journal: Dengue Outpaces Zika in Brazil
“While global health agencies struggle to tame the rapidly spreading Zika virus, an older and deadlier pathogen is straining medical providers and setting record infection levels in Brazil: dengue. … The number of dengue cases nationwide this year through February 20, the most recent data available, rose to 300,980, nearly 50 percent higher than for same period last year…” (Johnson/Jelmayer, 3/31).

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Apps Track Dengue, Zika Cases; Developer Wants Google's Help To Provide Better Data

New Scientist: Dear Google, please help us use our data to beat dengue and Zika
“…[Steven Barnes, who lives in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur,] has created an app called Fight Dengue that tells users if anyone nearby has the disease. If so, they know they should take extra precautions to avoid being bitten. Barnes built the app for personal use, but it has gathered 400 users since he made it freely available. He has created another app called Fight Zika to track the disease currently sweeping through South America, and plans to create one for malaria. … But Barnes wants to make them a more powerful tool for preventing disease by using information about where people have been to pinpoint where people are getting infected. To do that, he’s calling on Google to help…” (Le Page, 3/30).

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7 Dead Of Ebola In Latest Outbreak In Guinea

Agence France-Presse: Death toll rises to 7 in Guinea Ebola outbreak
“A resurgence of Ebola in a rural Guinean community has killed seven people, health officials said Wednesday, even as the World Health Organization voiced confidence that remaining isolated cases could be contained…” (3/30).

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The Atlantic Examines Persistence Of Ebola In Survivors' Eyes

The Atlantic: Is Ebola Hiding in the Eyes of Survivors?
“…In the aftermath of the epidemic, almost half of over 15,000 West African Ebola survivors have exhibited new ophthalmic symptoms that, left untreated, can lead to severe uveitis (inflammation of the eye), cataracts, and blindness. In Sierra Leone, where an already-weak health system has been leveled by the outbreak, ophthalmological capacity is dismal — the country of six million people has just three ophthalmologists. And the nightmare is magnified by a frightening curveball: the possibility that live Ebola virus could be replicating in the eyes of discharged Ebola survivors, pleading to be disrupted by instruments and released back into the population…” (Baumgaertner, 3/30).

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Yemen's Health, Educational, Social Structures Devastated 1 Year Into Saudi Intervention In Civil War

Washington Post: The tragic story of a dead baby shows the terrible toll of Yemen’s war
“…This week marked the grim and largely unnoticed anniversary of the Saudi intervention into Yemen’s civil war. … ‘The infrastructure, the health structure, the education structure and, in many ways, more importantly, the social structure have just been devastated,’ Barbara Bodine, former U.S ambassador to Yemen, told NPR…” (Tharoor, 3/31).

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Megacities' Crowded Conditions Increase Likelihood Of Climate-Related Diseases

SciDev.Net: Megacities worsen climate-prone diseases
“Crowded conditions in developing world megacities can dramatically increase the effect of climate on infectious diseases, say researchers. … [T]he study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week (28 March), found that a higher baseline of rotavirus infection in the congested core of [Dhaka, Bangladesh,] appears to make it far more sensitive to flood-driven outbreaks than the suburbs — resulting in a regular second peak during the warm monsoon months…” (Gent, 3/31).

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Editorials and Opinions

International Collaboration Essential For Successful Response To Zika, Other Disease Outbreaks

New England Journal of Medicine: The Zika Challenge
Charlotte Haug, international correspondent for the NEJM; Marie-Paule Kieny, assistant director general for health systems and innovation at the WHO; and Bernadette Murgue, project manager of the WHO R&D Blueprint

“…Many lessons learned from the response to the recent Ebola outbreak have helped in the response to the ZIKV outbreak. Most important, there is general agreement on the need for international collaboration on regulatory issues, research, and data sharing. … We are working in a new area with many unknowns. But as the WHO meeting showed, there is ample experience and expertise from work with other viruses and vectors — ranging from basic science to field work and surveillance — to guide clinical practice, research, and product development. It is critical that we collaborate rather than compete to find answers to the questions that worry millions of women of child-bearing age in areas where ZIKV is spreading rapidly and may become endemic” (3/30).

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Women's Rights Must Move Beyond Rhetoric To Implementing 'Concrete Actions'

Devex: Women’s equality and inclusive peace need to move beyond talk
Simone Filippini, CEO of Cordaid

“…[O]n the ground, that’s where the battle for women’s rights is being fought and where real progress is and needs to be made. It’s also where funding is needed most. … Instead of annually pooling funds for the official [Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)] meeting and organizing 650 side events, let’s reallocate those resources to concrete implementation of the commitments made and fund women organizing community mediation, economic enterprises, dialogue on gender-based violence, and many more initiatives that have direct impact on the ground. … [Civil society organizations (CSOs)], including women’s rights movements, have so much potential to change societies for the better. But that means we need funding, capacity building, and concrete actions against those who repress people helping their countries and communities blossom…” (3/30).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

Search Continues For Reliable Way To Measure HIV Incidence To Evaluate Interventions

Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks”: Search is on for quick and accurate measures of HIV incidence to assess impacts of interventions
Antigone Barton, senior writer and editor of “Science Speaks,” discusses the challenges of measuring HIV incidence to assess the impact of interventions such as DREAMS (3/30).

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Partnership In Colombia Aims To Control, Prevent, Eliminate 5 NTDs In Vaupés Region

Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases’ “End the Neglect”: Tackling Five NTDs in Colombia’s Amazonia Region
“…The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, in partnership with the AbbVie Foundation and Sinergias — Alianzas Estratégicas para la Salud y el Desarrollo Social, with support from the Colombian Ministry of Health and provincial and local health staff, supported a project to control, prevent, and eliminate” five neglected tropical diseases (NTDs): trachoma, soil-transmitted helminths (STHs), scabies, tungiasis, and pediculosis from the Colombian province (3/29).

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