Also In Global Health News: GM Mosquitoes; Iodine Deficiency In Nepal; South African Health Workers Strike; Novartis To Build Vaccine Plant In Brazil; Population Control In Niger

Malaysia Considers GM Mosquito Release To Control Dengue Fever

Malaysia is still “considering releasing” up to 3,000 mosquitoes that are genetically modified to “combat dengue fever, in a landmark field trial that has come in for criticism from environmentalists,” Agence France-Presse reports. The insects are modified “so that their offspring quickly die,” which researchers hope will cull the population and lessen the risk of dengue. The idea has been studied in the lab in Malaysia since 2006 and the “government is seeking public feedback before moving to the next step.” Gurmit Singh, head of the Centre for Environment, Technology and Development, said, “There are a lot of risks involved,” adding that once the mosquitoes are released “you have no control and it can create more problems than solving them.” AFP reports that dengue “has historically been found in tropical regions, particularly in urban and semi-urban areas, but has spread in recent years to colder and higher places and is now endemic in more than 100 countries” (Yi, 8/29).

Lancet Reports On Iodine Deficiency Disorders In Nepal

Although the prevalence of iodine deficiency disorders (IDDs) has been declining in Nepal, “recent data suggest that not only have IDDs not yet been fully eradicated, but also that previous progress might have even reversed,” according to a Lancet World Report. The article examines the results of the Micronutrient Initiative, which revealed that “27.4% of school-age children in Nepal have IDD” and the difficulty of getting salt to rural communities, where “90% of the country’s 28 million people live.” The article also looks at the importance of IDD in maternal health and efforts to monitor rates in school children (Siva, 8/28).

Health Workers Strike In South Africa Could Disrupt HIV/AIDS Treatment

Some doctors and advocates are concerned that a nationwide health worker strike in South Africa could interrupt the treatment of patients with HIV/AIDS, the Associated Press reports (Bryson, 8/26). Times LIVE’s “Tracking HIV” blog reports that over “a million South Africans are on ARVs and disrupting their treatment could jeopardise their health and increase the risk of drug resistance.” The South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) has appealed for health workers to ensure the strike does not hamper the ability of patients living with life-threatening diseases to access medications (Keeton, 8/26). SANAC “acknowledges the right of health workers to take industrial action. However, we are concerned that people who are reliant on the public health sector for medical care are being turned away, and in some cases intimidated, when presenting themselves for re-stocking of their medication,” the group said, according to SAPA/Daily News (8/27).

Novartis To Build Latin America’s First Vaccine Factory In Brazil

“The Swiss pharmaceutical group Novartis plans to build Latin America’s first vaccine factory in Brazil with an investment of 300 [million] to 500 million dollars, the financial daily Valor reported,” according to Agence France-Presse. The plant is expected to begin producing vaccines for “domestic and foreign markets” in early 2014. In addition to the country’s political stability, “Brazil’s strong intellectual property law and solid policies to prevent disease through a well regarded vaccination program also were draws, [Novartis’s Brazil director Alexander Triebnigg] said” (8/26).

IRIN Examines Population Growth, Control In Niger

The population of Niger “is growing at an unsustainable rate, according to the authorities and civil society groups,” IRIN writes. If the country maintains its 3.3 percent growth rate, the population will balloon from 15.2 million currently to 50 million in 2050, the news service reports. Niger is currently facing “widespread malnourishment,” and “[n]early 60 percent of the population survives on less than a dollar a day.” Ide Djermakoye, president of the local family planning NGO Nigerian Organization for the Development of Human Potential (ONDPH) said, “This is a humanitarian emergency. We have no future without birth control.” The article also looks at efforts to promote contraception and involving “men and religion” in family planning (8/26).

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