Global News Round-Up

Politics & Policies

A report by The Johns Hopkins – Lancet Commission on Public Health and International Drug Policy calls for governments to reevaluate policies on the global war on drugs.  The report argues the policies have negatively contributed to public health, human rights, and development, while minimally impacting the drug markets or drug use among drug offenders.  It calls for a focus on scientifically based evidence and public health during policy discussions.

Programs

The 21st International AIDS Conference will be held from July 18-22 in Durban, South Africa.  This year’s theme: Access Equity Rights Now.

Research

A new PLOS (Public Library of Science) collection named “Grand Convergence: Aligning Technologies and Realities in Global Health” argues that we may be able to save  10 million lives per year in one generation from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, maternal and infant deaths, and neglected tropical diseases, which are conditions that disproportionately affect the world’s poorest.

The Zika virus, which was first detected in Brazil in 2013, may have been brought by visitors to the country during the 2013 Confederations Cup soccer tournament, according to a paper published in Science.  The researchers sequenced the genome of the virus samples taken from infected patients in an attempt to retrace the virus’ route.

A study published in Science Translational Medicine has shown promise for a new experimental dengue vaccine called TV003.  Because dengue is caused by the same family of viruses that cause Zika, the success of TV003 may translate to a Zika virus vaccine.

Diseases & Disasters

The worst yellow fever outbreak in 30 years in the African country of Angola has infected more than 450 people and caused 178 deaths.  Yellow fever is caused by the same Aedes aegypti mosquito that transmits the Zika virus.  Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle pain, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue.  Vaccination is recommended and although the World Health Organization (WHO) has vaccinated 5.7 million people in the capital city of Luanda, vaccines are still in short supply.  Angola is one of 34 African countries where yellow fever is present.

March 24 is World Tuberculosis (TB) Day.  Although TB is treatable and preventable, it infects almost a third of the world population and it kills about 1.5 million people annually.  A century has passed since the scientific discovery of the bacterium that causes TB, but it remains one of the world’s most deadliest infectious disease. The global health community has called for the eradication of TB by 2035.

Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), which was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012, has infected 4 more individuals, with 1 death reported. There has been 1,698 confirmed infections and 609 deaths, with 26 countries reporting cases of infection.   Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Pneumonia is common, but not always present. Gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhea, have also been reported.  About 36% of patients have died from MERS-CoV and there is currently no vaccine.  Treatment is supportive based on clinical findings and camels may play role in the disease process.

Technology

In an effort to explore cost effective ways of reducing waiting times for HIV testing of infants, the Government of Malawi and UNICEF have started testing the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs or drones). UAVs have been previously used in surveillance and assessments during disasters.

Environmental Health

Environmental factors associated with industrialization may play a role in the rise of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or Crohn’s disease in parts of Asia, where the disease has been virtually nonexistent.  Both the Asia-Pacific Crohn’s and Colitis Epidemiology Study (ACCESS) and the Genetics, Environmental, Microbial (GEM) Project aims to study the factors that may contribute to the development of Crohn’s disease. The complex nature of the disease has left researchers with many unanswered questions.

Although 195 nations agreed on a climate change deal in December to reduce  greenhouse gas emissions, a paper in the Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics outlines a much sooner prediction of catastrophic effects due to global warming such as rising global sea levels due to large-scale melting of polar ice sheets, flooding of coastal cities, such as New York, London, Rio de Janeiro, Shanghai, and storms of great magnitude not seen before, unless there is significant cuts in greenhouse gas emissions soon across the globe.  Mainstream climatologists disagree with the timeline.

In order to stop the spread of spruce bark beetle, Poland has approved a large-scale logging in the Białowieża forest, despite opposition from scientists, ecologists, and the European Union.  The Białowieża forest spans 150,000 hectares (2.47 acres) and is home to 20,000 animal species and has been untouched for more than 10,000 years.

A study by the Nanyang Technological University’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) noted that variations in food production around the world due to climate events are likely to become more intense and frequent, which could impact food supply in countries like Singapore that imports most of their food from other countries.

The findings published in the annual report by the UN Environment Program, the Frankfurt School, and the Bloomberg New Energy Finance states that nations in the world invested a record $286 billion in renewable energy development in 2015.  China led in the amount invested at $103 billion, while other developing countries, including India and Brazil, invested $156 billion.

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