Armed conflict and war are making it tough for the world to wipe out the polio virus — once and for all.
Polio has re-emerged in war-torn Syria after more than a decade, the World Health Organization reported Tuesday.
Over in the Horn of Africa, an outbreak has ballooned into more than 190 cases. The outbreak’s epicenter is Somalia, where fighting and violence have kept vaccinators from reaching hundreds of thousands of kids in the past few years.
A recent visit to the Somali-Ethiopian border highlights just how easily the virus can move silently around rural areas — and eventually find kids who aren’t vaccinated.
So far Ethiopia has reported only six cases of polio compared to 174 in Somalia. But the landlocked country shares a thousand-mile border with Somalia. Most of it’s unmarked and uncontrolled. Goat, sheep and camel herders move back and forth across the arid plains between the two countries seeking fresh pastures for their animals.
At the border town of Wajaale, a frayed, knotted rope strung across the road marks the international boundary. The rope is ignored by just about everyone. Young men step over it. Vendors with wheelbarrows full of vegetables scoot under it.
Top photo: Men demonstrate how open the Somali-Ethiopian border is in the town of Wajaale. A simple rope marks the international boundary.
Bottom photo: Ethiopia is trying to immunize 13 million kids with the oral polio vaccine to prevent the virus from spreading into the country from Somalia. But the mass vaccination campaigns are putting a huge burden on an already strained national health system.
Photos by Jason Beaubien/NPR
The first African clinical trial of an experimental vaccine against hookworm is planned for next year.
While rarely fatal, hookworm infestations are a serious problem for 600 million of the world’s poor, especially for children going barefoot. By constantly draining their victims’ blood, the worms cause anemia, stunted growth and learning problems, and leave children too weak to go to school. When they infest pregnant women, both mother and fetus are weakened.
The worms enter through the feet and ride the bloodstream to exit in the lungs, where they are coughed up and then swallowed into the intestines. Once there, two sets of teeth help them attach and suck blood. They grow to half an inch long.
Dr. Peter J. Hotez, director of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, explained that the vaccine creates antibodies not against the parasites themselves but against two enzymes found in the worm’s own gut — one that detoxifies the iron in its blood diet, and another that digests blood proteins. Without those enzymes the worm slowly dies.
The trial will start on a few adults in Gabon, and children will eventually be enrolled. Even if all goes well, the trial could take at least five years. But Dr. Hotez noted that he began work on the vaccine as a graduate student at Rockefeller University 30 years ago “and I’ve been working on it my whole life.”
(From The New York Times)
Calling all creative health leaders across Africa: We’re looking for health and development pioneers working on innovative projects tackling some of the most important issues affecting our world: Maternal & Child Health; HIV/AIDs & Reproductive Health; and TB & Malaria.
Submit your project between now and October 15 to the Africa Edition of the GOOD Maker Pioneers of Health Challenge. Up to five winners with the most innovative solutions will join us for the GOOD Pioneers of Health Exchange, a four day collaboratory in Cape Town, South Africa from December 10 through 13. Powered by GOOD and Name Your Hood, the Exchange will be an opportunity to share and accelerate exciting solutions in health with fellow innovators, prominent health leaders, government officials and other nonprofit organizations.
Whether you’re a designer or engineer, community health worker or passionate advocate, we want to hear about your insights for some of the most pressing health challenges affecting the world. We know that often the best solutions are collaborative and have surprising origins, so share your unique perspective and together, let’s help move the world forward in South Africa.
To read complete rules and and submit, send us your submission here before October 15 noon PDT and you could win a chance to join us in Cape Town.
Follow this challenge on Twitter at @GOODMkr and #PioneersOfHealth. Want to learn more about GOOD Maker? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, sign up for our email list, or check out past and current funding opportunities.
The number of doctors from sub-Saharan Africa working in the U.S. has risen by nearly 40 percent in the past decade, researchers from Vanderbilt University reported Tuesday in the journal PLOS Medicine.
By analyzing data from the World Health Organization, Akhenaten Benjamin Siankam Tankwanchi and his team estimated that 10,819 physicians were born or trained in 28 sub-Saharan countries. For all of these countries, except South Africa, migration to the U.S. increased from 2002 to 2011. Nigeria and Ghana saw a more than 50 percent rise, while Ethiopia and Sudan suffered a more than 100 percent increase. Liberia was hardest hit with an estimated 77 percent of their doctors moving to the U.S.
Once the doctors leave sub-Saharan Africa, they don’t return home quickly. On average, the physicians trained in Africa have been in the U.S. for 18 years, the researchers said.
"Unless far-reaching policies are implemented by the U.S. and sub-Saharan countries, the current emigration trends will persist," Tankwanchi and his team wrote. “And the U.S. will remain a leading destination for SSA physicians emigrating from the continent of greatest need.”
Top graph: Since the 1960s, the number of sub-Saharan trained doctors who have moved to the U.S. (SSA-USMG) has increased exponentially.
Bottom graph: Length of service provided to the home country by medical graduates trained in sub-Saharan Africa before moving to the U.S.
While stigma, culture and religion prevent many from accessing care, a small band of women at the center help make it just a little bit easier for pregnant women and new mothers to live with HIV.
Ruth, Linda, Helen and Mercy, all mothers living with HIV, form the core of the support group called the “Mentoring Mothers.”
Supported by the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), this state-owned facility provides free HIV testing, counseling and treatment. Women can also find a place of comfort and mutual understanding.
The goal of the mentoring mothers is to provide women, many of whom may have just learned of their HIV status, with a connection to someone who can provide assistance, insight or a sounding board as they navigate the difficulties that come with living with the disease while carrying or caring for a child.
Spending five days a week at the facility, a sort of sisterhood has formed. They women can be playful, laugh, cry, trade experiences and—most important—be there for each other.
— By Pulitzer Center grantee Ameto Akpe. Read more about HIV in Nigeria here.
It was once thought that tuberculosis had a zoonotic origin. That is, the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria jumped from some animal into people right around the time we first started farming.
But more recent data have suggested that TB has been hanging out in humans for much longer than that.
Now geneticists offer evidence that M. tuberculosis infected people at least 70,000 years ago and even followed humans out of Africa.
By sequencing the genomes of 259 M. tuberculosis strains, Sebastien Gagneux and an international team of scientists found that TB was ubiquitous in hunter-gatherer populations leaving Africa long before people started domesticating animals. But once we started farming and raising animals, about 10,000 years ago, the human population density grew. That’s when TB really took off and expanded into the various strains that we see today.
The team published their findings Sunday in the journal Nature Genetics.
The map above summarizes the genetic relationships among the seven lineages of TB sequenced in the study. The numbers in the beige circles provide estimates for when that lineages split off from the major one (in thousands of years). Courtesy of Nature Genetics.
The true extent of female genital mutilation or cutting is huge and revealed on Monday in a report from Unicef (pdf). It says a total of 125 million women and girls are now living with the consequences of FGM – and yet the report suggests that the practice continues only because of social convention, while most women and men wish it would end. There are 29 countries in Africa where FGM is now practiced but over half the girls who are cut live in just three – Egypt, Ethiopia and Nigeria.
In terms of the percentage of girl who are cut, Egypt is in fourth place, below Somalia on 98%, Guinea on 96% and Djibouti on 93%. At the bottom end of the scale, in Uganda and Cameroon, just 1% of girls are cut. In more than half the 29 countries studied, Unicef says FGM is becoming slightly less common – in Kenya and Tanzania, the older generation of 45- to 49-year-old women are three times more likely to have undergone FGM than today’s 15- and 16-year-olds.
(From MWB News)
TB education campaign by Lancet Laboratories, South Africa.
Lancet Laboratories is one of Africa’s leading pathology laboratories operating throughout Africa, providing diagnostic and monitoring pathology services in South Africa, Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
In the fight against malaria in Africa, one of the key weapons is the insecticide-treated bed net, which protects people from mosquitoes that spread the disease.
But this map, based on data from IR Mapper, shows that mosquitoes are growing resistant to the insecticides. This poses huge challenges to the continued success of the bed net campaign.