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Weekly Digest: Zika detected in India; World Health Assembly resolution on sepsis

Weekly Digest: Zika detected in India; World Health Assembly resolution on sepsis

A weekly roundup of news on drug resistance and other topics in global health.  

Zika detected in India. India reported its first three cases of Zika in a recent notification to the World Health Organization (WHO), delayed by almost a year. CDDEP Director Ramanan Laxminarayan and Research Analyst Anna Trett write in The Quint, assessing the threat and the challenges that lie ahead for the country, including the region’s poor performance in controlling other vector-borne diseases. The authors write, “India is the perfect candidate for Zika to thrive and we have to stop it before it does.” [The Quint]

Bidi workers in India ask government to raise bidi taxes and protect their health. India is on the verge of implementing its far-reaching Goods and Services Tax, which will impose or increase taxes on a wide range of products, including tobacco. Cigarettes and smokeless tobacco are scheduled for the highest tax bracket—28 percent—but a final decision has not yet been made on bidi, a hand-rolled form of cigarette consumed by two-thirds of the 275 million Indian tobacco users. Grassroots bidi workers from four states have asked the Indian Prime Minister to increase taxes on bidi—a counterintuitive move, explained by the plight of workers in an unhealthful industry that has been ignored by government. The economics of bidi are explained in a commentary by CDDEP New Delhi-based Communications Associate Shalini in The Quint, published on World No Tobacco Day. [The Quint]

World Health Assembly resolution on sepsis. The 70th World Health Assembly adopted a resolution to address the growing burden of sepsis, commonly called blood poisoning. Sepsis affects poor and rich countries alike, with 31 million cases and 6 million deaths recorded annually. The resolution urges countries to improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment; train health workers; and improve reporting. It also sets milestones and has allocated $4.6 million for implementation. According to Dr. Konrad Reinhart, Chairman of the Global Sepsis Alliance, “In the developed world, sepsis is dramatically increasing by an annual rate of 5-13 per cent over the last decade, and now claims more lives than bowel and breast cancer combined.  When sepsis is quickly recognized and treated, lives are saved but health care providers need better training because they are the critical link to preventing, recognizing, and treating sepsis.” [WHO, STAT, Global Sepsis Alliance]

Diarrheal disease continues to decline, but a high burden remains. Despite a 20 percent decline since 2005, diarrhea is still a leading cause of death, particularly in poor countries. In 2015, diarrhea was responsible for 1.3 million deaths worldwide, including 500,000 children under 5 years. Diarrhea is largely preventable with safe water, sanitation, and adequate childhood nutrition. Efforts must continue to expand access to these essential public health measures if the remaining burden of diarrhea is to be eliminated. The Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study 2015 reported this analysis in Lancet Infectious Diseases. [Lancet ID study, Lancet ID comment]

DRC approves Ebola vaccine; planning advised by WHO. The experimental Ebola vaccine rVSV-ZEBOV has been approved by the Democratic Republic of the Congo for a ring vaccination strategy to contain the outbreak in the Litaki health zone, a remote part of northern DRC. For the currently small number of cases, the World Health Organization favors readiness but not immediate action, recommending that “Planning and arrangements should be in place for immediate deployment if necessary.” [WHO release, WHO situation report, Nature]

Influenza vaccination during pregnancy may protect babies from pneumonia. South African researchers followed babies of 2,000 mothers randomly assigned to influenza vaccine or placebo during pregnancy in a clinical trial, through their first six months of life. Reporting in Clinical Infectious Diseases, the rate of hospitalization for pneumonia was more than halved in the babies of mothers who received the flu vaccine (9 hospitalizations) compared with mothers who received the placebo (21 hospitalizations) during the first three months, after which protection dropped off and rates were similar. [Clinical Infectious Diseases, CIDRAP]

Modified antibiotic shows promise in fighting superbugs. Scientists at the Scripps Research Institute have created a more potent, modified version of the antibiotic vancomycin that can overcome drug resistance in vancomycin-resistant bacteria in the laboratory. The re-engineered drug is more effective and stalls further development of resistance in the bacteria. Although it has not yet been tested in animals or people, it shows great promise, and the science used to design it could be applied to other antibiotics.. The study is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. [PNAS, BBC]


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