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Advancing Science for Global Health
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Home > Global Health Matters Mar/Apr 2024 > Global health briefs Print

Global health briefs

March/April 2024 | Volume 23 Number 2

Neurological conditions rank as leading cause of ill health worldwide 

A March 2024 study published in The Lancet Neurology found a range of neurological conditions collectively represent the leading cause of ill health worldwide. The Global Burden of Disease 2021 Nervous Systems Disorders Collaborators estimated these conditions affected 3.4 billion people and caused 11.1 million deaths in 2021. In 2021, the five conditions with the highest disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs)—a measure of disease burden, expressed as the number of years lost due to ill-health, disability, or early death—were stroke, neonatal encephalopathy, migraine, Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, and diabetic neuropathy.

TB incidence decreased, drug resistance rose among teens & young adults

Among people between the ages of 10 and 24, the toll of tuberculosis (TB) decreased between the years 1990 through 2019, a study published in Pediatrics found. Yet, drug-resistant TB infections increased within that age group during that time span. The Chinese researchers based their calculations on data from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019. Globally, TB incidence (per 100,000 people) decreased from 144.12 in 1990 to 97.56 in 2019; this declining trend was seen in most countries. However, a rise in incidence of extensively drug-resistant TB and multidrug-resistant TB without extensive drug resistance occurred in that time span, with South Africa showing the highest increase.

International Vaccine Institute to open Africa Regional Office in 2024

The International Vaccine Institute (IVI), a non-profit organization established in 1997 with a mission to discover, develop, and deliver safe, effective, and affordable vaccines, will open its Africa Regional Office in Kigali, Rwanda, this year. Dr. Sabin Nsanzimana, Rwanda Minister of Health, made the announcement alongside the Seoul-based international organization, which developed the world’s first low-cost oral cholera vaccine and a new-generation typhoid conjugate vaccine. The new office is expected to play a pivotal role in providing on-the-ground support and leadership for IVI’s work in Africa. The intention is to increase IVI engagement and coordination with African stakeholders, while establishing stronger partnerships around manufacturing and policy.

COVID-19 drug shows promise in treating Ebola Sudan infections

Ebola Sudan infections currently have no approved vaccines or treatments. A small study of primates published in March in Science examined the antiviral drug obeldesivir, a relatively inexpensive pill that can be stored at room temperature.Five monkeys given obeldesivir 24 hours after being injected with what should have been a lethal dose of Sudan ebolavirus all survived; two control monkeys treated with a placebo died. In vitro studies suggest obeldesivir could prove beneficial in fighting all species of Ebola as well as Marburg virus disease, a hemorrhagic illness similar to Ebola, though further testing in animal and human models is required. Obeldesivir was developed by Gilead Sciences for the treatment of SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Intervention speeds up ART adoption for HIV patients in Tanzania

Three months of social work follow-up reduced the time it took for patients hospitalized with HIV in Tanzania to start antiretroviral therapy following discharge. As described in JAMA, the Fogarty-funded researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine found that 92% of people in the intervention group attended an HIV clinic by the end of the first month versus 75% in the control group (patients who received standard care). Yet no differences were seen in mortality; 17% of participants in both groups died after one year. Given some participants were already at advanced stages of HIV, clinical care at the hospital must be improved to increase survival rates, according to the authors.

Heterosexual transmission key contributor to mpox outbreak in DRC

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, an mpox outbreak underway since August 2023 has led to more than 200 reported cases. Scientists have identified this as a clade 1 outbreak with virulent and deadly infections and case-fatality rates as high as 10%. According to this observational preprint study, heterosexual partners have been the most affected, suggesting this form of sexual contact may be the main driver of transmission.

Female genital mutilation on the rise

Since 2016, the number of women and girls who’ve had their genitals intentionally maimed against their will has grown by 15%, according to new estimates from UNICEF. There are now more than 230 million survivors of female genital mutilation (FGM) worldwide—an increase of 30 million over eight years. In Somalia, 99% of women between the ages of 15 and 49 have been “cut.”  Other high prevalence countries include Guinea (95%), Djibouti (90%), and Mali (89%).  The report indicated that more girls are subjected to FGM at younger ages. Sierra Leone showed a positive trend line: prevalence dropped from 95% to 61% over 30 years. Kenya, Ethiopia, and Burkina Faso also showed strong declines.

WHO Pandemic Agreement enters final round of negotiations

One more round of negotiations on the international pandemic treaty began in March in preparation for a May vote at the World Health Assembly, the annual gathering of WHO member states. The 31-page text, first drafted in December 2021, seeks to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, and highlights equity following the COVID-19 response. According to Science, the most controversial part of the treaty is the proposed “Pathogen Access and Benefit-Sharing (PABS) System” that compels countries to share genetic information and samples with WHO-coordinated networks and databases.

Updated March 19, 2024

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