The what, why and how of health and development

Global Health research in 2010

Before we launch into the new year, lets remind ourselves of where 2010 left us in terms of global health research.

The past year saw an increase in cholera cases worldwide and particularly attention was paid to the outbreak in Haiti following the earthquake there in January. Parts of Africa also saw a significant rise in cases of cholera and of measles. In June, the United Nations reported that upto 48,000 children had fallen ill with measles during the outbreak in 14 African countries.

The World Health Organisation emphasised the rise of TB globally, as a new strand develops resistant to drugs used. The WHO surveyed the new strand, MDR-TB, and reported the highest ever rates, with peaks of upto 28% of new TB cases in some areas of the Soviet Union.

On a positive note, the WHO reported that if current successful programmes that prevent and treat malaria are maintained, there will be no more deaths due to this disease by 2015. In Africa, a total of 11 countries showed a greater than 50% reduction in either confirmed malaria cases or admission and deaths over the past decade.

Another positive note but a reminder against the sensationalising of scientific findings in the press came in the case of ‘accidental’ HIV treatment. November 2010 saw a US man ‘cured’ of HIV after a blood transfusion to treat cancer came from a donor with a rare gene mutation that makes it impossible to contract HIV. However, researchers warned of the individual nature of this case, the side effects, and the impracticality of this being used as a treatment for HIV on a larger scale, a warning to the press and public not to expect miracle cures overnight.

Keeping on HIV, the Medical Research Council are starting trials of a new vaccine developed at Oxford University that could prevent mother-to-child transmission of the disease. The vaccine has already been tested in UK trials but is being taken to Gambia and Kenya for further studies.

Keep updated in 2011 about global health research and news by following this blog. The Health Investigator will cover as much as possible, mainly focusing on developments in research and treatment on HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB.

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