Clinical trials. Research findings. Data. Metrics. Numbers.


Gates-backed test malaria vaccine is celebrated, half glass full | 

African child with cerebral malaria
African child with cerebral malaria
Mike Urban

An experimental malaria vaccine, made by GSK with backing and support on the research side from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Seattle-based PATH, has (again) been shown to protect half the children in the study were immunized against malaria.

The results, announced today in Durban, South Africa, are pretty much the same as earlier findings that continue to emerge from a long, ongoing study of GlaxoSmithKline’s RTS,S vaccine.

The scientific gist of the latest findings, as was reported back in 2008, is that the vaccine appears to protect about half the kids from getting sick, its ability to protect drops significantly following vaccination, it requires repeat doses and GSK estimates it will cost a few dollars at least.

Is that a glass half full or half empty? Continue reading

Visualizing progress on 3 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) | 

Guest post by Katie Leach-Kemon, a policy translation specialist from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

MDGsProgress toward the current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and establishing new goals after 2015 are a hot topic of discussion this week at the UN General Assembly in New York City.

In today’s post, we’ll use Global Burden of Disease Study 2010 (GBD 2010) data to explore how much progress countries have made in three key health MDGs, 4, 5 and 6, the first two focused on reducing child mortality and maternal mortality while the latter is on halting the spread of diseases such as HIV/AIDS and malaria.

MDG 6 is arguably the highest-profile goal and one that’s seen tremendous progress – halting or reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. By 2010, antiretroviral therapy financed by country governments and donors had succeeded in reversing the rise in HIV/AIDS deaths at the global level.

Below is a figure showing donor funding (also known at IHME as development assistance for health, or DAH) for HIV/AIDs from IHME’s report Financing Global Health 2012: The End of the Golden Age?

Funding HIV AIDS

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Why to stop worrying about just MERS or H5N1 – and wonder about the 320,000 other potentially pandemic viruses | 

Viruses like the latest strain of bird flu (H5N1) or the newly discovered SARS-like coronavirus known as MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) get a lot of worrisome attention – in the media and by public health experts – because of their potential to mutate into a lethal human pandemic. But these are devils we know. According to this report, a team of scientists estimates that mammals harbor something like 320,000 unknown viruses with the same potential to ‘jump species’ – zoonosis - and become a devastating human disease.

Scary, yes. But perhaps it’s also comforting that Mother Nature tends, for the most part, to confine these bugs to their favored hosts and that the emergence of a truly dangerous new bug mutating out from a chicken or pig or civet appears fairly rare.

Ebola, HIV, influenza, MERS. Plenty of animal viruses cause devastating diseases in humans. But nature might have many more in store.

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SciAmerican: Dealing with the rise of insecticide-resistant malarial mosquitoes | 

The mosquitoes that carry the malaria parasite are developing resistance to many of the chemicals used on bed nets and for residential spraying. Scientists are struggling to figure out new strategies (or how to better use the old one, DDT) for battling this trend.

Companies and public health agencies are trying to develop low-toxic and inexpensive-yet powerful and long-lasting-new insecticides KARATU, Tanzania – Dr. Frank Artress is loath to get into an arms race with mosquitoes. “You hate to drag out all the heavy poisons,” he says, standing in front of the medical clinic he and his wife built in this rural town.

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Humans ‘hard-wired’ for empathy and friendship | 

Science says so.

06:03, Psychology & Psychiatry U.Va. psychologist James A. Coan conducted the study. “People close to us become a part of ourselves, and that is not just metaphor or poetry, it’s very real,” he said. Credit: Dan AddisonPerhaps one of the most defining features of humanity is our capacity for empathy – the ability to put ourselves in others’ shoes.

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SciDev: Why humanitarian groups label technology ‘nasty’ or ‘nice’ | 

It”s easy for either side in the techno-fix debate — the debate that almost always ensues when a particularly technological solution to poverty or inequity is proposed or launched — to simply dismiss the other as blindly stuck in an ideological rut. It’s also tempting for observers of the debate to dismiss the debate as so polarized as to be of little value since the truth of any matter is often located somewhere between the two warring camps.

Here’s an interesting analysis by Oxfam’s Duncan Green arguing that this highly polarized debate may deserve a closer look for what it reveals.

There’s real substance behind activists’ polarised views of new technology, says Oxfam adviser Duncan Green. NGOs and activists often seem to hold contradictory views about science and technology, dividing the world up into ‘nice’ and ‘nasty’ technologies. Anything to do with mobile phones, crowdsourcing, ‘small is beautiful’ technology, renewables or labour-saving wonders such as washing machines is typically met with approval.

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Smartphones aren’t making cybercafes obsolete in Global South | 

One might expect that with growing access to cheap smartphones around the world, cybercafes are destined for the wastebin of history. Why pay a fee to use a stodgy old desktop computer to get online? It’s all in the palms of our hands now.

A new study from the University of Washington turns that logic on its head. “One technology doesn’t replace the other. People need large, broadband service,” says Chris Coward, the director of UW’s Technology and Social Change Group. He says the five-year study shows definitively that mobile phones, contrary to some claims, “will not solve the access problem.”

Coward and his team scoured the earth, working with local research teams and surveying more than 5,000 computer users in Bangladesh, Botswana, Brazil, Chile, Ghana, Lithuania, Philippines and South Africa. What they found seems counter-intuitive.

“We saw large usership in every place we visited,” Coward says, of libraries, telecenters and cybercafes. Continue reading

Why so many Muslim terrorists are engineers | 

“The profession is more attractive to individuals seeking cognitive ‘closure’ and clear-cut answers as opposed to more open-ended sciences — a disposition which has been empirically linked to conservative political attitudes.”

Whiling away his days in a CIA prison in Romania, 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had a simple request for his captors: Would they allow the mechanical engineer to design a vacuum cleaner?

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