Information and news about disease category

Chlorhexidine Maternal Health Infant Mortality Happy African Child
Despite declining mortality rates for children under five, deaths that occur within the first month of life are on the rise. Infections caught through the cutting of umbilical cords are a factor in nearly 13 percent of neonatal deaths worldwide and more than 50 percent in developing nations. A simple, affordable solution is presented by the antiseptic solution chlorhexidine.

Chlorhexidine has already been around for more than 50 years, and can be found in a variety of products, like hand sanitizers and mouth washes, both of which are available in the United States and Europe. The type of chlorhexidine that would be used specifically to treat and prevent umbilical cord infections is 7.1 percent chlorhexidine digluconate. It would potentially prevent over 200,000 deaths a year in South Asia alone. Up to 75 percent of serious umbilical cord infections are eliminated through its use as well. According to PATH, the cost of providing chlorhexidine would be less than fifty or even thirty cents a dose.

In July, the World Health Organization (WHO) listed 7.1 percent chlorhexidine digluconate on its Essential Medicines for Children. More instructions on how chlorhexidine will be used are coming later this year. Despite chlorhexidine’s supposed effectiveness, progress is slow to distribute it. At the moment, there are only two sources for purchasing 7.1 percent chlorhexidine digluconate for umbilical cord use: Lomus Pharmaceuticals in Nepal and UNICEF Supply Division.

PATH, the secretariat of the Chlorhexidine Working Group, is working to spread the word about the low cost and high effectiveness of 7.1 percent chlorhexidine in order to see it used in more locations and countries where it is needed most, particularly in African countries.

– The Borgen Project

Sources: Huffington PostPATHHealthy Newborn Network, Trust
Photo: The Script Lab

Could there be a cure for HIV? According to Russian researchers, the Chaga mushroom can “cure the Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV.” The Chaga mushroom is a small mushroom usually found in birch and other hardwood trees. It contains betulinic acid, which is considered a toxic substance to cancerous cells. It also has antiviral properties that are essential in the search for an HIV/AIDS cure.

The Chaga mushroom (or Inonutus obliquis) can be found in several regions around the world, most commonly Siberia and other regions in Eurasia. The Chaga mushroom is often characterized by its porous, dark appearance: often black-blue or purple. According to researchers, “strains of these mushrooms demonstrated low toxicity and strong antiviral effects against influenza, smallpox and HIV.” In addition, Siberian researchers at the Vector Institute have compared the Chaga mushroom to a variety of fungi growing in Siberia: 82 strains of 33 fungi and have determined that the Chaga mushroom has the strongest antiviral capacity.

Moreover, the Chaga mushroom usually grows in cool regions such as Russia, Korea, as well as other Eastern and Western European states. Scientists have found that the Chaga mushroom also grows in select parts of the United States and Canada.

The antiviral mushroom has been a constant subject in Russian folk medicine. The folk remedies use the mushroom to cure diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes.

Despite its positive appeal as a potential cure for cancer and HIV/AIDS, the mushroom has not undergone official testing. However, it presents newfound hope for researchers and people diagnosed with these diseases. Research plans to investigate the mushroom’s potential benefits will be held sometime in 2015.

– Stephanie Olaya

Sources: Medical Daily, International Business Times
Photo: Wikipedia

Cure For Skin Cancer Sunscreen
People diagnosed with skin cancer now have a new hope of survival. New breakthrough drugs have given people “a chance to fight,” according to Professor Peter Johnson, a clinician at Cancer Research UK. The experimental drugs known as “immunotherapy drugs,” or Yervoy/ipilimumab, “have transformed an area of oncology in which until recently doctors barely had time to get to know their patients,” said Stephen Hodi, Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in the United States.

According to Hodi, the experimental treatment is exceeding expectations. Its complete success would mean that “some melanoma patients would now be living with a chronic disease, rather than facing imminent death.” This new experimental treatment was approved by regulators in 2011. Since then, it has been hailed as a breakthrough in melanoma treatment. The experimental drug within the treatment (ipilimunab) has now become the first drug ever to extend survival rates in patients who are diagnosed with advanced forms of melanoma and are at risk of death.

The experimental drug works as a “monoclonal antibody,” which is a type of drug that activates the immune system to fight cancerous cells. The monocinal antibody targets a protein receptor called Cytotoxic T-Lymphocyte Antigen 4, or CTLA-4. The response time for the treatment ranges from a month to four months. However, according to Hodi, “20 percent of patients have had a favorable response to the drug.”

In addition, Hodi presented empirical data that showed that patients who successfully complete the treatment can survive up to 10 years. The study also showed that patients could be completely treated for their cancer. Alexander Eggermont of the Institute Gustave Roussy Comprehensive Cancer Center stated that Hodi’s research could lead to a “clinical cure in which drugs help the immune system keep the disease in check.”

Today, there are new immunotherapy drugs that are registered as projects of the Yervoy system. These treatments are designed to disable proteins such as PD1 and PDL1, which disable the immune system from attacking cancerous cells. These drugs plan to be combined with the Yervoy system in order to provide a more complete treatment of melanoma. Thanks to these new experimental treatments, people affected with melanoma are one step closer to obtaining a cure for their disease.

– Stephanie Olaya

Sources: Reuters, NY Post

Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, President and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, spoke about Health Leads during a panel discussion on non-communicable diseases (NCD) at the Clinton Global Initiative on 24 September. Ms. Lavizzo-Mourey noted that important preventative measures for NCDs should include analyzing the living environments outside hospital walls in order to improve the quality of overall care people receive, which is what Health Leads specifically advocates and executes.

Health Leads’s mission statement reads, “to catalyze this health care system by connecting patients with the basic resources they need to be healthy…to champion quality care for all patients.” An example of this model is enabling doctors to prescribe basic resources like food and heat to their patients the same way the doctors would prescribe medicine or provide referrals. This whole-patient approach requires healthcare professionals to learn about the community environment and the living conditions of their patients when they leave their doctors’ offices.

The results of these inquiries enter the patient’s electronic record, which partner-hospitals can use to refer patients who lack basic resources to Health Leads. Through a systematic set of steps, the patient can carry the prescription to a Health Leads desk at the partner-hospital.

A Health Leads Advocate then works with the patient to connect her to the necessary community services that will help provide the basic resources the patient requires. Aid programs for basic resources may include additional health insurance coverage, access to food pantries and food assistance programs, discounts on gas and electric costs, job training, and childcare subsidies.

The last two steps require a follow-up from the Health Leads Advocate and updates to the clinic team from the patient. This symbiotic relationship is necessary to navigate any further challenges that may arise as a result of the previous steps. These challenges may include tracking down phone numbers, creating maps, finding transportation, and completing applications. Health Leads launched in 2010 and has since served over 23,000 patients.

In 2012, the program identified the top seven patient needs: education, utilities, housing, food, employment, income and benefits, and legal. To address these needs Health Leads trains a dedicated staff of program managers and Advocates whose sole design is to connect patients with the basic resources they require to get healthy.

– Yuliya Shokh

Sources: Health Leads, CGI 2013 Annual Meeting
Photo: Bloomberg

The international HOOKVAC consortium, led by the Academic Medical Center at the University of Amsterdam and including partners from the United States, European Union and Africa, has been awarded a grant of six million Euros to expand the Sabin Vaccine Institute Product Development Partnership’s work to develop and assess a vaccine for human hookworm. This disease currently affects 600-700 million of the world’s poorest people, and under this grant, clinical testing for the vaccine in the West African nation of Gabon will begin.

A hookworm vaccine has the potential to dramatically improve the health, economic and social conditions in countries that are highly burdened by the disease. Despite the amount of people that it affects, hookworm has been a consistently neglected disease, disregarded by people in developed Western nations.

The Sabin Vaccine Institute PDP works with worldwide partners to develop new, low-cost vaccines that have essentially no commercial market for diseases that predominantly affect the developing world. Established in 2000, with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, it is the only product development partnership in the world that targets and devotes resources toward targeting the human hookworm vaccination.

A successful vaccine would ease the suffering of over half a billion affected people. The hookworm disease primarily infects people who live below the global poverty line, specifically children and pregnant mothers in Southeast Asia, Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa. If left untreated, the disease causes internal blood loss, leading to iron-deficiency anemia, malnutrition, physical and cognitive impairment and low birth rates.

“The European Commission is proud to support the critical work of the consortium for the development of a human hookworm vaccine,” Ruxandra Draghia-Akli, MD, PhD, Director of the Health Directorate at the Research DG of the European Commission, said. “Ultimately, we hope that the knowledge, innovations and research expertise resulting from this global collaboration will accelerate the development of the world’s first, effective hookworm vaccine and encourage additional European SME partnerships to explore vaccines for NTDs (Neglected Tropical Diseases).”

The progress being made toward the hookworm vaccine represents a battle won for many poorer countries that come face to face with diseases that are often neglected and overlooked by the developed world. There is a bright future for further developments towards the aid for other neglected diseases, giving poverty-stricken countries and our world a chance at global health.

– Sonia Aviv 

Sources: BIO NEWS Texas, Sabin Vaccine Institute, NEWS Kenya
Photo: Africa Time