Hemafuse: Clean Blood Transfusions in Impoverished CountriesIn the U.S., there are many people who are willing and able to donate their blood. With a large blood bank available, the U.S. does not have to use extreme measures to perform a blood transfusion. Unfortunately, this is not the case with many impoverished countries; getting a clean blood transfusion in most of these countries is simply not an option. However, a device called Hemafuse has been developed for doctors to help make these clean blood transfusions possible.

Due to the lack of blood donors in poverty-stricken countries, doctors use autologous transfusions to give the patients the blood they needed; this involves using the patient’s own blood for the transfusion. It could be obtained during hemothorax – a condition where the patient’s blood has pooled up in an open cavity, or, alternatively, they could also use the blood resulting from hemorrhaging during an ectopic pregnancy – pregnancy which occurs outside the uterus.

Originally, doctors had to scoop up the patient’s pooled blood with nothing but a soup ladle. They then took the blood collected from the soup ladle and poured it through a filtration system to make the blood cleaner for transfusion. Not only is this unsanitary, but it is a highly complicated process that takes many doctors to perform. It has saved a few lives in the past, but it is inadequate as a permanent solution.

The Hemafuse looks to alleviate all of those problems and make clean blood transfusions in impoverished countries happen. To operate the Hemafuse, doctors need to put the suction inlet into the pooled blood and then pull the pump. Blood is then filtered through the filtration system, removing clots and impurities. After the blood is collected, the doctor then pushes the pump and the blood is then moved into a separate blood bag that is connected to the side of the device. Once there, the blood can be used in a blood transfusion back to the patient the blood originally came from.

This is much safer and cleaner than using a soup ladle. The patient’s blood stays within a closed and sterile system rather than it being exposed to the elements. Not only that, it requires only one or two doctors to use rather than the eight or nine that were previously required. It also costs about $60 per patient use, which is much more affordable than the $250 a normal blood bag would cost.

The Hemafuse device has been backed by many prominent organizations such as USAID, UKAID and the Gates Foundation, among many others. Doctors want clean blood transfusions in impoverished countries to become widespread, so they are willingly coming around to performing clinical trials using Hemafuse. With this device, the soup ladle transfusion will hopefully become a procedure of the past and patients will finally be able to receive the – clean – lifesaving blood that they need.

Daniel Borjas
Photo: Flickr

Women in Poverty
While the disease Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus affects newborns, there are other diseases that can be harsher to pregnant women in poverty, since their bodies work harder to provide health to two individuals. Because of lack of healthcare and nutrition, these women can be more susceptible to diseases that could be easily managed in countries with accessible healthcare. Here are the top five diseases affecting pregnant women in poverty:

Hepatitis E

Pregnant women in the second or third trimester are more likely to experience liver failure when they contract Hepatitis E. When contracted in the third trimester, there is a fatality rate as high as 25 percent. An epidemic in India resulted in high mortality rates of pregnant women. To decrease the risk of spreading Hepatitis E, it is important to maintain hygienic practices and proper handling of public water supplies, since the infection can spread through contaminated drinking water.

Measles

Due to vaccinations, measles is fairly rare in developed countries. However, this is not the case in developing countries. While measles is severe to a baby, it can be even worse for women during pregnancy. A study from Saudi Arabia found that 80 percent of pregnant women in poverty with measles were hospitalized. Measles can infect the fetus and increase the risk of prematurity and miscarriage.

Malaria

Though preventable through vaccination, malaria remains prevalent in Africa. There are about 200,000 newborn deaths each year as a result of malaria in pregnancy, and 30 million women in areas infected by malaria become pregnant each year. When pregnant, the woman’s immunity to diseases decreases, so exposure to malaria increases the risk of illness, severe anemia and death. However, there have been interventions to decrease the risk of contracting malaria. In 2000, the first African Summit on Malaria was held in Abuja, Nigeria. Here, heads of state committed to providing effective malaria interventions to at least 60 percent of pregnant women. Also, there have been efforts to bring malaria interventions through antenatal clinics in Africa.

HIV/AIDS

Globally, HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death among women between the ages of 15-24, the age women are most likely to become pregnant. Women are twice as likely as men to contract the virus. Antiretroviral therapy has been used to treat pregnant women.

Tuberculosis

This airborne disease is 10 times more likely to infect pregnant women who test positive for HIV. According to the WHO, every year about 700,000 women die from tuberculosis, and more than three million women contract the disease. Tuberculosis is the third leading cause of death among women between the ages 15-44. When pregnant, the disease is harder to diagnose since the symptoms (fatigue, tiredness, and shortness of breath) are similar to typical symptoms of pregnancy.

If the U.S. Congress passed the Reach Every Mother and Child Act, pregnant women in poverty who are diagnosed with treatable diseases could receive the necessary treatment. If passed, the U.S. government will provide agencies to expand interventions for maternal health, to provide treatments and assistance to afflicted women and children.

Emma Majewski

Photo: Flickr

SUN Movement
Malnutrition accounts for nearly half of all deaths among children under five. While the majority of these deaths occur in Africa and Asia, the loss of human life due to hunger and malnutrition is a global burden. Malnourished children are more likely to get sick, suffer from abnormally severe symptoms of common illnesses and die from otherwise preventable illnesses. Thankfully, organizations such as the SUN Movement work to reduce this hunger-related child mortality rate.

Malnutrition and Infection

The link between malnutrition and infection can create a cycle wherein poorly nourished children have a weaker immune system, which in turn deteriorates their nutritional status. Malnutrition can also stunt a child’s growth, predisposing them to cognitive disabilities.

Hunger and malnutrition take a particularly severe toll on the developing world, where one out of six children (about 100 million) are underweight, one in three children are stunted and 66 million children go to school hungry.

The SUN Movement

Scaling Up Nutrition, or SUN Movement, is a worldwide campaign to alleviate hunger and malnutrition. SUN aims to unite governments, the United Nations, civil society, researchers, donors and business into a cohesive movement to improve global nutrition.

Focusing on the goals established at the 2012 World Health Assembly, SUN movement identifies four strategic processes as the major institutional changes needed for scaling up nutrition worldwide:

  1. Endorsement of National Nutrition Policies that Incorporate Best Practices. Newly enacted laws and policies should reflect proven interventions while paying special attention to women and their role in society.
  2. Sustained Political Commitment and Establishment of Functioning Multi-stakeholder Platforms. Improving nutrition requires a political environment grounded in multi-stakeholder platforms. The dialogue around hunger and nutrition should be open, for different groups to share the responsibility of scaling up nutrition throughout the entire world.
  3. Alignment of Actions Across Sectors and among Stakeholders. Country plans to improve nutrition should reflect frameworks of mutual responsibility and accountability among stakeholders.
  4. Increased Resources for Nutrition and Demonstration of Results. Multiple sectors and stakeholders should increase financial resources for the implementation of plans to improve nutrition.

Each participating country is required to state specific goals and objectives for scaling up nutrition before they can partake in SUN Movement events, like the Annual Global Gathering. This event is where government leaders and multi-stakeholder groups meet to collaborate, share progress, learn from each other and offer new practices for improving nutrition.

SUN Movement has several mechanisms for maintaining oversight and staying on track to achieve its goals. The SUN Networks align resources and foster collaboration, the lead group provides strategic oversight and enforces accountability and the executive committee represents SUN Movement at the international political level. There is also a secretariat and multi-partnered trust fund.

SUN Movement acts like the United Nations for Hunger and Nutrition, with clear guiding principles to achieve goals through cooperation and collaboration. The multifaceted structure of SUN Movement accurately confronts the varied nature of hunger and malnutrition, making the organization an important player in the fight to improve nutrition worldwide.

Jessica Levitan

Photo: Flickr

Prevent the Zika Virus

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the “Zika virus disease (Zika) is a disease caused by the Zika virus which is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito.” The disease can cause symptoms like fever, rash and joint pain, although most symptoms go unnoticed. Learning to prevent the Zika virus, then, is imperative.

The most severe symptom is microcephaly, which is a birth defect that causes babies to be born with smaller than average-sized heads. This is of grave concern to pregnant women or women who are trying to become pregnant who have traveled or have partners who have traveled to countries where the disease is present.

Although there are currently no vaccines for the disease, there are five easy steps you can take to prevent the Zika virus from reaching you or your loved ones:

  1. Wear the right repellant. The CDC recommends wearing repellant registered by the Environmental Protection Agency because it contains ingredients such as lemon eucalyptus oil and DEET. Repellants registered with EPA are also evaluated for effectiveness.
  2. Use clothing as a repellant. Wearing long sleeves and pants in a place where mosquitos present can also reduce your risk of a Zika virus infection. It is even more effective if the clothes are treated with permethrin.
  3. Avoid exercising outdoors. Mosquitoes are attracted to carbon dioxide and heat, both of which are heavily emitted when exercising. To avoid being swarmed by mosquitoes, it is best to exercise indoors in an air-conditioned room.
  4. Properly secure buildings. Residing in buildings that have screens over its doors and windows and are properly ventilated with air-conditioning can prevent mosquitoes from entering and protect you while you sleep. Placing netting over cribs and strollers can help protect babies as well, especially since they may be too young to safely use mosquito repellant.
  5. Practice safe sex. The Zika virus disease can be transferred from men during unprotected sex. To prevent transferring the disease, using condoms and abstaining from sex are the best methods after or during visitation to a country with the Zika virus. This information is crucial for women who are trying to become pregnant.

The fight to eliminate the Zika virus has skyrocketed, resulting in incredible scientific innovations. For instance, scientists from the U.K. have released genetically modified male mosquitoes who cause populations of local mosquitoes to fall.

Another technique includes inserting a gene drive into mosquitoes to make them unable to host the Zika virus within their bodies.

Researchers are also utilizing cellphones to track and record people’s movements and use this data for documenting Zika hotspots throughout the world.

As more techniques on how to prevent the Zika virus are discovered, all hope that the spread of the disease can be contained effectively.

Julia Hettiger

Photo: Flickr