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8 Facts About Tuberculosis in Russia With COVID-19 emerging as a global pandemic, attention has centered on alleviating its effects. However, this has posed challenges to combating other respiratory illnesses, like tuberculosis, due to the lack of control efforts. Russia has been particularly hit by this, where it has a higher sensitivity to respiratory issues. To better understand this and the solutions that might be used to fight both COVID-19 and tuberculosis, here are eight facts about tuberculosis in Russia.

8 Facts About Tuberculosis in Russia

  1. Tuberculosis (TB) is endemic, or regularly found, in Russia. In fact, Russia has the world’s 11th highest burden of TB. Compounding its status as a major public health problem is a rising incidence of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB). This means that TB does not respond to many of the antibiotics that are most commonly used to treat the disease. Russia has the third highest number of MDR-TB in the world.
  2. The severity of Russia’s TB epidemic stems from historical, social and economic factors. When the Soviet Union collapsed, health infrastructure and the economy declined dramatically. Poverty and crime rates increased, leading to higher incarceration rates. As TB is airborne, it spreads best in cramped and crowded conditions, just like those in prisons. These factors contributed to the rapid spread of both TB and MDR-TB. The Fall of the Iron Curtain also led to unstable living conditions, increased mass migration and exacerbated the TB epidemic with a 7.5 percent annual increase in new cases from 1991 to 1999.
  3. There is a close synergy between the TB and HIV/AIDS epidemics in Russia. The TB notification rate of individuals living with HIV infection is approximately 1,700 per 100,000 HIV-infected. Because HIV attacks the immune system, HIV infection leaves patients more vulnerable to infection with all sorts of pathogens, including TB.
  4. In the early to mid-2000s, the Russian government increased its budget allocation for tuberculosis control. Russia also received a $150 million World Bank loan, two thirds of which was designated for tuberculosis. Additionally, it received a $91 million grant from the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
  5. In recent years, there have been some improvements in TB infection rates in Russia. Cases of TB in Russia decreased by 9.4 percent to a rate of 48.3 per 100,000 people in 2017. In the same vein, Russia has recently experienced a steady decline in TB morbidity and mortality. Since 2012, morbidity or disability due to TB has decreased by more than 30 percent, and mortality has decreased by more than 48 percent.
  6. The COVID-19 pandemic is interfering with TB diagnosis, prevention, treatment and control efforts worldwide. It is grimly clear that Russia will not be exempt. A recent report based on analyses of several countries, including neighboring Ukraine, predicts an additional 6.3 million cases of tuberculosis by 2025 as a result of COVID-19’s disruption of TB control efforts. Progress in the fight against TB could be set back by five to eight years. Russia is facing its TB epidemic in a world where TB kills 1.5 million people a year, more than any other infectious disease. Five years ago, world leaders pledged to end the TB epidemic by 2030. In addition, in 2018, they pledged to double TB funding by 2022. However, the COVID-19 pandemic’s diversion of attention, funding, and resources makes the realization of these TB goals unlikely.
  7. Partners in Health, a nongovernmental organization, treats TB and uses a comprehensive model of ambulatory care. They treat every patient free of charge and provide care as it is most convenient to patients, bringing medication to each patient individually twice a day. Their close relationship with patients in this community based model gives their patients up to a 90 percent cure rate. Particularly, Partners in Health established The Sputnik Initiative, where it provided social and clinical support for poor MDR-TB patients in Tomsk, Russia. This initiative allowed Partners in Health to treat 70 percent of its total 129 participants who would otherwise not receive adequate medical care.
  8. Partners in Health has success in curbing TB by integrating TB treatment with the provision of other medical care. They have established TB clinics within HIV treatment centers, which is strategic as the HIV and TB co-infection rate among the patients they treat is five percent. Additionally, they have incorporated mental health and drug addiction services into their TB treatment program in Russia. A similar integrative model could conceivably be deployed for COVID-19 once a treatment becomes available.

Tuberculosis and COVID-19 pandemics present unique challenges both individually and as they co-occur. However, existing community based treatment models for tuberculosis in Russia may contain useful lessons as we learn to treat COVID-19.

– Isabelle Breier

Photo: Flickr

diseases in UgandaAs a developing country, Uganda struggles with multiple intractable diseases that kill millions of Ugandans every year. HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis are among the top five causes of death in Uganda. But, medical research is providing innovations that give hope to relieve suffering and prevent death in Uganda. Here are three diseases in Uganda that can be tackled with treatments that seem like science fiction.

Tuberculosis and Bedaquiline

Science fiction often explores the possibilities of DNA manipulation. Now, this sci-fi premise is becoming a reality through a new tuberculosis drug called bedaquiline. Bedaquiline is a new drug that blocks energy transfer enzymes that a tuberculosis bacteria cell needs to survive. Without this essential energy, the cell dies. A June 2019 study discovered that bedaquiline has long-term treatment potential. The drug forms small reservoirs in the body, allowing it to naturally release throughout the body and continually kill tuberculosis cells over time. This is a major breakthrough for Ugandan citizens since this is the first tuberculosis treatment to come out in 50 years. 

Malaria and Genetic Mutation

Popular science fiction games outline the use of biological weapons, such as Mass Effect’s fictional “genophage” which causes a female host to produce sterile offspring. Experimental genetic engineering technology is now taking on a highly deadly disease in Uganda. Scientists have developed an engineered genetic mutation that deforms mosquito reproductive organs and passes from female mosquitos to daughter eggs, meaning that the hatched females are unable to breed. In other words, the mutation makes the next generation of mosquitos sterile, reducing the population and thus reducing the risk of malaria.

Further, the mutation changes females mosquitos’ mouths to resemble male counterparts’. Male mosquitos cannot bite humans, thus the mutation “de-fangs” female mosquitoes, making it impossible for them to transmit malaria. Releasing genetically modified mosquitoes has been controversial and research continues. According to Uganda’s Ministry of Health, malaria is endemic in 95 percent of Uganda. If it is found that modifying mosquitoes is safe and successful, this development could be a critical contribution to treating malaria and other mosquito transmitted diseases in Uganda.

HIV/AIDS and the Immune System

Science fiction extensively narrates the use of genetic properties to repair and fix humans. Dual studies from 2007 and 2019 used similar methods to combat the insidious syndrome of HIV/AIDS that plagues Uganda. A bone marrow transplant replaces the patient’s immune system with mutated systems via lymphatic pathways. It essentially replaces the patient’s immune system with a new, mutated version that combats the disease.

Using this technique, a 2007 patient has been off anti-retroviral medicines for 12 years. The most recent patient, cured in 2019, has been HIV-free for more than 18 months. With difficulties in bringing patients back for consistent treatments, a possible long-term solution for HIV/AIDS is an extremely important advance for the 1.3 million Ugandans infected with HIV.

Conclusion

Famous Star Trek character Captain Jean-Luc Picard stated, “Things are only impossible until they’re not.” Relieving Uganda’s suffering seemed impossible – the stuff of science fiction – as if they would never be free of disease. But, the above treatments provide hope for the people of Uganda. Through rigorous research and innovation, doctors are developing treatments for diseases in Uganda and other countries.

– Melanie Rasmussen
Photo: Flickr

TB in TanzaniaTanzania is a country located in East Africa that is home to 54 million people. Unfortunately, tuberculosis is a big issue within the country. Tanzania currently ranks within the top 30 countries worldwide that are most affected by tuberculosis. While the national TB budget has consistently stood at around $60 million. However, NGOs like APOPO are also doing their part to fight TB in Tanzania.

Why APOPO is Needed

Historically, Tanzania has struggled to supply clinics with rapid forms of testing. But this is where APOPO helps to bridge the gap. APOPO is an NGO fighting TB in Tanzania by using specially trained rats to detect cases of the disease. Along with the work this group does in Tanzania, it also helps fight against tuberculosis in Mozambique and Ethiopia. Since the program in Tanzania first launched in 2007, the group grew from collaborations with four government clinics to 57 clinics.

How APOPO Fights TB

Many forms of testing for tuberculosis are quite inaccurate. The better quality methods of testing can be quite expensive and take a longer time to get results. Cheaper forms of testing can often yield false results. Due to cheap testing, people will be given an inaccurate diagnosis. Government clinics in Tanzania mainly use smear microscopy tests due to the test’s affordability.

This method of detection has very low sensitivity rates that range from 20 to 60 percent. To combat the current inadequate forms of testing for tuberculosis, APOPO has implemented a program that uses specially trained rats. These rats can detect cases of tuberculosis at a fast and more accurate rate.

The rats at APOPO’s facilities can test 100 samples in 20 minutes, as opposed to technicians who can only check 25 samples per day. APOPO’s labs can get test results within 24 hours. APOPO’s rats have increased detection rates of tuberculosis by 40 percent.

APOPO’s Effect

APOPO is an NGO fighting TB in Tanzania that has seen success in its initiative to incorporate innovative tactics in the fight against tuberculosis. From 2000 to 2018 there have been decreases in total incidents of TB as well as a decrease in new and relapse cases in Tanzania.

Tuberculosis currently ranks within the top 10 causes of death across the world. APOPO already works with 57 clinics in Tanzania. This group’s success through alternative methods of testing can serve as an example of how to fight against the spread of tuberculosis.

– James Turner
Photo: Flickr

Diseases in India
India is a sub-continent in Southern Asia that boasts the second largest population in the world following China, with roughly 17 percent of the world’s population. India plays a vital role in multiple international organizations including the U.N., World Trade Organization (WTO) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). While India has sustained large economic growth—up to 10 percent annually—and a GDP amounting to roughly $1.6 billion, not everyone has reaped the benefits of these feats. India ranks as one of the poorest nations in the world with approximately 68.8 percent of its citizens living in poverty—that is over 800 million people. A life of poverty for these citizens hastens the spread of diseases that inevitably lead to chronic impairment or death. These are the top eight diseases in India.

Top 8 Diseases in India

  1. Ischemic Heart Disease – Commonly referred to as coronary artery disease (CAD), this condition is the number one cause of death in India. Independent groups such as the Indian Heart Association work to raise awareness of the issue through cardiac screenings and informational sessions. Indian dietary habits can be poor with many foods involving butter, grease and fatty foods. This is especially true for poorer segments of the population where this type of food is cheaper and easily accessible. From 2007 to 2017, there was an approximate 49.8 percent increase in the number of deaths in India caused by ischemic heart disease.
  2. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) – People primarily contract this disease through smoking, second-hand smoking and fume inhalation. Roughly 30 million Indians suffer from a moderate or severe form of COPD. Early detection of COPD can lead to successful treatment and survival of the patient. Factory pollution in India is rampant and the use of cigarettes is all too common, especially among poorer sections of the population. The impoverished have limited access to medical clinics with 56 percent of the population lacking health care, and thus, unable to get adequate treatment for COPD.
  3. Diarrheal Diseases – Diarrheal diseases account for a significant portion of childhood mortality in India. It is the third leading cause of childhood mortality and studies have correlated this to hygiene, malnutrition, improper sanitation and an impoverished upbringing. A lack of affordable care and education for families will lead to further prominence of diarrheal diseases in Indian society. Currently, the U.S. Agency for International Development is working to implement effective and affordable solutions to counteract sanitary related diseases in India.
  4. Lower Respiratory Infections – Respiratory infections such as influenza, pneumonia and bronchitis are all diseases that harm lung function in the body. Indians are extremely susceptible to these due to the high concentration of air pollution throughout the country, especially in poor rural and urban areas. In 2018, 14 out of 15 of the most polluted cities in the world were in India according to the World Health Organization. Further, air pollution also led to roughly 1.24 million deaths in India over the course of 2015.
  5. Tuberculosis – In 2016, there were 2.8 million reported cases of TB and about 450,000 deaths. This disease is rampant among the impoverished in India because there is not a sufficient amount of clinics and professionals to resolve the issue. The vaccine for tuberculosis is not accessible for Indians in the poor parts of the nation. Prime Minister Narendra Modi aims to eradicate tuberculosis by 2025. Through a $1 million partnership with USAID, India hopes to strengthen the detection and treatment of tuberculosis.
  6. Neonatal Disorders – While incidences of neonatal disorders in India have decreased from 52 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 28 per 1,000 in 2013, this is not an indicator of sustainable progression in India. The truth of the matter is that neonatal decline simply boosted the infant mortality rate because of a brief time-lapse in the survival of the newborn. In India, one can attribute neonatal deaths to asphyxia, pneumonia, sepsis, meningitis, tetanus and an array of other preterm abnormalities. Further, studies show that there is an inverse correlation between socioeconomic status and neonatal deaths. In impoverished rural parts of the country, the neonatal mortality rate is 31 per 1,000 live births whereas it is 15 per 1,000 live births in urban parts of the nation.
  7. Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) – Contrary to popular belief, CKD impacts lower-income countries as well as developed ones. In more developed countries, individuals are able to get access to life-saving treatments. Lower-income nations and portions of nations do not share the same luxury. Scientists predict that there will be 7.63 million deaths from CKD in India in 2020; this is up from the 3.78 million CKD deaths in 1990. The poor in India do not have the finances to receive transplants or the means to attend a reputable hospital.
  8. Tumors – Accounting for 9.4 percent of deaths in India, tumors are the product of pathogens and the buildup of harmful germs in the human body. While not extremely common, these tumors are affecting young and middle-age individuals at an alarming rate. Tumors are also root identifiers of cancer. In the last 26 years, the cancer rate in India has doubled and caused significant economic loss, exemplified by a $6.7 billion loss in 2012. Breast cancer, cervical cancer, lung cancer and oral cancer are extremely prominent in the nation. The costs of treatment are not attainable for all of the affected and thus cause an increase in mortality. India aims to increase the number of physicians and centers for treatment and research through a $20 million initiative. Nongovernmental organizations are also working to raise awareness and supporting early detection methods across the nation.

Since its independence in 1947, India became one of the strongest nations on the planet. With an unprecedented economic boom, India is an emerging global superpower. Despite India’s successes, it is still lagging behind many western countries in its accessibility to medicine, medical facilities and equal wealth distribution.

The top eight diseases in India are pressing problems the nation can resolve through adequate reform. While the situation may appear hopeless, India is taking strides forward to ensure that each citizen lives a prosperous and meaningful life. Technological advances such as new surgical techniques and radiotherapy equipment continue to help counteract malignant tumors and potent cancers. Furthermore, the Indian government has enacted the National Clean Air Plan to reduce air pollution by 20 to 30 percent by 2024. This has prompted individual cities throughout the nation to limit their carbon output through the use of more efficient technologies and stricter regulations. India can continue to thrive as a global economic power while working to resolve its internal problems.

– Jai Shah
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in Lesotho

Lesotho is a small, mountainous African kingdom surrounded by South Africa. Lesotho’s population is 72 percent rural and 80 percent are engaged in the agricultural sector, which has suffered greatly due to recent droughts, climate change and failed harvests. Lesotho is classified as a lower-middle-income country; however, 57 percent of its two million residents live below the poverty line. Here are eight facts about living conditions in Lesotho to know.

8 Facts About Living Conditions in Lesotho

  1. HIV/AIDS – In 2017, 23.8 percent of adults aged 15 to 49 in Lesotho had HIV, 320,000 people were living with HIV and there were 4,900 AIDs-related deaths. NGOs such as UNAIDS, UNICEF and the WHO have been working with Lesotho’s government to fast-track HIV prevention, testing and treatment. In 2017, 80 percent of people living with HIV in Lesotho were aware of their status, 74 percent of people with HIV were on treatment and 68 percent of people on treatment were virally suppressed.
  2. Tuberculosis – Around 405 out of 100,000 people suffer from tuberculosis (TB). This is one of the highest tuberculosis rates in southern Africa. This airborne bacterial disease is a huge public health crisis in Lesotho and is seen as a co-epidemic with HIV/AIDS. The crisis has narrowed substantially from the TB rate of 695 out of 100,000 people in 2007. Progress is being made, but there is still much to improve upon in terms of public health and living conditions in Lesotho.
  3. Access to Clean Water – The Highlands Water Project raises millions of dollars annually for Lesotho by selling water to its neighboring countries, primarily South Africa. Still, around 18.2 percent of people in Lesotho do not have access to clean drinking water. Many must walk for hours just to reach water access points that may or may not be in working order. The Metolong Dam Project is a promising project to help increase clean water accessibility. When completed in 2020, it is predicted that water supply will reach 90 percent of the district Maseru and sanitation coverage will increase from 15 to 20 percent.
  4. Food Insecurity – Drought in Lesotho combined with two successive crop failures, low incomes and high costs for food left more than 709,000 people in “urgent need of food assistance” from 2016 to 2017. The food insecurity crisis worsened with a steep reduction in harvest for Lesotho’s main crops of maize, sorghum and wheat between 2017 and 2018. The World Food Programme (WFP) is helping to reduce hunger in Lesotho by supporting more than 260,000 people affected by drought with monthly food distributions and cash-based transfers during the low-yield season.
  5. Stunting – One in three children under 5 years old are stunted as a result of chronic malnutrition. Acute malnutrition is a major problem in Lesotho’s population that affects children the most. Many NGOs focus on alleviating child hunger caused by poor living conditions in Lesotho. UNICEF provided support to 1,750 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition in 2017 and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) helped 2,560 families start home-based gardens with vegetables to create a stable, healthy food source. In addition, the WFP currently provides free healthy school meals to more than 250,000 children in 1,173 of Lesotho’s primary schools.
  6. Housing – Around 70 percent of Lesotho residents live in substandard housing conditions with issues ranging from overcrowding to lack of toilets. Nonprofits such as Habitat for Humanity operate in Lesotho to build homes for vulnerable populations, but individuals also can have a large impact on housing and development. A winning proposal by Javed Sultan for Climate CoLab laid out the success in building affordable and climate responsive homes for the elderly in Lesotho. Innovative and cost-effective building in Lesotho has the potential to help many people in housing poverty.
  7. Sanitation – Access to proper sanitation facilities has increased every year since 1994. In 2015, 30.3 percent of the population had access to improved sanitation facilities that included flushing systems, ventilation latrine pits and composting toilets ensuring hygienic separation from human waste. In 1994 only 22.6 percent had this level of sanitation. This shows that progress is being continually made to improve this area of living conditions in Lesotho, but there still is much to accomplish.
  8. Education – In 2010, Lesotho established Free and Compulsory Primary Education by law. The net lower basic enrollment ratio increased from 82 percent in 2000 to 95 percent in 2010. Lesotho also has one of the highest literacy rates in Africa, with 85 percent of people over the age of 14 being literate. The Government of Lesotho allocates 23.3 percent of its annual budget, or 9.2 percent of Lesotho’s GDP, on the education sector showing its commitment to improving its education system.

These eight facts about living conditions in Lesotho show that there are still major issues including epidemics, water, hunger and sanitation crises that need to be further addressed. However, progress is being made to improve living conditions on many fronts due to the collaboration of charitable organizations and the Government of Lesotho.

– Camryn Lemke
Photo: Flickr

Vaccines for Vanuatu
In December of 2018, Vanuatu made headlines as the first nation to receive a vaccination delivered by a drone. Vanuatu is a remote island off the coast of Australia, directly west of Fiji, made up of more than 70 smaller islands. After winning their independence from Britain and France in 1980, many of the islanders maintain their traditional Melanesian culture and lifestyle with an economy revolving around fishing, agriculture and tourism.

Vaccines to Vanuatu

Most villages scattered across Vanuatu are only accessible by boat or mountain footpath, which makes it difficult to deliver vaccines in a timely and safe manner. Vaccines must be kept at precise temperatures, which the warm, wet climate of Vanuatu makes especially difficult. However, technology is making healthcare possible, even on the small island of Vanuatu.

An Australian-based drone company, Swoop Aero, is working to deliver vaccines to Vanuatu. This is the first time the Vanuatu government, or any government for that matter, has contracted a drone company. Funded by UNICEF and the Australian government, Swoop Aero’s mission is to provide networks of autonomous drones to transport medical supplies, on-demand, to the people who need them most. Currently, 85 percent of the world has access to vaccines; if used correctly, drones will increase this figure to 95 percent vaccine coverage worldwide.

Success at Cook’s Bay

Also in December, Swoop Aero held their first trial run to a small village in Vanuatu called Cook’s Bay.  Their drone traveled 25 miles to deliver hepatitis and tuberculosis (TB) vaccines to a one-month-old baby named Joy Nowai. She became the first person ever to receive vaccines from a drone. Almost 20 percent of children in Vanuatu under 5-years-old lack access to life-saving vaccines, but after a successful trial flight by Swoop Aero, drones will continue to bring vaccines to Vanuatu.

Here are some other ways drones are helping to improve healthcare:

  • A U.S. drone company called Zipline currently delivers blood and other medical supplies to doctors in Ghana and Rwanda. Zipline is planning to start delivering vaccines, specifically rabies vaccines, to Ghana and Rwanda in 2019.
  • UNICEF is running a humanitarian drone test corridor in Malawi. After being tested, these drones will be able to transport blood samples between hospitals to speed up HIV diagnoses, especially in infants, and deliver other humanitarian and medical supplies to doctors.
  • Drones are speeding up tuberculosis (TB) testing in Papua New Guinea. Fast diagnoses are essential to curing TB, and in Papua New Guinea, a country with dense jungles and rough roads; this is especially difficult to manage. Drones quickly transport diagnostic samples from remote health centers to hospitals and laboratories, allowing for a quick diagnosis and treatment for the patient.

Increasing Access to Healthcare, One Drone at a Time

In this new age of technology, drones are providing unprecedented levels of access to medical supplies, including vaccines, lab testing and blood samples. After a successful trial run delivering vaccines to Vanuatu, Swoop Aero, UNICEF and other drone companies like Zipline are looking forward to a time when 100 percent of people will have access to medical supplies and healthcare.

– Natalie Dell
Photo: Pixabay

effects of poverty
Poverty stretches across the globe affecting almost half of the world’s population. Its effects reach deeper. Uniquely connected to different causes, the effects of poverty are revolving—one result leads to another source leads to another consequence. To fully understand the effects of poverty, the causes have to be rooted out to develop strategies to end hunger and starvation for good. Let’s discuss some of the top effects of poverty.

Poor Health

Globally, millions suffer from poverty-related health conditions as infectious diseases ravage the lives of an estimated 14 million people a year and are of the top effects of poverty. These diseases are contracted through sources like contaminated water, the absence of water and sanitation, and lack of access to proper healthcare. The list is broad and long. Here are the top diseases commonly linked to poverty.

  • Malaria: Malaria is urbanely referred to as the poor man’s disease, as more than a million people living in poverty die from it each year. Caused by a parasite, malaria is contracted through mosquito bites. Most prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, malaria affects the lives of many in 97 countries worldwide.
  • Tuberculosis: Often referred to as TB, tuberculosis is a bacteria-borne disease. The bacterium, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, targets the lungs. It also affects the kidneys, brain, and spine. When discussing the effects of TB worldwide, it must be broken down by burden—high burden TB and low burden TB—all of which has to do with the number of cases that impact a country. High burden TB affects more than 22 countries, as low burden TB accounts for 10 cases per 100,000 people in a geographical location.
  • HIV/AIDS: HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. This infection attacks the immune system and is contracted by contact with certain fluids in the body. If HIV is left untreated, certain infections and diseases can take over the body and cause a person to develop AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency syndrome). Thirty-six million people in the world have HIV/AIDS. In countries like Zambia and Zimbabwe, one in five adults live with HIV or AIDS.

Continuing the fight against poverty through economic expansion will help eliminate poverty-related illnesses and raise the value of health in poor communities.

Crime

There’s an old adage that says, “If a man don’t work, he don’t eat.” That’s not the case for a large number people living in poverty. Lack of economic opportunity leads to impoverishment which then leads to crime.

Global unemployment is at a high point. One hundred ninety-two million people around the world are jobless. In some parts of the world, mainly poor parts, unemployment standings will drive this number higher. In a study done on youth in the Caribbean, it was determined that joblessness fueled criminal activity in those aged 15 through 24.

Because of the struggles in the Caribbean job market, the murder rates are higher there than in any other region in the world. The crime rate affects 6.8 percent of the Caribbean population against the world average of 4.5 percent, calculating the global rate per 100,000 people.

People who live below the poverty line and don’t have access to sufficient economic opportunity, live by any dangerous means necessary.

Lack of Education

There is a direct correlation between low academic performance and poverty. Children who are exposed to extreme levels of poverty have difficulty with cognitive development, speech, and managing stress, which leads to adverse behavior.

In the country of Niger—the most illiterate nation in the world—only 15 percent of adults have the ability to read and write. Eritrea follows on the heels of Niger: with a population of 6 million, the average person only achieves four years of school.

In these poor locations, young adults and children have to leave school to work to help provide additional income for their families. Other children don’t have access to education due to decent schools being too far for them to travel to. On the other hand, schools nearby don’t have enough materials and resources to properly educate children. The conditions of the schools are just as poor as the children’s living conditions.

Where there’s poverty, there’s lack of education, joblessness, and poor health. The key to destroying the top effects of poverty is to attack the causes. More funding is needed for programs such as Child Fund International—a program that brings resources to children in poor communities. The International Economic Development Council supports economic developers by helping them create, retain, and expand jobs in their communities. And then there are the international efforts of the World Health Organization that fights to bring vaccinations and health-related resources to impoverished communities suffering from the infectious diseases of poverty. With these efforts along with other strategies, we can continue making strides to end the effects of poverty. 

– Naomi C. Kellogg 

 

Tuberculosis InfectionEvery year, 30,000 individuals in Papua New Guinea are newly infected with tuberculosis. Tuberculosis is an airborne infection that causes the bacteria mycobacterium tuberculosis to develop into a disease that destroys organ tissue most commonly in the lungs. It can be fatal if left untreated. From those 30,000, one out of four are diagnosed; one out of five receive treatment; and less than half get successfully treated. If left untreated, one person can infect 10 to 15 people every year.

Increasing incidences due to minimal health care, poor housing and nutrition have contributed to poverty, overcrowding and people failing to complete their treatment. In fact only 50 percent of individuals have access to adequate healthcare. Children face the greatest risk of contracting disabling forms of tuberculosis. Unfortunately, 10 percent of children die from tuberculosis.

Papua New Guinea’s island of Daru has the highest rate of tuberculosis infection in the world. Out of 150,000 people on the island, 160 get infected with drug-resistant tuberculosis as of January 2016. The rise of two aggressive strains of tuberculosis are a result of recent developments of antibiotic resistance.

This resistance stems from multidrug resistant and extensively drug resistant tuberculosis. To treat tuberculosis infection, a daily regimen of injections, oral medication and supervised medical care of anywhere between six to 24 months is recommended.

With funding from the United States Agency for International Development and the National Department of Health, FHI360 is hosting a series training courses for doctors to introduce Bedaquiline. Janssen Pharmaceuticals developed Bedaquiline, the first new class of antibiotics approved by the United States Food and Drug Association in more than 40 years.

By utilizing pharmacovigilance—the science of early detection and adverse effects—Bedaquiline is slowly being introduced to practitioners and their patients. In fact, 85 courses of Bedaquiline have already been distributed to Daru hospital.

Tiffany Santos
Photo: Flickr


Ghana plans to end tuberculosis (TB) and other lung related diseases by 2030 through the aid of diagnostic technology GeneXpert, according to Ghanaian doctor Frank Bonsu. He spoke at a press conference before the opening of the 20th Conference of the Union Africa Region on Lung Health. The four-day long conference, held approximately every two years, brings together more than 800 international and African delegates to discuss and plan tactics for eliminating TB and other lung diseases from the African continent.

Bonsu is the chairman of the conference as well as the program manager of Ghana’s National TB Control Programme. He said that although Ghana has made strides in fighting TB, there are still many cases that go undetected. Ideally, 44,000 cases of TB should be detected each year, but currently, only 15,000 are diagnosed. Bonsu blames the country’s lack of modern diagnostic equipment, its low number of microbiologists, the population’s poor awareness and the stigma of the disease that keeps people from seeking medical aid.

A combination of Ghana using GeneXpert and a reduction of the negative stigma against TB, Bonsu believes, is needed for an effective eradication. The National TB Control Programme also changed its emphasis from treating those who seek medical attention at facilities to its current outreach strategy in risk communities. The program hopes going out and offering aid will encourage early diagnosis, increase treatment and decrease stigma.

GeneXpert is a molecular test that can detect even the smallest amount of TB bacteria. It can also test for resistance to the common TB antibiotic Rifampicin. The main difference between GeneXpert and the other methods of TB detection, such as sputum microscopy, is its reliability and speed. GeneXpert can have results in less than two hours as opposed to weeks.

GeneXpert can only be used for diagnostic purposes and cannot be used to properly monitor treatment. It also does not eliminate the need for conventional microscopy culture and drug sensitivity testing, according to the World Health Organization, as these tactics are still needed to monitor treatment progress and detect other types of drug resistance. Yet GeneXpert is a major milestone in TB diagnostic technology.

With Ghana using GeneXpert, many more cases of TB can be caught early and treated more effectively. Ghana hopes that with the introduction of this new technology by the end of this year, along with outreach programs and a decrease in negative stigma, the country will be free of TB in 2030.

Hannah Kaiser

Photo: Flickr


Located in Southern Africa, Botswana is one of Africa’s most stable countries, with a solid economy built on diamonds and Safari-based tourism. However, the country continues to struggle with high rates of HIV/AIDS, as well as other preventable diseases. Here are the top three deadliest diseases in Botswana:

1. HIV

HIV is not only one of the deadliest diseases in Botswana, but it is also the number one cause of death, accounting for 32 percent of all deaths in the country. Despite the disease’s prevalence, the Ministry of Health’s national HIV program has helped efforts progress. Approximately 96 percent of people in need of HIV treatment in Botswana have received it. Increased prevention of mother-to-child transmission has reduced the transmission rate to less than four percent.

2. Malaria

While seven percent of deaths each year are due to malaria, Botswana has significantly reduced the disease’s burden. Government interventions, such as establishing rapid response teams and adequate healthcare facilities, has helped reduce incidences from 0.99 to 0.01 percent between 2000 and 2012. Botswana’s progress has not gone unnoticed. In 2016, the country received the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) Award for its progress in reducing malaria.

3. Tuberculosis (TB)

Tuberculosis is very common in Botswana, causing six percent of deaths each year. Part of what makes TB so dangerous is that it is a common opportunistic infection in people with HIV. In Botswana, 75 percent of patients with TB are HIV-positive. TB rates began rising in Botswana with the increase in HIV/AIDS in the 1990s, with rates from 200 cases per 100,000 people in 1990 to 620 per 100,000 in 2002. With the help of international partners, the government has launched numerous programs aimed at increasing testing, prevention and awareness of the link between HIV and TB.

Despite its steady economy and stable government, Botswana continues to suffer from high rates of preventable diseases. That said, the government has made significant progress in reducing this prevalence of these diseases and continues to dedicate important time and resources to prevention.

Alexi Worley

Photo: Flickr