Currently showing posts tagged SciDev

  • Malaria: Should it be controlled or eradicated?

    This article is from SciDev Net. What do you think?

    "Some scientists worry that renewed enthusiasm for malaria eradication could distract from vital control efforts, says Priya Shetty.

    Lately, malaria scientists have once again begun talking about eradication. It is not a word they use lightly. The last attempt, in the 1950s, failed miserably. Millions of people died because, far from disappearing, the disease came back stronger than ever.

    Since then, the global health community has focused on reducing the number of cases and severity of the disease and lowering death tolls.

    But ridding the world of this disease, which kills more than a million people every year, was a hot topic at the fifth Multilateral Initiative on Malaria (MIM) meeting earlier this month (November) in Nairobi, Kenya.

    Several high-profile international groups, most notably the Gates Foundation, are pushing elimination and eradication. At first glance, these are unquestionably positive goals.

    Yet some researchers fear that health infrastructure in regions like Africa is ill-equipped to roll out eradication tools, and are nervous that the shift will divert funds from much-neededbasic control measures

    Read the rest of the article . . .

  • Cholera outbreaks depend on river flow, say scientists

    This article is frome SciDev Net:

    "The severity of cholera outbreaks can be linked to the rate at which rivers flow, scientists have found.

    Cholera, caused by the aquatic bug Vibrio cholerae, spreads through contaminated food and water.

    It has re-emerged as a major killer in recent decades, with the number of cases up ten per cent between 2007 and 2008, at 200,000, and the number of deaths up by more than a quarter at 5,000.

    The team, from Tufts University, United States, analysed Bangladesh's two seasonal cholera outbreaks — one around March and a second in September–October — using cholera data from the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research (ICDDR,B) between 1980 and 2000, and water records from the country's hydrology department.

    They found a link between the severity of the two outbreaks and the volume of water flowing in the deltas of Bangladesh's three major rivers: the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna.

    The March outbreak coincides with low water levels in the rivers. The lower the water level, the more seawater seeps in from the Bay of Bengal, carrying the microscopic plants and animals that harbour Vibrio cholerae, spreading infection, they suggest.

    Severe October outbreaks are linked to high flood years, when faecal contamination in the rivers enters drinking-water sources.

    The team says its findings can be used to develop an early warning system for cholera.

    Shafiqul Islam, professor of civil and environmental engineering at the university and lead author, says it is unlikely that cholera will ever be eradicated because the germs thrive in sea water — where they cannot be controlled — and newer types continually emerge.

    "We need a cholera warning system to control outbreaks and minimise their impact by prior planning and implementing effective interventions," he told SciDev.Net.

    Environmental indicators provide advanced warning and can be applied to any region, he says.

    Recent research by the ICDDR,B has also linked cholera outbreaks in Bangladesh to hours of sunshine and temperature in spring and autumn.

    Increases in sea surface temperature and river height also influence outbreaks in Vietnam, says Mohammad Yunus, senior scientist at the ICDDR,B's public health sciences division.

    Yunus points out such insights will be meaningful only if scientists monitoring environmental indicators inform public health scientists dealing with outbreaks on the ground.

    Some cholera outbreaks have more to do with public health infrastructure breakdown, he adds — as in Zimbabwe, where the ICDDR,B scientists are helping build local capacity in clinical examination and detection.

    Even in coastal countries such as Nigeria, where outbreaks can be linked with climate and water variables, collecting environmental data well in advance will be a challenge, he says.

    The research was published last month (October) in Geophysical Research Letters."

  • Will someone fix my arsenic water?

    Article from SciDev Net:

    "Many new technologies have promised to remove arsenic from drinking water but little has changed on the ground, finds T. V. Padma.

    [MATLAB] Razia Begum has been asking the same question for two years now: "Please will someone fix my arsenic filter?"

    She lives in Nagda, a village in one of the areas of Bangladesh most severely contaminated by arsenic in drinking water — although at first glance there is nothing about the village's lush paddy fields to suggest anything dangerous.

    Razia's family, like many thousands of others in such areas, was given an 'alcan' filter — a simple unit containing a material called activated alumina that absorbs arsenic from water — under a UN project in 2006. Two years later, the filter stopped working as it became clogged up and needed specialist attention that was no longer available.

    Ever since, Razia has been searching in vain for a well with a green tube, an indicator of arsenic-free water. She finally settled for pond water, which is contaminated with village waste and used for bathing, and which is a source of diarrhoeal infections. (Photo shows symptoms of arsenic poisoning.)

    Straightforward solutions to the arsenic problem that affects hundreds of millions of people have, so far, been hard to come by.

    "I am not aware of any research that has led to a widespread application for providing arsenic-safe water to people in the affected areas," says Mohammad Yunus, senior scientist at the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh, which is based in Dhaka and works in Nagda and neighbouring villages.

    This is despite the fact that scientists have made great progress in understanding how, where and why arsenic ends up in soil and water, and have designed promising tests and filters. But for such inventions to survive, they must overcome basic, yet hard-to-resolve issues that lie far beyond the laboratories."

    Read the rest of the article . . .

  • Open Sourcing Genetic Research —Science and Development Network—is a non-commercial e-zine that publishes news, views, and information about science, technology, and the developing world. That's correct—no advertisements whatsoever. AND high-quality content. I read it regularly and use it to research many of my blog topics. is funded by charitable organizations whose purpose is to help the developing world. But now, SciDev is looking for contributions from individuals. Take a look at this story and the rest of this issue. If you like what you read, consider becoming a subscriber. Then, consider donating to them

    From . . .

    Open source TB megaproject yields first fruits

    [NEW DELHI] A unique effort by scientists to pull together scattered genetic information about the tuberculosis (TB) bug, with the goal of developing new remedies, has identified its first candidate molecule.

    The Open Source Drug Discovery (OSDD) programme aroused huge interest when it was mooted by Samir Brahmachari, director-general of India's Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), in 2007, because it offered a new route to finding drugs for diseases in the developing world traditionally neglected by drug companies (see 'Open source' urged for TB drug design effort).

    Continue to the entire article...