• Public healthCan America cope with a resurgence of tropical disease?

    By Carrie Arnold

    Having stamped out a number of tropical diseases — including malaria — decades ago, is America today complacent about a rising wave of infectious disease? It is the nature of these diseases — neglected diseases, diseases of poverty, call them what you like — that they can go unnoticed for years, chewing away at the health of individuals and communities. As poverty, geography, climate, and social factors combine to bring tropical diseases out of hiding once again in the U.S. South, physicians, politicians, and the general public have to take the warning signs seriously and recognize that the tools available for tackling tropical diseases are sorely lacking. Despite tremendous advances in other types of illness in recent decades, tropical medicine remains stubbornly stuck in the 1950s, leaving the United States as unprepared as low-income nations to treat any significant number of cases. With diseases like Chagas now known to be prevalent and transmissible within the United States, better awareness, better tests, and better treatments are all urgently required. Otherwise, the number of people affected and infected will only continue to rise as this perfect storm grows ever stronger.

  • Infectious diseaseNew research aims to slow the spread of infectious diseases

    Emerging pandemic disease outbreaks such as Ebola increasingly threaten global public health and world economies, scientists say. We can expect five such new diseases to emerge each year — and spread. The tropical disease dengue fever, for example, has made its way to Florida and Texas, seemingly to stay. The NSF’s Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases (EEID) program supports research aiming to help understanding of the underlying ecological and biological mechanisms behind human-induced environmental changes and the emergence and transmission of infectious diseases. This year, the program has awarded eight new grants totaling $18 million.

  • Infectious diseaseMobile phone data help track spread of infectious diseases

    Tracking mobile phone data is often associated with privacy issues, but these vast datasets could be the key to understanding how infectious diseases are spread seasonally, according to a new study. Researchers used anonymous mobile phone records for more than fifteen million people to track the spread of rubella in Kenya and were able quantitatively to show for the first time that mobile phone data can predict seasonal disease patterns. Harnessing cellphone data in this way could help policymakers guide and evaluate health interventions like the timing of vaccinations and school closings, the researchers said. The researchers’ methodology also could apply to a number of seasonally transmitted diseases such as the flu and measles.

  • SuperbugsHighly sensitive test to detect and diagnose infectious disease, superbugs

    Infectious diseases such as hepatitis C and some of the world’s deadliest superbugs — C. difficile and MRSA among them — could soon be detected much earlier by a unique diagnostic test, designed to easily and quickly identify dangerous pathogens. Researchers have developed a new way to detect the smallest traces of metabolites, proteins or fragments of DNA. In essence, the new method can pick up any compound that might signal the presence of infectious disease, be it respiratory or gastrointestinal.

  • Infectious diseaseCHIKV Challenge winners --- forecasting the spread of infectious diseases

    The chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is quickly spreading through the Western Hemisphere; as of 15 May 2015, the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) had tallied close to 1.4 million suspected cases and more than 33,000 confirmed cases since the virus’ first appearance in the Americas in December 2013. Spread by mosquitoes, chikungunya is rarely fatal but can cause debilitating joint and muscle pain, fever, nausea, fatigue and rash, and poses a growing public health and national security risk. Governments and health organizations could take more effective proactive steps to limit the spread of CHIKV if they had accurate forecasts of where and when it would appear. But such predictions for CHIKV and other emerging infectious diseases remain beyond the reach of current modeling capabilities. To accelerate the development of new infectious disease forecasting methods, DARPA launched its CHIKV Challenge competition last year.

  • Infectious diseaseUsing artificial intelligence to forecast future infectious disease outbreaks

    Most emerging infectious diseases are transmitted from animals to humans, with more than a billion people suffering annually. Safeguarding public health requires effective surveillance tools. Researchers used machine learning – a form of artificial intelligence — to pinpoint rodent species that harbor diseases and geographic hotspots vulnerable to new parasites and pathogens.

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  • SuperbugsAntibiotic resistant typhoid detected in countries around the world

    There is an urgent need to develop global surveillance against the threat to public health caused by antimicrobial resistant pathogens, which can cause serious and untreatable infections in humans. Typhoid is a key example of this, with multidrug resistant strains of the bacterium Salmonella Typhi becoming common in many developing countries. A landmark genomic study, with contributors from over two-dozen countries, shows the current problem of antibiotic resistant typhoid is driven by a single clade, family of bacteria, called H58 that has now spread globally.

  • African public healthIn Kenya, human health and livestock health are linked

    It is that 300 million people living in sub-Saharan Africa depend on their livestock as a main source of livelihood and nutrition. If a farmer’s goats, cattle, or sheep are sick in Kenya, how is the health of the farmer? Though researchers have long suspected a link between the health of farmers and their families in sub-Saharan Africa and the health of their livestock, a team of veterinary and economic scientists has quantified the relationship for the first time in a study.

  • BioterrorismHalting response to the 4 Ebola cases in U.S. valuable in preparations for bioterror attacks

    The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed at least 10,000 people to date. There were only four Ebola diagnoses in the United States, one of which resulted in a death, but many public health officials say the U.S. response to in-country cases is a lesson on how government can prepare for a bioterror attack. Experts warn, though, thatthe United States is only prepared to confront a fraction of the fifteen potential biological agents that could be released in an attack, adding that many U.S. cities would be left scrambling to respond.

  • Infectious diseaseSeattle infectious disease research center hosts “Rally for Global Health”

    Fourteen million people die from infectious diseases around the world every year. The Seattle, Washington-based Center for Infectious Disease Research (formerly Seattle BioMed) hosted the “Rally for Global Health” last week to raise awareness for the Washington state global health and life-sciences industries and formally launch a petition urging congress to increase funding for the National Institutes of Health. During the event, the Center for Infectious Disease Research, which is the largest independent nonprofit in the world focused solely on infectious disease research, officially announced the organization has changed its name and is no longer Seattle BioMed.

  • EpidemicsDisease can be monitored, predicted by analyzing views of Wikipedia articles

    Scientists can now monitor and forecast diseases around the globe more effectively by analyzing views of Wikipedia articles. Researchers were able successfully to monitor influenza in the United States, Poland, Japan and Thailand, dengue fever in Brazil and Thailand, and tuberculosis in China and Thailand. They were also able to forecast all but one of these, tuberculosis in China, at least twenty-eight days in advance.

  • Infectious diseaseThe growing economic cost of infectious diseases

    Emerging pandemic disease outbreaks such as Ebola increasingly threaten global public health and world economies, scientists say. We can expect five new such diseases each year, into the future. We should also expect them to spread. The tropical disease dengue fever, for example, has made its way to Florida and Texas, seemingly to stay. Five new such diseases expected each year; strategies to reduce climate change adaptable to infectious diseases. Economists, disease ecologists, and others collaborated on an in-depth economic analysis of strategies to address pandemic threats in a proactive way — rather than a reactive response to a crisis.

  • EbolaRate of infection in West Africa has begun to slow down

    Public health officials monitoring the Ebola epidemic in West Africa say the outbreak may have reached a turning point in which transmissions may have begun to slow down. Dr. Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, the organization funding a series of fast-tracked trials of Ebola vaccines and drugs, says that although the virus will continue to infect people in the months ahead, “it is finally becoming possible to see some light.”

  • Infectious diseaseInfection outbreaks, unique diseases on the increase since 1980

    Ebola has a lot of company. In a novel database now made publicly available, researchers found that since 1980 the world has seen an increasing number of infectious disease outbreaks from an increasing number of sources. The good news, however, is that they are affecting a shrinking proportion of the world population. The number of infectious disease outbreaks and the number of unique illnesses causing them appear to be increasing around the globe, with more than 12,000 outbreaks affecting forty-four million people worldwide over the last thirty-three years.

  • EbolaLack of federal authority makes fashioning coherent national Ebola policy difficult

    Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) issued new guidelines on how states should deal with travelers from Ebola-stricken regions, but a lack of federal authority to mandate such guidelines has led to conflicting strategies, varying from state to state, which includes mandatory at-home quarantine for some travelers. Under current U.S. law, the states have the authority to issue quarantine or isolation policies, and they also control the enforcement of these policies within their territories.