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DRUG-RESISTANT TB NEARS END WITH POWERFUL NEW TOOL August 31, 2008

DRUG-RESISTANT TB NEARS END WITH POWERFUL NEW TOOL

Erle Frayne Argonza

 

In the domain of field epidemiology comes a very brightening news about a powerful new tool that can diagnose drug-resistant tuberculosis or TB.

 

TB had ravaged many countries for centuries, and was only curbed for a while after the 2nd world war. But flawed policies and practices led to the near-catastrophic return of TB to near-pandemic levels.

 

The news about the powerful new tool is contained below.

 

Happy reading!

 

[12 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to SciDev database news.]

 

 

 

Powerful new tool to diagnose drug-resistant TB

Sharon Davis

2 July 2008 | EN

Mycobacterium tuberculosis

Flickr/AJC1

[DURBAN] Clinical trials of a new molecular technique have found it to be effective at quickly identifying multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) in resource-poor settings.

As a result, the WHO has endorsed the use of the test in all countries with MDR-TB.

South Africa’s National Health Laboratory Service and Medical Research Council (MRC), and the Foundation for Innovative Diagnostics (FIND) collaborated to test 30,000 patients suspected to have MDR-TB in South Africa between 2007 and 2008. They used both the rapid test and conventional testing.

They announced the results at the opening of the 2008 South African Tuberculosis conference in Durban this week (1 July).

The test uses polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology to amplify Mycobacterium tuberculosis DNA and look for genetic mutations that cause resistance to drugs.

It is the first of its kind to be used against TB and the first new tool for TB in 50 years, says Martie van der Walt, acting director of the TB Epidemiology and Intervention Research Unit at the MRC.

The new TB test yielded results on 92 per cent of all samples compared with about three-quarters (77.5 per cent) of samples tested by conventional methods. It takes between eight hours and two days to get a result, compared to six to eight weeks for conventional testing.

Patients who receive appropriate drugs sooner minimise their risk of acquiring additional drug resistance, van der Walt told SciDev.Net. Earlier diagnosis also cuts the chance of infecting others.

Seventeen countries will receive the tests over the next four years through the WHO Stop TB Partnership’s Global Drug Facility. FIND and the WHO’s Global Laboratory Initiative will help countries build the capacity — such as laboratory equipment and trained staff — to carry out tests based on PCR techniques.

Mario Raviglione, director of the Stop TB Partnership said in a teleconference this week (30 June) that laboratories in Lesotho, where MDR-TB rates are among the highest in the world, would be ready to use the test within three months.

Laboratory technicians in Ethiopia have been trained, and facilities upgraded, and rapid testing is expected to begin by the end of 2008. Technicians in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Ivory Coast, Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda have also been trained and are using the test on a smaller scale.

The new tests will be phased in from 2009–2011 in Bangladesh, Indonesia Myanmar and Vietnam.

Developed by Hain LifeScience in Germany, and Innogenetics in Belgium, the test has previously been used on a limited scale by researchers and private laboratories in resource-rich countries, said Richard O’Brien, head of product evaluation and demonstration at FIND.

At US$5 per patient, the test halves diagnosis costs — excluding associated infrastructure and laboratory capacity costs necessary for molecular testing. Using the tests will still be cheaper than treating a larger epidemic, according to O’Brien.

The success has rekindled commercial and research interest in creating a test tailored for extremely drug-resistant TB. A prototype should be available later in 2008. 

 

INDIA ACTION PLANS CLIMATE CHANGE August 29, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

 

On a case to case basis, each country has taken certain forms of action regarding climate change. India had recently formulated its action plan for climate change, a plan that served well as input to its cooperative efforts with South Asian countries.

 

The report is shown below.

 

Happy reading!

 

[12 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to SciDev database news.]

 

 

 

India launches climate change action plan

T. V. Padma

4 July 2008 | EN

India’s solar mission aims to make its solar energy industry as competitive as its fossil fuel industry

Flickr/z1zzy

[NEW DELHI] India released its national action plan on climate change this week (30 June) with a focus on harnessing renewable energy rather than stringent emissions targets.

India’s prime minister Manmohan Singh released the plan ahead of his attendance at next week’s (7–9 July) G8 summit in Japan where climate change is expected to be discussed.

The action plan spells out eight priority missions that will promote India’s development objectives, with the “co-benefit” of tackling climate change.

The eight missions are: solar energy, enhanced energy efficiency, sustainable habitats, water conservation, sustaining the Himalayan ecosystem, developing a ‘green’ India, sustainable agriculture and building a strategic knowledge platform on climate change.

“Over a period of time, we must pioneer a graduated shift from economic activity based on fossil fuels to one based on non-fossil fuels, and from reliance on non-renewable and depleting sources of energy to renewable sources of energy,” Singh said.

The missions will be managed by the appropriate ministries, and specific programmes within the missions will be finalised by December.

Of these, solar energy will receive a big thrust. India receives the equivalent of about 5,000 trillion kilowatt hours of energy from the sun each year — 5.5 kilowatt hours per square metre each year — with most areas experiencing clear, sunny weather for 250 to 300 days. 

The solar mission aims to tap this natural resource and make the country’s solar energy industry as competitive as the fossil fuel industry by setting up a new research centre, entering into research collaborations and encouraging technology transfer.

The plan does not spell out greenhouse gas emission targets, but states that per capita emissions in India will not exceed levels in industrialised countries. India is the world’s fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gases in absolute terms, but lies behind the US and Europe in terms of annual per capita emissions it (1.2 tonnes compared to 20 and 9.4 tonnes respectively).

The international environmental organisation Greenpeace, said in a statement that the plan is a “welcome first step” but has some weak areas that need to be addressed.

“The plan lacks clear policy prescriptions and targets for improving energy efficiency and reducing transportation emissions,” Srinivas Krishnaswamy, policy advisor for Greenpeace, India, told SciDev.Net.

“They should have placed more emphasis on mandatory emission standards,” he added. 

 

SOUTH ASIA ESCALATES CLIMATE CHANGE INTERVENTION

Erle Frayne Argonza

 

Good morning from Manila!

 

Climate change is among the world’s hottest environmental and developmental issues. Climate change alone has so many facets to it, and some issues are so contentious they border hoax.

 

Below is a news item from South Asia, concerning concerted efforts by stakeholders to address climate change.

 

Happy reading!

 

[13 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to SciDev database news.]

 

South Asian nations join forces to tackle climate change

Source: IRIN

9 July 2008 | EN | 中文

The countries have pledged to improve monitoring and exchange of information on impacts such as rising sea levels

Flickr/Sumaiya Ahmed

South Asian nations have adopted a three-year environmental action plan to reduce the impact of climate change in the region.

Environmental ministers from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) — Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka — adopted the declaration in Dhaka, Bangladesh, last week (3 July) following a three-day summit.

The action plan covers 2009–2011, with countries pledging to improve monitoring and exchange of information on disaster preparedness and extreme events, meteorological data, information on climate change impacts such as increased sea levels, glacial melting and biodiversity, and capacity for clean development mechanism projects.

The ministers called for more technology to fight climate change and better technology and knowledge transfer between SAARC member states.

They also called for a South Asia fund on climate change, with further discussions scheduled for the next SAARC summit in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in July. 

 

BOOSTING HEALTH RESEARCH IN AFRICA August 28, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

The Millenium Development Goal has been seriously reflected upon and guiding the actions of member states of the UN since its release earlier this decade. The target of halving poverty by 2015 is a tall order, as the key result areas for intervention are legion.

The countries of Africa are surely working their way in a most cooperative manner across the continent, via their regional/continental formations such as the African Union. From the continent comes the news about planning to draw a common framework for health research, and the challenge to put them into action.

Enjoy your read!

[06 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

Time to turn words into deeds on health research

27 June 2008 | EN

An Ethiopian doctor conducting research

WHO/TDR/Crump

African ministers have committed themselves to a set of actions to boost health research in their countries. Now they must implement them.

There is much encouragement to be gained from the commitment to health research demonstrated by Africa’s health and science ministers at a meeting in Algeria this week (23–26 June). At the meeting, ministers from 17 African countries announced a collective commitment to ensuring a higher priority for health research at both a national and regional level, and across the continent.

Improving health in the developing world is one of the key Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These include, for example, reducing the mortality rate among children under five by two-thirds and maternal mortality by three-quarters, and making a significant impact on malaria and other tropical diseases. None of these targets will be achieved without extensive research into new methods of diagnosis and treatment.

The Algiers meeting was organised as a preparatory meeting for the Global Ministerial Forum on Research for Health that takes place in Bamako, Mali, in November 2008.

Its key outcome was the ‘Algiers Declaration’, a commendable list of 22 actions that ministers agreed to implement before the end of 2009, and intended to ensure that the potential contribution of health research to achieving the MDGs is delivered.

The actions include increasing funding for health research and research capacity-building by African governments, and boosting mechanisms for scientific and ethical oversight of all such activity. The ministers also agreed to “support the translation of research results into policy and action by creating appropriate mechanisms and structures, including promoting networks of researchers, decision-makers and policymakers for evidence-based public health action”.

Communication challenges

Provided these commitments are met, Africa’s health will receive a significant boost. But it became clear from the discussions in Algiers that there are several key issues that must be tackled urgently if this is to happen.

One is the need for better information about the health priorities of the continent — and a clearer idea within African countries themselves about how these priorities can best be addressed through research.

Donor agencies from the developed world — who provide much of the funding for such research — are frequently criticised by African stakeholders for seeking to impose an agenda that reflects the donor’s own priorities. But many of these agencies insist that they would be delighted to engage in a more informed, two-way dialogue on what their research priorities should be.

This means that African nations need to develop their own capacity for setting research priorities. Two essential components of this are adequate information about current research efforts and the development of professional skills among both research administrators and government officials — part of a broader need to develop a robust research infrastructure.

Another necessity is the development of stronger networks to ensure that African researchers and politicians — including particular ministers — communicate with each other more effectively. Far too often, gaps remain between scientists’ understanding of what is needed for health research to be put into practice, and the willingness of decision-makers to implement the steps that make this possible.

Ethical considerations

An additional need is to boost national capacities to address the ethical dimensions of health research — particularly at a time when the activities of researchers from the developed world, including those carrying out large-scale clinical trials for pharmaceutical companies, are under closer scrutiny.

A survey of capacity to conduct ethical reviews in 634 research institutes in 43 countries was presented at the Algiers meeting by a WHO team. They found that half of those who have a “high research activity” don’t have written policies requiring researchers to obtain informed consent from trial participants.

There is still much debate to be had about how the situation can be improved. Nevertheless, it is clear that health research in Africa needs to be conducted in a more ethical manner than in the past. And building the capacity to achieve this must form an integral part of future plans. 

Closer collaboration

A third priority to emerge from the meeting was the need to encourage more research collaboration. The final declaration calls for promotion of equitable cooperation, technology transfer and collaboration, emphasising that this requires both North–South and South–South dimensions. 

But it became clear at the meeting that delegates — mostly African ministers and researchers — had a greater interest in the second of those. They were more interested in how African countries could transfer knowledge between themselves than in receiving knowledge from Northern institutions, a sentiment echoed by Elias Zerhouni, the director of the US National Institutes of Health.

Finally there was general acceptance among the Algiers delegates that none of these aims could be achieved without adequate funding.

Participants broadly agreed that not only should African countries seek to boost their spending on research and development to at least one per cent of their gross domestic product — a target endorsed by last year’s African Union summit — but that at least ten per cent of research spending should be dedicated to health research.

But, as science ministers are already aware, there is a large step between putting forward a wish list and ensuring that those who control the purse strings are prepared to listen and act. The Algiers Declaration has provided a framework within which action can occur. What is now required is the political commitment within individual African countries to turn those words into deeds.

David Dickson, Director, SciDev.Net

Link to the full Algiers Declaration [25kB]

 

VIETNAM’S BIZ SUCCESS BY BIOGAS

Erle Frayne Argonza

Good morning Vietnam!

To this great land of the Annamese, who never cease to cause us wonderment over their exemplary nationalist and patriotic efforts such as their booting out of the French and American imperial forces, we extend every encouragement to go on in their growth efforts. Never mind if their former invaders have shown no respect for the Vietnamese state, let them heal their wounds from their defeat by the Vietnamese.

Now here comes a welcome news about biogas research and prototype production in Vietnam that could accelerate the pace of many businesses there. Biogas is actually home to East Asia, to China particularly where it got perfected during the Mao years yet and then got diffused into the neighboring countries.

Happy reading!

[06 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila

 Biogas: A scent of success for Vietnam small business

Source: Viet Nam News

25 June 2008 | EN | 中文

A biogas stove

Flickr/AIDG

With the continued rise in energy prices, biogas looks set to become a viable alternative for small business owners in Vietnam, according to this article from Viet Nam News.

Biogas — an alternative cooking fuel produced from animal waste — has been used throughout Vietnam since the 1980s, both for cooking and in large-sized engines.

Now it is being expanded for use in small engines and generators. Professor Bui Van Ga and colleagues from Da Nang University have developed an electric generator fuelled by the biogas not required in cooking.

Using biogas as an alternative to diesel engines requires the eradication of impurities and the creation of a ‘regulating kit’, which ensures a stable electric current. Both the regulator and filter are made of materials that are readily accessible and affordable for users. Additionally, the technology is simple to install.

Ga calculates that the waste from 20 pigs can power a small-sized electric generator, and farmers could save up to two million Vietnamese dong (US$110) a month, as well as cutting down on 9.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually.

Link to full article in Viet Nam News

 

PERU’S SERPENT BITE SERUM August 27, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

That serpentine fire can burn you or rather kill you. Make no joke about snake bites, as they are among those killers in our planet.

From Peru comes a heartwarming news about a new innovation in serum development to address the problems attendant to serpentine bites.

Happy reading!

[05 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to SciDev database news.]

Perú produce suero en polvo contra veneno de serpientes

Zoraida Portillo

24 junio 2008 | ES

[LIMA] El Perú aspira a convertirse en pionero en la región andina en investigaciones científicas para la producción de sueros en polvo contra las mordeduras de serpientes y otros animales ponzoñosos.

Así lo señaló Patricia García, jefa del Instituto Nacional de Salud, durante el lanzamiento del primer suero antibotrópico liofilizado producido en el Perú, el que contrarresta los efectos del veneno por mordedura de las serpientes bótrox (Bothrops atrox.), cuya mordedura tiene la más alta prevalencia en el país.

El suero es producto de ocho años de investigaciones y pruebas por científicos del Centro Nacional de Productos Biológicos, y fue lanzado oficialmente el 17 de junio en Lima. Con la misma fórmula maestra de los inmunosueros antiofídicos, no requiere refrigeración pues es en polvo, y tiene una vida activa de cinco años.

Durante el lanzamiento del producto, el ministro de salud, Hernán Garrido Lecca, informó que el suero está destinado principalmente a los pobladores nativos e indígenas de la amazonía peruana, donde ocurre la mayor cantidad de mordeduras de estas serpientes.

El primer lote, con 800 dosis, será despachado en los próximos días a los lugares más remotos.

Según el ministerio de salud,el año pasado 2.585 personas fueron mordidas por la bótrox. Por falta de atención inmediata, 52 murieron.

Un estudio realizado por Alfonso Zavaleta, de la Universidad Cayetano Heredia, al que SciDev.Net tuvo acceso, afirmaque el botropismo constituye la primera causa de envenenamientos fatales producidos por animales ponzoñosos cada año. Un tercio de los pacientes son niños.

La introducción del producto irá acompañada de capacitaciones a los proveedores de salud y agentes comunitarios de las regiones con ocurrencias de accidentes ofídicos, con el fin de estandarizar y mejorar el manejo de las mordeduras de serpientes e iniciar el registro de casos y uso de los sueros, para adecuar la producción a la demanda, indicó el ministro.

 

OLYMPICS A’BEIJING: CHINA & ASIA RISES IN ATHLETICS

Erle Frayne Argonza

Magandang araw! Good day!

Is there any other news that brightens up the world better than the latest Olympics games held at Beijing? Amid the world’s running agog in quagmires of hatred and wars, caused largely by demonic minds among the West’s oligarchy, there are still developments that enchant us even as they stir up hope in a planet that had now moved into a new Dark Age.

The latest Olympics held at Beijing deserve a plethora of praises from everyone, with the greatest accolades given to the People’s Republic of China. With excellent playing grounds nestled on an exquisite ‘bird’s nest’ structure of stunning architectural wonder, excellently organized and provided for, what else can you say of this Beijing sponsorship of the games? Only those rowdy Western Establishment media had raised an unparalleled noise to detract China from its developmental goals, a smear campaign orchestrated by who else other than the oligarchs of the West who would never want any country other than the West’s to go up the prosperity ladder. Only the Herd quacks believe in Western media black propaganda anyway.

It turned out that China performed stunningly well not only because of the superb preparations, but also because its athlete earned the top number of gold medals. Of course the oligarchic Western media has that issue of age-related protest and that uninterestingly impertinent news about the stabbing by a Chinese of a kin of a delegation from some country, and what did those largely impertinent dung earn? They never made a dent on China’s performance in the games. They only highlighted the dirt and corruption of Establishment  media generally.

For us Asians, China’s Olympic rise is very, very important. We now acknowledge that, as far as the development path is concerned, China leads the rest of the pack here in Asia. This is also true for the sports development path which China showed to be doubtlessly the leading nation. The event likewise formally signaled that China was opening its doors to the world as a great civilization once again, which revives notions of an earlier period of Middle Kingdom when a great mighty civilization opened itself up to the world. These developments are happening among the most dynamic regions of Asia by the way, and there is China to lead us here which causes elation.

To recall, there was the pestering question of supposedly polluted air in Beijing which is nothing more than Establishment media’s baloney detraction. The United Nations Environmental Planning or UNEP released a note that shows a different situation altogether: that China has been moving positively towards transforming its vehicular power needs from gas to natural gas and alternatives, greening the city altogether, and other positive moves that belie the media mogul’s and oligarchs’ noisy propaganda. The same issue of pollution, to note, were also raised in the other city venues of the past, and amid such pestering eco-fascist and media quackery, all of the games ensued in the same cities anyway.

There was also that noisy propaganda about China’s handling of Tibet. How little do people realize that the Dalai Lama of Tibet has become a pure politician, and is being handled by the British Intelligence from behind the scenes. The Tibet fiasco was largely orchestrated by operators of the British Empire, the same oligarchic circles who recently egged Georgia to practice some guzzling gun power on Russia over South Ossetia, the same oligarchs who were responsible for the destruction of Afghanistan and Iraq, the same oligarchs who orchestrated the chaotic inflationary situation of gas and grains, the same oligarchs who are now pushing for a World War III that will start with Iran’s bombing sometime late this year or next year.

Just the same, despite the slanders, fiascos, and mudslinging tirades by the Western oligarchy against China, the Beijing Olympics went on. And with China’s lead along the way, Asia’s athletes did shine somehow. This is just the start, and hopefully the Olympics can be sustained across the decades so that future generations can see the re-nascence of Asia into a powerhouse of Hope such as what Asians did in the latest Olympic feat.

So, to the organizers of the Olympics in Beijing from the side of the People’s Republic of China, cheers of victory! Hail the Middle Kingdom!

[27 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]