The last week has been very busy in Mzuzu, northern Malawi. Scientists there have been packing blood and urine samples collected from 506 children with pneumonia in preparation for shipment to Dublin, Ireland. These samples will travel 12,000km at -80oC with constant monitoring of their temperature and dry ice being packed around them at stops along the journey to ensure they remain frozen in the warm heat of Africa as they travel across the African and European continents.
There are five neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) which are the scourge of Africa, the Indian sub-continent, the Far East and South America. Onchocerciasis is one of these 5 and until the late 20th century caused millions of people to gradually lose their sight and eventually go blind. The parasite is spread by infected Simulium blackflies which when they bite a human, transfer microscopic larvae to the human host, where they develop into adult worms and females produce millions of new larvae during their lifetime.
First published by the Hippocratic Post on 22/8/16.Professor Kathryn Maitland
‘Back in 2011, my research team published the results of the largest trial of critically ill children ever undertaken in Africa (FEAST trial), a trial that examined fluid resuscitation strategies in children with severe febrile illnesses (including malaria and bacterial sepsis). Contrary to expectation, the trial showed that fluid boluses were associated with an increased mortality compared to no-bolus (control), the greatest effect was in children with the most severe forms of shock. We were delighted when the FEAST trial won the prestigious 2011 BMJ Research Paper of the Year award and expected that doctors around the world would sit up and take notice – and guidelines for management of children suffering from shock due to sepsis would change.
By Dr Michael Templeton, Reader in Public Health Engineering, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Imperial College London
Wednesday, May 25th 2016 marks Africa Day, the 53rd anniversary of the founding of the Organisation of African Unity, the forerunner of the African Union. There have been so many wonderful developments in Africa in the last 53 years, but sadly the quality of life of many of the poorest people in Africa continues to be limited by the burden of a group of debilitating diseases known collectively as neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), which have afflicted millions of Africans since ancient times.
Across large parts of sub-Saharan Africa the major rains have got underway; which typically means that in a few weeks, hospitals will witness a seasonal upsurge of admissions into the children’s wards. Most of these will be children suffering a new bout of malaria, with around ten percent of these malaria admissions having life-threatening complications such a coma (cerebral malaria), severe anaemia (requiring urgent life-saving transfusion) and rapid breathing (to try to compensate for the build up of acids in their bodies).
A hundred and eighteen years later this transmission still continues, to some extent unabated. There have been huge successes in malaria control, most notably in recent years, though a child still dies every minute from a disease which continues to ravage large swathes of Africa and Asia. Importantly these deaths are completely avoidable, as we have effective tools to treat malaria and stop people dying.