News in Brief

Global Atlas of Asthma

More than 300 million patients suffer from asthma globally and this figure is expected to rise to 400 million by 2025. In an effort to counter this, the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI) has published a “Global Atlas of Asthma”. This Atlas aims to provide a platform for strategic planning for asthma in a multifaceted way, integrating research and education and global policies. The Atlas was due to be launched at the EAACI annual meeting in late June. Visit:

UOSSM saddened by volunteer doctor’s death in Syria

The Union of Syrian Medical Relief Organisations (UOSSM) says it is deeply saddened by the death of Dr Isa Abdur Rahman, 26, a British doctor who left his home, family and job in the UK to help civilians wounded by the conflict in Syria. He was working as a volunteer in the north-western city of Idlib with the British charity Hand in Hand for Syria (HIHS). Dr Rahman died after the makeshift hospital he was working in was shelled. The HIHS charity blamed Syrian government forces for targeting the non-military site, which also killed two civilians on Wednesday 22 May. According to a report published by Canadian Medical Association Journal, (CMAJ, May 7, 2013), at least 130 doctors have been killed and 477 imprisoned during Syrian two-year civil war.

$100,000 awarded for wearable air pollution sensor

New technology that creates a personal, portable, and wearable air pollution sensor, developed under the My Air, My Health Challenge, was announced at the Health Datapalooza in June in Washington, D.C. The grand prize of US$100,000 was awarded to Conscious Clothing. 

More than 30% of the world’s population living with allergies

The number of people suffering from allergy or asthma is growing faster than ever before. More than 30% of the world’s population is now being affected by allergies. Two hundred and fifty million people are estimated to suffer from food allergies. In developed countries like the United States, one in five people suffer from either allergy or asthma. The strongest increase in allergies and asthma is seen in developing countries.

The sharpest increase in allergies is observed in children who primarily suffer from food and respiratory allergies; and one of four school-age children in Europe live with allergic disease.

Among the new findings on allergy and asthma presented at the World Allergy and Asthma Congress 2013 in Milan in June is new Australian research by David Martino and team from Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Melbourne, providing proof for pre-birth programming of food allergies. This means food allergies are not acquired after birth or at a later stage in life, but children are born with allergies due to specific environmental factors during pregnancy.

In short, there is further scientific proof that allergies can originate at foetal stage. Babies can be born with a tendency to develop food allergies due to the living conditions of their mothers, including nutrition during pregnancy. This was proven for food allergies that occurred in infants in the first 12 months of life.

In scientific terms, a biochemical process called DNA methylation plays a central role in normal prenatal immune development. The DNA methylation is sensitive to environmental disruption. The Australian study provides evidence that disruption, or external environmental influences during pregnancy, increases the risk for food allergy. Based on this evidence the study concluded that food allergies are programmed before birth.

“Allergies and asthma are rising sharply. There is a clear correlation between increasing wealth and standard of living and allergies and asthma. That is why we see the strongest increase in emerging countries. Children suffer most from this trend. With the new research presented at the World Allergy and Asthma Congress on the early origins of allergies and biomarkers triggering asthma, we are confident to contribute to prevention and better treatment of millions of people suffering from what has become a serious threat to global health”, said Prof. Cezmi Akdis, President of the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI) and Congress President.

New guidelines for standardizing blood glucose reporting

Most adults and children with type 1 diabetes are not in optimal glycemic control, despite advances in insulin formulations and delivery systems and glucose monitoring approaches. Critical barriers to optimal glycemic control remain. A panel of experts in diabetes management and research met to explore these challenges, and their conclusions and recommendations for how to improve care and optimize clinical decision-making are presented in a white paper in Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics (DTT), a peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers. The paper is available free online.

Lead author Richard Bergenstal, MD, International Diabetes Center at Park Nicollet (IDC), outlines the critical issues impacting diabetes management as identified by the panel of luminaries in the field of diabetes during meetings facilitated by the IDC and funded by the Helmsley Charitable Trust. The team of authors emphasizes the critical need for standardization in the collection, reporting, visualization, and analysis of glucose monitoring data, and proposes clear and practical recommendations for implementing these solutions.

The expert panel included DTT Editor- in-Chief Satish Garg, MD, DTT Senior Editor Irl Hirsch, MD, and Andrew Ahmann, MD, Timothy Bailey, MD, Roy Beck, MD, PhD, Joan Bissen, Bruce Buckingham, MD, Larry Deeb, MD, Robert Dolin, MD, Robin Goland, MD, David Klonoff, MD, Davida Kruger, MSN, Glenn Matfin, MB ChB, MSc, Roger Mazze, PhD, Beth Olson, BAN, RN, Christopher Parkin, MS, Anne Peters, MD, Margaret Powers, PhD, Henry Rodriguez, MD, Phil Southerland, Ellie Strock, ANP-BC, William Tamborlane, MD, and David Wesley.

“Glucose monitoring is an essential part of effective diabetes management, and although it has come a long way, both health care providers and patients are frustrated that glucose data reporting has not been standardized,” says Satish Garg, MD, Editor-in-Chief of the Journal and Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics at the University of Colorado Denver. “ The recommendations reported in this white paper are a good first step toward improving health care outcomes in type 1 diabetes.”

The white paper is accompanied by three Commentaries: one by DTT Editor-in-Chief Satish Garg, MD, one by Francine Ratner Kaufman, MD, Medtronic and Children’ s Hospital, Los Angeles, and one by Aaron Kowalski, PhD and Sanjoy Dutta, PhD, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. doi:10.1089/dia.2013.0051.

Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics – Recommendations for Standardizing Glucose Reporting and Analysis to Optimize Clinical Decision Making in Diabetes: The Ambulatory Glucose Profile (AGP)

Health leaders say polio could be eradicated by 2018

At the Global Vaccine Summit in Abu Dhabi in April, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) presented a comprehensive sixyear plan, the first plan to eradicate all types of polio disease – both wild poliovirus and vaccine-derived cases – simultaneously. Global leaders and individual philanthropists signalled their confidence in the plan by pledging close to three-quarters of the plan’s projected US$5.5 billion cost over six years. They also called upon additional donors to commit up front the additional US$1.5 billion needed to ensure eradication.

The new plan capitalizes on the best opportunity to eradicate polio, with the number of children paralyzed by this disease at the lowest level ever: just 223 cases in 2012 and only 19 so far this year. The urgency is linked to the tremendous advances made in 2012 and the narrow window of opportunity to seize on that progress and stop all poliovirus transmission before polio-free countries become re-infected.

“After millennia battling polio, this plan puts us within sight of the endgame. We have new knowledge about the polioviruses, new technologies and new tactics to reach the most vulnerable communities. The extensive experience, infrastructure and knowledge gained from ending polio can help us reach all children and all communities with essential health services,” said World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan.

The Polio Eradication & Endgame Strategic Plan 2013-2018 was developed by the GPEI in extensive consultation with a broad range of stakeholders. The plan incorporates the lessons learned from India’s success becoming polio-free in early 2012 and cutting-edge knowledge about the risk of circulating vaccine-derived polioviruses. It also complements the tailored Emergency Action Plans being implemented since last year in the remaining polio-endemic countries – Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria – including approaches in place to vaccinate children in insecure areas.

At the Summit global leaders announced their confidence in the plan’s ability to achieve a lasting polio-free world by 2018 and pledged their financial and political support for its implementation.

“Ending polio will not only be an historic feat for humanity, but also a huge part of our efforts to reach every hard-to-reach child with a range of life-saving vaccines,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.

The plan addresses the operational challenges of vaccinating children, including in densely populated urban areas, hard-to reach areas and areas of insecurity. The plan includes the use of polio eradication experience and resources to strengthen immunization systems in high-priority countries. It also lays out a process for planning how to transition the GPEI’s resources and lessons, particularly in reaching the most marginalized and vulnerable children and communities, so that they continue to be of service to other public health efforts. It is estimated that the GPEI’s efforts to eradicate polio could deliver total net benefits of US$40-50 billion by 2035 from reduced treatment costs and gains in productivity.

Research facility at the forefront of a revolution in health

A research facility at the forefront of a revolution in health and medical research has opened in the UK recently.

The MRC-NIHR Phenome Centre will examine around one hundred thousand blood and urine samples every year. It will analyse phenomes - the biological results of people’s genes and environment - to help determine the causes of disease and indicate how treatments can be tailored for individual patients.

The centre will enable scientists to better understand and tackle diseases that are triggered by environment as well as genetic causes, and increase the potential to develop strategies for their prevention and treatment. Ongoing genomics research is helping scientists to understand why some people develop diseases, but most common diseases are influenced by both genetic and environmental factors, such as diet and lifestyle. Studying the phenome will help determine how the environment and genes combine to affect biochemical processes that lead to disease.

The new centre, a collaboration between Imperial College London, King’s College London, and analytical technology companies the Waters Corporation and Bruker Biospin, is funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). It is based at Imperial where its director is Professor Jeremy Nicholson, head of the Department of Surgery and Cancer.

Professor Nicholson said: “The sequencing of the human genome generated a lot of excitement among scientists and the public, but studying our genes has revealed less than we had hoped about common diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease. By studying the phenome we can examine the effects of our genes, our lifestyle and our environment. What we discover about the causes of disease can be used to inform healthcare.”

The MRC-NIHR Phenome Centre uses millions of pounds worth of nuclear magnetic resonance and mass spectrometry technology to give the most accurate readings to date of the exact chemical make-up of people’s blood and urine. The equipment measures the chemicals, such as fats, sugars, vitamins and hormones, produced by our bodies as well as those that come from our food, drink and medicines, and the air we breathe. It can even detect the different types of bacteria naturally occurring in the gut, which can influence our health.

The new centre will provide a service to researchers throughout the UK, offering fast, efficient and high-quality analysis of people’s phenomes.

WHO calls for action to prevent 1.24 million road traffic deaths yearly

More than 270,000 pedestrians lose their lives on the world’s roads each year accounting for 22% of the total 1.24 million road traffic deaths. The World Health Organization is calling on governments to take concrete actions to improve the safety of pedestrians.

Under the banner “Make Walking Safe”, the Second United Nations Global Road Safety Week was held in May. With events registered in nearly 70 countries, the week sought to draw attention to the needs of pedestrians; generate action on measures to protect them; and contribute to achieving the goal of the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 to save 5 million lives.

There are many steps which can be taken to protect pedestrians on the roads. The newly released Pedestrian safety: a road safety manual for decision-makers and practitioners, produced by WHO and partners, promotes a focus on combined enforcement, engineering and education measures, which include among others:

- adopting and enforcing new and existing laws to reduce speeding, curb drinking and driving, decrease mobile phone use and other forms of distracted driving;

- putting in place infrastructure which separates pedestrians from other traffic (sidewalks, raised crosswalks, overpasses, underpasses, refuge islands and raised medians), lowers vehicle speeds (speed bumps, rumble strips and chicanes) and improves roadway lighting;

- creating pedestrian zones in city centres by restricting vehicular access;

- improving mass transit route design;

- developing and enforcing vehicle design standards for pedestrian protection, including soft vehicle fronts;

- organizing and/or further enhancing trauma care systems to guarantee the prompt treatment of those with life-threatening injuries.

Dr Oleg Chestnov, WHO Assistant Director- General of Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health, said: “We are all pedestrians, and governments should put in place measures to better protect all of us. This will not only save lives, but create the conditions needed to make walking safe. When roads are safe, people will walk more, and this in turn will improve health and protect the environment.”

Pedestrians are among the most vulnerable road users. Studies indicate that males, both children and adults, make up a high proportion of pedestrian deaths and injuries. In developed countries, older pedestrians are more at risk, while in low-income and middle-income countries, children and young adults are often affected. Both children and adults with disabilities suffer higher rates of injury as pedestrians compared to their nondisabled peers.

The proportion of pedestrians killed in relation to other road users is highest in the African Region (38%) and lowest in the South-East Asia Region (12%). In some countries, the proportion of pedestrian fatalities can reach nearly two thirds of road traffic deaths, such as in El Salvador (62%) and Liberia (66%).


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