Maternal health

A new map of global bushmeat activities to improve disease spillover surveillance

A research team including OHT’s Dr. Thomas Van Boeckel used geospatial models to map the distribution of bushmeat activities in tropical and subtropical rural communities worldwide. They found that the abundance of mammal species and deforestation had the greatest effect on the geographic distribution of bushmeat activity. Regions in Africa and Asia, particularly Central Africa, Southeast Asia, and West Africa were associated with the highest levels of bushmeat activity. With rising rates of disease spillover from wildlife to human populations, the authors call for increased surveillance measures, especially in bushmeat activity hotspots, to identify zoonotic disease threats and prevent them from spreading. [Emerging Infectious Diseases]

Expanding maternal and newborn health in LMICs would provide major social and economic benefits.

Researchers, including OHT’s Dr. Arindam Nandi,  conducted a cost-benefit analysis of interventions to improve maternal and newborn health. 55 LMICs, upscaling the coverage of Basic Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care (BEmONC) from 68 to 90 percent and increasing family planning services could avert 161,000 maternal deaths and 1.2 million newborn deaths annually. This would result in a welfare gain of US$278 billion per year and a demographic dividend benefit of US$25 billion per year. The social and economic benefits of expanding BEmONC would equal US$87 for every US$1 invested. [Copenhagen Consensus Center]

A novel wearable bioelectronic system could prevent infections in chronic wounds.

Researchers created a wearable bioelectronic system that monitors the physiological conditions of infected chronic wounds, which have been associated with greater mortality due to rising rates of antimicrobial resistance. The device can also perform noninvasive combination therapy by providing anti-inflammatory antimicrobial treatment and electrically stimulating tissue regeneration. In an assessment of the impact of the wearable on wound biomarker mapping and wound closure through in vivo studies, the device successfully tracked changes in the wound microenvironment over time and accelerated chronic wound closure compared to the untreated control group. The device is limited by its inability to continuously monitor wound fluid, which would improve temporal biomarker mapping. [Science]

Non-White researchers are underrepresented in journal editorial boards.

A systematic review of 100,000 scientific articles published between 2001 and 2020 by six publishers revealed that the majority of countries in Asia, Africa, and South America – where the population is overwhelmingly non-White – are underrepresented in editorial boards. Scientists from these continents account for 35 percent of authorship but only 19 percent of editorship in the studied papers. The relative acceptance delay (RAD) of papers, calculated as the number of days between a journal’s reception and acceptance of a paper, was longer for papers coming from Asia, Africa, and South America than those from other regions studied. [PNAS]

UN Water Conference highlights the necessity for involving water needs in climate talks.

The UN held their second Water Conference after 46 years. Since the first conference in 1977, the impact of climate change on our planet has further exacerbated global water inequities. 1.5 to 2.5 billion people now live in areas of water scarcity, and this number is predicted to double by 2050. Recent floods in Pakistan and droughts in the Horn of Africa have revealed the extent to which climate change can cause extremes in the global water cycle. With an increasing demand for clean water, water professionals, climate policymakers, and affected communities must integrate the role of water in managing climate change and reducing emissions. [Nature]

Wastewater surveillance of bacteriophages may help monitor global typhoid burden.

Two preliminary studies conducted in Bangladesh and Nepal point to the importance of efficiently scanning wastewater for viruses that infect the bacterium that causes typhoid fever, Salmonella enterica serotype Typhi, to inform vaccine roll-outs. In Dhaka, Bangladesh, which experiences a high typhoid burden, almost one-third of the samples collected contained bacteriophages. Similarly, samples collected in Kathmandu, Nepal over the course of 11 months had a 55 percent prevalence of bacteriophages. Researchers caution that bacteriophage replication may cause overcounting, so the potential for phage multiplication in wastewater must be tested before this surveillance technique is used in other areas. [Nature]

Insecticide-treated nets may help prevent malaria epidemics during humanitarian emergencies.

Humanitarian emergencies can augment the risk of malaria epidemics and severe cases, especially when people with immunological naivety are relocated into regions with high malaria transmission rates and when vector breeding increases because of flooding, damaged infrastructure, and inadequate drainage and waste management systems. A meta-analysis of articles published between 1989 and 2018 showed that insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) significantly lowered the incidence of Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax malaria with high certainty. Topical repellents were associated with reductions in malaria incidence with moderate certainty. The findings support WHO policy recommendations to provide ITNs widely in regions experiencing chronic humanitarian emergencies. [The Lancet Global Health]

The effects of antibiotic overuse could be reversed with bacterial therapeutics.

The impact of antibiotic therapy on growing rates of resistance is an increasingly important topic in clinical and biological research. However, the elimination of beneficial gut bacteria is a lesser-studied effect of broad-spectrum antibiotic overuse. A novel technique of introducing bacteria to the human body may help restore the gut microbiome and prevent subsequent and recurrent bacterial infections. An example of this technique, fecal microbiota transplantation, involves rectally administering donated stool to manage gut dysbiosis disorders. Given the potential for introducing other pathogens in this way, other therapeutics, such as an oral microbiome treatment using spores, are being explored. Despite the risks of such bacterial therapeutics, scientists point to the advantage of reducing rates of antibiotic resistance associated with antibiotic therapy. [The Lancet Microbe]

Improving accessibility can facilitate the inclusion of people with disabilities in health policy research.

Historically low inclusion of people with disabilities in health policy and systems research has resulted in a limited understanding of disability-related inequalities in healthcare access. Online focus groups including co-researchers with intellectual disabilities in Australia in 2021 revealed that including accessibility functions (such as live captioning), limiting the number of participants in small groups, and providing a “technical support” person could facilitate research studies inclusive of people with disabilities. The findings show that online qualitative techniques can be useful in increasing the visibility of people with disabilities in health policy and systems research. [BMJ Global Health]

Image from Canva.