South Africans generally accept the idea of COVID-19 self-testing.

One Health Trust researchers co-authored a study that examined South Africans’ values related to COVID-19 self-testing through a cross-sectional survey conducted in one urban and one rural setting in South Africa in September 2021. Most participants supported the idea of COVID-19 self-testing, and over half were willing to pay for a self-test. Upon testing positive on a self-test, more than 90 percent of respondents reported that they would notify a clinic or local hotline of their positive result. While self-testing is widely accepted by South Africans in both rural and urban settings, the authors emphasize that self-testing should not place any additional financial burden on a population experiencing growing unemployment rates. [Preventive Medicine Reports]

Aqueous environments in South-East Asia and in the Western Pacific are AMR hotspots.

Researchers conducted a systematic review of studies that measured antibiotic concentrations in aquatic environments, published between 2006 and 2019, and used a probabilistic environmental hazard assessments approach to estimate environmental antibiotic residue levels that are likely to contribute to the spread of AMR in the WHO Western Pacific region (WPR) and South-East Asia region (SEAR). The concentrations of human and veterinary antibiotic residues found in various aqueous areas in both regions exceeded the predicted no-effect concentrations, which are established thresholds for developing resistance. The main sources of these residues were wastewater and wastewater treatment plants; however, the risk of AMR development was also high in tap or drinking water in areas in the WPR and China. [The Lancet Planetary Health]

Air pollution exposure and pediatric asthma disproportionately affect Black and Hispanic communities.

Researchers assessed the role of certain social determinants of health, such as insurance coverage and race, in children’s exposure to pollutants and their subsequent risk of developing asthma. Data from children younger than 20 years old living in Douglas County, Nebraska, between 2016 and 2019 were used to identify significant positive associations between annual mean concentrations of several pollutants and individuals identifying as non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic/Latino, being financially stable, and being literate. The researchers also found positive correlations between higher rates of pediatric emergency visits for asthma and neighborhoods with more non-Hispanic Black children, children without health insurance coverage, and households lacking a private vehicle. These environmental and respiratory health inequities that primarily burden racial minority neighborhoods warrant the need to mitigate the higher risk of respiratory disease among these vulnerable groups of the population. [BMC Public Health]

A One Health approach to maintain refugee health in future epidemics.

The recent Ebola outbreak in Uganda began in September 2022 and resulted in 142 confirmed cases and 55 deaths until it was declared over on January 11, 2023. Given the high proportion of refugees and asylum seekers in the country (1.4 million as of 2020), Uganda’s public health approach to such epidemics must emphasize inclusivity to maintain the health and well-being of all individuals. The authors highlight the value of a One Health approach to acknowledge the human-animal-environment interconnectedness that puts migrants and refugees at greater risk of contracting and spreading infectious diseases. [One Health]

Knowledge of HPV is low among cisgender women in Miami, Florida.

A recent study surveyed the knowledge, behaviors, and attitudes toward HPV vaccination among HIV-negative, cisgender women in Miami, Florida, a city with high STI incidence and low HPV vaccination coverage. Of the 100 participants, only 43 had received at least one dose of the HPV vaccine. Knowledge of HPV was low among the non-vaccinated. The most reported barrier to receiving the HPV vaccine among unvaccinated participants was vaccine hesitancy, followed by systematic healthcare barriers and low-risk perception. [PLOS One]

Preparation for future pandemics should incorporate lessons from weather and climate modeling.

Pandemic models had mixed results regarding forecasting trends in COVID-19 cases, and some scientists believe that weather and climate models may serve as a more effective template to prepare for future pandemics. Model development, international comparisons, data exchange, and risk communication are the four features of climate models that can inspire improvements in pandemic preparedness. While there are distinct differences between climate and disease patterns, such as the presence of viral mutations, long-standing best practices in weather forecasting can help avoid pitfalls and acknowledge uncertainties in predicting pandemics. [PNAS]

Infectious disease research is finally placing greater importance on social environment data.

Social environment data has been included in tuberculosis, HIV, and cholera research for several years; however, the value of the social environment is being increasingly acknowledged in a broader range of infectious disease research. One’s social environment can affect the duration and frequency of exposure to pathogens, as well as their susceptibility to infection. To further support the inclusion of social environment data in infectious disease work, better data collection infrastructure and standards are needed to record social environment metrics on an individual level. [The Lancet Public Health]

Loneliness may correlate with a greater risk of hospital-treated infection.

A new study evaluated the relationship between feeling lonely or isolated and the incidence of hospital-treated infectious diseases, as loneliness and social isolation have previously been linked to non-communicable diseases, like dementia and cardiovascular conditions. The risk of hospital-treated infections was 1.12 times greater among people who reported loneliness than that among those who did not. Multivariable analysis revealed no significant association between social isolation and the risk of infection, indicating a discrepancy between social isolation, which may be voluntary, and loneliness, a possible psychological stressor. [The Lancet Public Health]

COVID-19 vaccination has no adverse immune effects in cancer patients receiving immunotherapy.

Researchers investigated serological responses to SARS-CoV-2 vaccination in 51 cancer patients undergoing immunotherapy (IO) and described the vaccine’s stimulatory effects on the immune system. The number of serious immune-related adverse events (irAEs) did not increase in IO patients following vaccination compared to normal IO toxicity. Seroanalysis revealed that the levels of five autoantibodies increased significantly after vaccination, including an autoantigen that plays a role in myocarditis. The researchers note important limitations to their study, including the small sample size and lack of interferon and interleukin analysis. However, the findings indicate that the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine is safe overall for cancer immunotherapy from an immune-level standpoint. [Cell Death & Disease]

Image from Canva.