💊 CPHIA kicks off in Zambia; Lilly wins over Novo Nordisk in obesity arena; Fiocruz, Anlis to produce yellow fever shots in Argentina
#481 | Mystery illnesses abound; No harmony between harmonisation efforts; Smooth and shiny hair costs you more than money
Hello, and welcome back to The Kable for what is a day surprisingly light on news but big on mystery illnesses.
The 2023 edition of CPHIA, Africa CDC’s flagship event on public health in Africa, began yesterday in Zambia. Kicking things off, Dr Jean Kaseya, Director General of the Africa CDC, emphasised the importance of Africa producing its own vaccines, likening it to a second independence for the continent. The agency’s stated goal is for Africa to produce 60% of its vaccines by 2040, a massive increase from the current 1%. Other speakers highlighted the need for a comprehensive African-led biomedical system and continued African unity in global health leadership. Day one of the conference also addressed challenges such as inadequate healthcare infrastructure, massive debt, and climate change impacts, underscoring the need for a holistic approach to healthcare and research in Africa. Other highlights from the first day included the launch of an initiative against malaria, especially in remote areas. The SEMA ReACT consortium, backed by international partnerships, aims to provide better guidelines for frontline healthcare workers in rural settings, particularly when severe malaria occurs and immediate transfer to a healthcare facility is not feasible. You can catch Dr Jean Kaseya’s opening day remarks in their entirety here.
Uganda is all set to commission a new diagnostic test kits manufacturing plant, a pioneering facility in the country’s Great Lakes region. Owned by Microhaem Scientifics and supported by international technology transfer partners, the plant aims to produce high-quality, affordable test kits for diseases like HIV and Malaria. This initiative, aligning with WHO standards and supported by the Uganda National Drug Authority, is expected to save Uganda over $100 million annually on test kits imports.
Cipla's European subsidiary, Cipla EU, completed the acquisition of an additional 15.1% stake in its joint venture with Cooper Pharma, Cipla Maroc SA, Morocco, from The Pharmaceutical Institute (PHI) for around $8.05 million, increasing its holding in the JV to 75.10%.
Indonesia and the UAE are collaborating to build a modern cardiac hospital in Surakarta, Central Java, aimed at reducing heart disease-related deaths in Indonesia, with a focus on improving rapid treatment facilities and specialist doctor education to enhance patient survival rates in cardiac emergencies.
Ordinarily in The Kable, when we talk about the largest anything, it is usually in reference to Dubai. But today, it is another Emirate, Abu Dhabi, in contention for that crown. ADQ, a sovereign wealth fund in Abu Dhabi, plans to establish one of the world's largest pharmaceutical companiesfollowing its acquisition of four pharmaceutical firms. The new entity, which will be headquartered in Abu Dhabi and listed on the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX), is part of ADQ's broader strategy of significant investment in digital transformation and innovation.
A BBC investigation reveals that gas flaring, a common practice during oil drilling, is causing widespread air pollution across the Gulf region, impacting millions of people. Despite a ban on routine flaring by the UAE 20 years ago, satellite imagery shows it continues in the UAE and neighbouring countries like Iraq, Iran, and Kuwait. The pollutants released, which include PM2.5 and NO2, are linked to serious health issues like cancer and heart disease. This issue is especially concerning as the UAE hosts the COP28 climate summit, highlighting the contradiction between environmental commitments and ongoing harmful practices.
In Bangladesh, dengue continues to reign supreme. The country is experiencing its worst dengue fever outbreak on record, with over 309,000 people infected and a death toll of 1,606 this year, the highest since records began in 2000. The outbreak, usually confined to urban areas like Dhaka, has unusually spread across the country, including rural areas, with more than 65% of cases reported outside Dhaka. Health experts attribute the prolonged dengue season to climate change and emphasise the need for better management, public awareness, and research to adapt to changing disease patterns.
Fiocruz, through Bio-Manguinhos, signed an agreement with Argentina's Anlis to enable the production of the yellow fever vaccine in Argentina. This historic agreement, aligned with Mercosur strategies, marks the first technology transfer from Fiocruz to a partner, aiming to foster a regional vaccine production network in Latin America and enhance Argentina's autonomy in vaccine production.
Novartis is recalling two batches of Sandimmune (Cyclosporine) oral solution due to crystal formation in some bottles of the 100 mg dose, following a similar recall in September. This crystallisation can lead to inconsistent dosing, posing risks of under-dosing, which could cause transplant rejection, or over-dosing, potentially resulting in Cyclosporine toxicity. The affected lots, distributed nationwide in the US, expire in September 2024.
An analysis of health records showed that overweight or obese adults lost more weight and faster using Eli Lilly's Mounjaro compared to Novo Nordisk's rival drugs. The non-peer-reviewed study found that 42.3% of Mounjaro users lost at least 15% of their body weight within a year, versus 19.3% for those on semaglutide-based treatments.
South Korea-based DxVx is set to conduct clinical trials of OVM-200, an anti-cancer vaccinedeveloped by Oxford Vacmedix (OVM), in Asia, including in Korea and China. The vaccine has already completed a phase 1a clinical trial and is expected to begin a phase 1b trial soon. DxVx is also considering collaborations with global pharmaceutical companies for future developments.
Moving on to illnesses, mysterious and otherwise…
African health experts, including the Africa CDC and WHO, are investigating a mysterious disease outbreak in Uganda that has resulted in at least 14 deaths and 40 illnesses. Initially suspected to be anthrax, this assumption was ruled out despite evidence of animal-to-human transmission. Symptoms include skin rashes and swollen limbs. Local authorities suspect the disease might be cellulitis, a bacterial skin infection, but are awaiting further test results. We reported on this mystery last week too but the air hasn't cleared around it yet.
In India, a WHO team visited Gaya, Bihar, to investigate a mysterious disease in Patwa Toli village, where over 300 people have reported symptoms like prolonged fever and joint pain, locally termed "Langda fever." Although the symptoms resemble dengue and chikungunya, the exact nature of the disease is still unknown, and blood samples have been sent for testing. A medical team is monitoring the situation, but effective medication has yet to be identified.
In France last week, an official outbreak of MHE (haemorrhagic enteritis) was registered in Chaumes-en-Retz, Loire-Atlantique. As of November 22, there have now been 3,527 MHE cases across France.
The UK has reported its first human case of the A(H1N2)v flu strain, similar to a virus found in pigs, with the affected individual having a mild illness and fully recovering. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) identified the case through routine flu surveillance, marking the first detection of this virus in humans in the UK. Close contacts are being monitored, and increased surveillance is underway in North Yorkshire, although this strain appears different from other A(H1N2)v cases reported globally since 2005.
And finally, mystery illnesses are affecting our best friends too. At least in the US. An unknown canine respiratory illness, that began in one western US state not too long ago, has now spread to at least 14 states. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is investigating the disease, which causes symptoms like chronic tracheobronchitis, pneumonia, and rapid breathing. The illness, potentially spread through close contact, does not respond to standard treatments and is managed through supportive care like oxygen therapy and hydration. The exact cause and transmission method remain unknown, and pet owners are advised to avoid dog parks and ensure vaccinations.