💉Pfizer teams up with Sinopharm; WHO seeks to manage infodemics, and protect healthcare workers in Africa
#319 | Gavi's new learning initiative; Mpox rears its head in South Korea; China says no to UN survey
Hello, and welcome to the Friday Kable, wrapping up the week with a solid dose of news to tide you till Monday.
Gavi has launched the Zero-Dose Learning Hub (ZDLH), a mechanism to improve how data and evidence are leveraged to identify and reach zero-dose children, led by JSI with support from the Indian Institute of Health Management Research.
Pfizer has partnered with China's state-owned Sinopharm to market 12 new drugs in China. This is Pfizer's third such partnership in China in the last 8 months.
France had a bad time of it during the summer of 2022, especially with droughts. It seems 2023 will be even worse.
South Korea raised mpox alert level from 'attention' (level 1) to 'caution' (level 2) with a total of 10 reported cases now.
A "mystery illness" is spreading through Tirsingri village in Rajasthan, India, with most residents - over 70 people - hospitalised.
And finally, a suspected case of the Marburg virus has been reported at the Songwe border in Karonga, Malawi.
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The week that was
New research coming from the University of California, San Diego has analysed data from 654 donated embryonic or foetal brains to provide insight into the genetic architecture underlying schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, ADHD, autism and depression.
Not that air pollution is good for anything at all, but research now shows that it is also bad for your immune responses. Individuals exposed to higher air pollution levels - particularly PM2.5, NO2 and black carbon - pre-pandemic showed about 10% lower IgM and IgG antibody response to Covid vaccines if they hadn’t had a prior infection.
The US government continues to take significant steps to tackle future threats posed by the virus. Under Project NextGen, the US is investing at least $5 billion into public-private collaborations for the development of new vaccines and treatments for Covid-19 as well as other coronaviruses.
Covid or not, conducting research with exotic viruses poses the risk of deadly outbreaks caused by unknown viruses, a danger that scientists are increasingly reconsidering.
New research conducted across Asia and Uganda by a team from Singapore has found that a TB treatment strategy with an initial 8-week treatment period – followed by retreatment in the few people not cured – is as effective as the standard 6-month treatment.
Scientists in Ireland have newly discovered a mechanism by which the division of labour happens between the different cells in our bodies. This stem cell discovery could have significant implications for cancer biology and targeted treatments.
Novo Nordisk has entered a potentially $2.6 billion deal with Canada’s Aspect Biosystems, which grants the former an exclusive worldwide license to leverage the latter’s bioprinting technology in a quest for up to four cell therapies targeting diabetes, obesity or both.
And finally, Ghana has become the first country to approve Oxford University’s R21 malaria vaccine, reviewing late-stage trial data more quickly than even the WHO.
Managing infodemics. The WHO has launched new tools and frameworks to manage infodemics during health emergencies, which highlight the health information needs of different populations. These tools aim to improve the ability of public health officials to identify and respond to misinformation during emergencies and provide accurate and timely health information to the public. The frameworks are designed to be adaptable to different contexts and can be used by governments, NGOs, and other stakeholders involved in health emergencies.
Work(ing) in Africa. The WHO, the African Union Development Agency (AUDA), and the International Labour Organization (ILO) have launched a new initiative to protect health workers in Africa. The initiative aims to address the challenges faced by health workers in Africa, including inadequate training, poor working conditions, and the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE). The initiative will provide technical support and guidance to countries to improve the working conditions and safety of health workers and to strengthen health systems. The partners will also work together to advocate for better policies and investment in health workforce development in Africa.
Bacterial buzz. Did you hear the latest about bacteria? It turns out that antibiotic tolerance is the new kid on the block, and according to this new article, it may be even more dangerous than antibiotic resistance. Basically, these pesky little germs can now survive in the presence of antibiotics without getting knocked out, no matter how much you throw at them. It's like they're at a never-ending party, and antibiotics are just background music they can tolerate.
Bad news for teenagers. It seems sitting around all day can make the average teenager's heart bigger. A new study found that sedentary time can increase heart size three times more than actual exercise. And get this, 80% of teens around the world don't get enough physical activity. So, if you want to avoid heart problems, get off your butt and move! But don't worry, moderate-to-vigorous exercise won't make your heart explode; in fact, it has tons of other health benefits. So, let's all encourage teens to get up and get active. It's time to pump up the heart, people!
(Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports)
Neural networks. A new study by UCLA Health has found that astrocytes, a type of brain cell previously considered a support system for neurons, could be responsible for the mechanisms behind obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The researchers had originally set out to investigate the interaction between neurons and astrocytes, but the discovery that the protein associated with OCD was present in both cell types suggests that targeting both cells with therapeutic strategies could be useful for treating the disorder. The study also revealed that while both neurons and astrocytes played a role in curbing compulsion, only neurons were linked to reduced anxiety.
Exercise for joy. A study led by Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers has found that dopamine, a brain chemical associated with pleasure and motivation, plays a key role in why exercise and physical tasks feel easy to some people and exhausting to others. The study focused on people with Parkinson's disease, which is marked by a loss of dopamine-producing cells in the brain. The results could lead to more effective ways to help people establish and stick with exercise regimens, new treatments for fatigue associated with depression and other conditions, and a better understanding of Parkinson's disease.
(npj Parkinson's Disease)
Just the bear facts, ma'am. Brown bears are expert hibernators and don't suffer from blood clots like humans do when they're immobilised. Scientists have discovered that a protein called HSP47 helps bears avoid dangerous clotting during hibernation. The researchers found that hibernating bears produce 55 times fewer HSP47 proteins than active bears. This protein reduces the platelets’ tendency to clump together and restrict blood flow. The researchers compared blood samples from immobilised humans and found that they had fewer circulating HSP47 proteins, similar to the hibernating bears.
Skip that salt. According to a new study, replacing table salt with a potassium-based alternative can reduce blood pressure and lower the risk of heart disease. The study involved over 100 volunteers who were given a salt substitute containing potassium chloride, and the results showed that those who used the salt substitute had a significant reduction in blood pressure. Potassium is known to counteract the harmful effects of sodium in the diet, which can increase blood pressure and the risk of heart disease.
China nixes wet markets survey. China is not participating in a UN project to survey Asian wet markets and other high-risk facilities for the spread of infectious diseases from wild animals to humans, despite long-running talks with Beijing. Four Asian countries - China, Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos - were initially selected for the survey by the scientific advisory committee of the project called Safety Across Asia For the Global Environment (SAFE), but China declined to participate. This could add to global researchers' frustration as they seek to prevent future pandemics due to zoonotic disease transmission.