Research Roundup: Global immunization, Zika diagnostics, and an HIV treatment milestone
In this regular feature on Breakthroughs, we highlight some of the most interesting reads in global health research from the past week.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF have reported nearly 1 in 10 children did not receive any immunizations in 2016. This includes immunizations for diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP). WHO and UNICEF reported that the global immunization rate for the full round of the DTP vaccine is only 86 percent, falling short of the 90 percent goal of global immunization. Furthermore, in 2016, eight countries had DTP immunization rates of less than 50 percent. Estimates by WHO and UNICEF suggest that 10 million more children in 64 countries need to be vaccinated every year in order to achieve the 90 percent goal. This highlights the need to bring vaccines to low-resource settings that have been chronically affected by low immunization rates.
A new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences highlights a new diagnostic tool that performed well in distinguishing Zika from other flaviviruses, including dengue. UC Berkeley and Humabs BioMed partnered to create a low-cost, easy-to-use diagnostic tool to specifically test for the Zika virus. Researchers found this tool was capable of distinguishing between Zika and other flaviviruses, as well as distinguishing current and past Zika infections in patients. The tool had 91.8 percent sensitivity—the ability to correctly identify those with the disease—and 95.9 percent specificity—the ability to correctly identify those without the disease. This tool could be used in Zika- and dengue-endemic areas, assisting in diagnostic processes and subsequent treatment, especially among populations adversely affected by Zika, like pregnant women.
For the first time in history, more than half of all HIV-infected individuals are receiving treatment. In 2016, it was estimated that 19.5 million individuals were receiving HIV treatment, with a total of 36.7 million people infected with HIV. These estimates are both increases from the estimated 17.1 million treated and 36.1 infected in 2015. Further, AIDS-related deaths have decreased by more than half since 2005. Though these rates are promising in the fight against the global epidemic, the United Nations (UN) acknowledges that there is much left to do in the fight against HIV and AIDS, particularly in the context of less stable health systems in resource poor settings.