May 14, 2017

Research Roundup: The rise of drug-resistant TB, ecosystems and pandemics, and a UN-made global mosquito tracker

Program Assistant
PATH/Eric Becker

In this regular feature on Breakthroughs, we highlight some of the most interesting reads in global health research from the past week.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that they expect rates of multidrug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) in Russia, India, South Africa, and the Philippines to rise significantly in the next 25 years. These four countries carry the heaviest burdens of resistant (both drug-resistant and MDR) TB, accounting for 230,000 cases in 2015—nearly 40 percent of cases worldwide. It is predicted that one third of all TB cases in Russia will be drug resistant by the 25-year mark. The CDC suggests that efforts should be taken to prevent the airborne transmission of TB. In addition, CDC notes the need to expand diagnostic capabilities in low- and middle-income countries and access to rapid diagnostics and effective treatments.

TB doctors in Donetsk, Ukraine training on interpersonal communication and counseling (Photo: PATH/Siri Wood)

Zoonotic diseases, or diseases passed from animal to humans, such as Ebola, HIV/AIDS, swine flu, Spanish Influenza, malaria, and the bubonic plague, have been around for hundreds of years. With increased disease surveillance efforts globally, PREDICT, a global surveillance network financed by the US Agency for International Development and other partners, has recognized something important: healthy ecosystems and wildlife leads to less disease, which lowers disease burdens and makes humans safer. In tracking outbreaks like Ebola and swine flu, PREDICT has taken samples from over 55,000 wild animals and have tracked down 815 novel viruses. When ecosystems are damaged and the animals living in those systems are displaced, disease rates are higher. This research suggests that climate conservation can also help prevent pandemics.

The United Nations Environment Agency and partners launched a new surveillance platform called the Global Mosquito Alert designed to survey mosquito patterns. Leveraging a global network of scientists and volunteers, the platform will track mosquito populations and disease patterns around the world. The global alert will provide real-time open access data via cloud computing networks, allowing the general population to engage and contribute to documenting and observing the patterns of mosquitoes.