12-18 September 2019

Peter Piot describes being part of the team discovering Ebola in 1976 to the Telegraph, and discusses his biggest global health concerns over 40 years later. Peter said: “We obviously did not know there was Ebola in the samples from Zaire. Looking back, probably the most dangerous moments were working in the lab in Antwerp… I was only really scared afterwards.”

Peter also provides expert comment in the Telegraph about threats to global health from climate change, calling for greater cooperation between health and climate change experts. Peter said: “You have people working on climate change and people working on health, and only in very few instances do they come together.”

Anne Mills speaks to talkRADIO (at 16:16) about the addition of Florence Nightingale, Alice Ball and Marie Sklodowska-Curie’s names to the Keppel Street building frieze. Anne said: “It’s quite a major step to change what’s on the outside of a listed building – I think it really took the energy of our director, Professor Peter Piot, to suggest it.”

Heidi Larson talks to BBC Newsnight (from 23:22) about ways of improving vaccine confidence in the UK. Filmed in our labs, the piece also showed some of our lab-based vaccine work. Heidi said: “What people refer to as the anti-vaccine movement is actually a very small proportion of the public. What is a bigger issue is the mainstream hesitancy, questioning and uncertainty.” 

Heidi also speaks to Al Jazeera on the same issue, and provides expert comment in the Evening Standard about vaccine hesitancy in London.

Colin Sutherland provides expert comment to BBC News as the world’s first malaria vaccine was released in parts of Kenya. Colin said: This vaccine does not give complete protection against malaria – but idoes show a very promising ability to protect young children in those first five to ten years of life by reducing the number of times they get malaria and potentially by reducing the severity of it.

Speaking on BBC World, Colin also said:“This is very exciting to see a third country now rolling out this vaccine routinely in an area of Kenya where we know malaria risk is at its highest.” 

Martin McKee speaks to Reuters about rising suicide rates in US rural communities. Martin said: “Those with the least personal resources, which include education, skills, and assets that can be drawn on when times get tough, suffer most, hence, it is hardly surprising that poverty is associated with suicide.”

Martin’s comments also appeared in Mercury News, the Daily Mail and elsewhere.

Martin was also mentioned in a Guardian report on the safety of vaping, and his research on the cardiovascular impact of e-cigarettes was mentioned in the Telegraph.

On social media:

This week’s social media highlight comes from Instagram, where we have had an Instagram takeover from @colouringadulteczema during National Eczema Week 2019. This project, led by Sinéad Langan and supported by the Wellcome Trust, has seen artists Julia Vogl and Peter Hudson develop art workshops inviting people living with eczema to explore the condition through craft, photography and colourful lighting.

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What does a sheep have to do with eczema? 🐑🧶 For National Eczema Week, artists @juliavogl_socialsculpture and @peterdavidhudson are taking over our Instagram to share work and ideas from Colouring Adult Eczema, a series of art workshops inviting people living with eczema to explore the condition through craft, photography and colourful lighting. . At the beginning of each workshop, Julia and Peter shared prompt cards with participants as a way of getting them to think about different aspects of eczema, including this cute but potentially itch-inducing sheep! . The workshops were created with LSHTM’s Sinéad Langan, who wanted to use art to challenge stereotypes about the condition as part of her work on the causes, consequences and treatment of eczema. Julia and Peter’s interests in craft, lighting, community and colours led them to design workshops exploring the multiple layers of eczema across the UK. . “We wanted to create a dynamic workshop that would provide a safe space for people to share their experiences, but also generate a platform for them to let their voices become heard. We wanted them to think through doing, and give them a magical fun experience at the same time.” . Click on the link in our bio to find out more about the project, and follow @colouringadulteczema to see more of the team’s work sharing the stories and voices of those living with eczema 🔝 . Colouring Adult Eczema is a public engagement art project commissioned by LSHTM, led by Sinéad Langan, and supported by the Wellcome Trust. . #nationaleczemaweek #nationaleczemaweek2019 #eczemaawarenessweek #eczemaawareness #eczema #eczemaart #artworkshop #publicengagement #lshtm #research #sheep #absoluteunit @wellcomecollection

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Current challenges and proposed solutions to the effective implementation of the RTS, S/AS01 Malaria Vaccine Program in sub-Saharan Africa

In April 2019, the World Health Organisation (WHO) launched the world’s first malaria vaccine, the RTS, S/AS01, as part of a pilot programme in Malawi, Ghana and Kenya. The three countries have a combined target of vaccinating 360000 children (below five years of age) per year until the end of 2022. The vaccine is expected to significantly boost the current global response to malaria, by saving tens of thousands of children’s lives.

The pilot programme intended to assess the feasibility of delivering the recommended four doses of the vaccine in routine health services, but prior to the roll-out of the vaccine in the three African countries, a group of four public health researchers, led by LSHTM Alumnus Christian Akem Dimala, conducted the first up-to-date systematic collection, critical appraisal and synthesis of the literature to identify current challenges to the effective implementation of the malaria vaccine and propose solutions to these challenges. The review was authored by Christian Akem Dimala, Benjamin Momo Kadia (Chevening scholar at LSHTM), Belmond Tse Kika (School of Public health, Universite Libre de Bruxelles), Hannah Blencowe (Assistant Professor in the Department of Infectious diseases at LSHTM) and published in the PLOS ONE journal.

According to Christian, “as the worldwide malaria response gears up with the introduction of the malaria vaccine in sub-Saharan Africa, the effectiveness of the newly approved RTS/AS01 vaccine in routine clinical use may not meet up the efficacy observed in clinical trials. Addressing the identified hurdles to the optimal implementation of this vaccine is imperative to achieve satisfactory epidemiological gains. We therefore conducted this study to inform the malaria vaccine implementation programme of the WHO, stakeholders in the concerned countries, and the general populations on how optimal gains could be achieved from such an important and innovative vaccine”.

Christian and his collaborators found that the effective implementation of the malaria vaccine will require careful consideration of the socio-cultural context of the respective communities in which the vaccine is being implemented. Also, fine-tuning the perceptions of caregivers about vaccines and their importance could significantly enhance vaccine uptake.

This study comes as a very important reminder of the place of vaccines in infectious disease control, especially at a time when anti-vaccine campaigns have been increasingly gaining grounds and now contribute immensely to vaccine hesitancy and reduced vaccine uptake in several parts of the world as evidenced by the resurgence of once eliminated diseases such as measles.

Christian and his collaborators have reached out to the WHO African regional office information unit to provide them with these important updates as well as to various media outlets, as a way to make their findings more available not only to the research community and health policy makers, but also to key stakeholders and the general population, whom they consider would benefit from these findings. More recently, Benjamin Momo Kadia gave an oral presentation of the study at the 5th Oxford International Health Congress and he will be presenting again at the 11th European Congress on Tropical Medicine and International Health organized by the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene with about 1500 delegates from all over the world and the Director of LSHTM, Professor Baron Peter Piot, as one of the keynote speakers.

This study and our efforts to communicate its findings highlight how research utilization and vaccine diplomacy are important in the fight against infectious diseases. We hope this pioneer study run by researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, will positively impact the global fight against malaria.

More artwork at LSHTM

To follow up a recent post on Artwork at LSHTM, we are focusing on some more wonderful pieces of art that are on display in the Keppel Street building.

This weekend (21-22 September) visitors will be able to view these pieces as part of Open House London.


Woman 2018, Moira Purver

Woman by Moira Purver

WOMAN is a bronze statue created by artist Moira Purver to raise awareness of a study into treatment for postpartum haemorrhage and to highlight maternal health research at LSHTM.

It depicts a woman on her knees holding her new baby in her arms just after giving birth. According to Purver who is a member of The Society of Women Artists, the sculpture shows the ‘happiness, joy and overwhelming love a mother feels the first time she holds her baby’. It also shows the vulnerability of a new baby and brings home that we must do all we can to make sure babies have their mothers alive to care for them.


Karyotype 2015, Judith Glynn

Karyotype by Judith Glynn

The complete set of chromosomes for an individual is called a karyotype. It is often arranged as here in size order, with the sex chromosomes at bottom right. The two ‘X’ sex chromosomes show that it is a karyotype for a person who is genetically female. Seed pods from flame trees bear a striking resemblance to photographs of chromosomes as seen under a light microscope. In this sculpture the likeness has been enhanced by removing segments of the pods, allowing the play of light and shadows.

Judith Glynn is a Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at LSHTM. Her sculptures depict human life and interactions in a variety of media, and are held in collections across Europe. Karyotype was made for her solo exhibition Aspects of Life in Clare Hall, Cambridge.


Codons 2016, Judith Glynn

This mobile sculpture is made up of the four DNA nucleotides, A (adenine), C (cytosine), T (thymine), G (guanine), that carry all of our genetic information. The colours

Codons by Judith Glynn

are those that are used in the output of automatic DNA sequencing machines. The nucleotides are arranged into all possible variants of the DNA nucleotide triplet ‘codons’ which are the instructions our bodies use to turn the DNA code into protein. The sculpture takes the form of a helix, with increasing division (from a single codon to two, then four, then eight per branch) to represent the role of DNA in cell division and reproduction.

Codons was made for the 2016 Bloomsbury Festival, the genetic code responding to the Festival theme of Language.


Tunnel, 2013, Catherine Anyango

In John Snow’s Victorian London, sewers emptied straight into the Thames, leading to contamination of drinking water, infection and disease. The Broad Street pump in Soho was contaminated by cholera bacilli when infected sewage from a broken pipe leaked into a community well in the summer of 1854.

Tunnel by Catherine Anyango

Anyango was drawn to nineteenth century images of women collecting water for household use which could be contaminated, thus unknowingly investing in their own demise. She visited the Victorian sewers to research the drawing.

Tunnel is map-like, depicting a flowing pathway or conduit. It references Snow’s disease map, showing a central area from which lines and pathways radiate – an abstract vision of the infected Broad Street pump and its devastating impact.

Tunnel is drawn in a way that makes it shift and change according to one’s perspective. While diseases themselves may not change, our understanding of them alters, the imperceptible becoming perceptible through a shift in position.

This artwork was originally commissioned for an exhibition, Cartographies of Life & Death: John Snow & Disease Mapping, held at LSHTM from March to April 2013 to commemorate the bicentenary of John Snow’s birth. (Curator: Julie Hill, funded by the Wellcome Trust and Arts Council England). Tunnel was purchased with funds from 2009 Gates Award.

5-11 September 2019

The additions of Florence Nightingale, Alice Ball and Marie Sklodowska-Curie to the frieze of our Keppel Street building are the subject of an exclusive feature in the Telegraph (£). Peter Piot said: ““It’s a statement and it’s about the future as much as it’s about the past. This restores a historic injustice, to a certain degree.”

Following the Telegraph’s exclusive, the news was also featured around the world in the Times (£) and generated huge interest on social media.

Pauline Scheelbeek speaks with the Guardian about a BMJ study, of which she was lead author, finding that a ‘snack tax’ of 20% on biscuits, cakes and sweets could reduce obesity by 2.7%. Pauline said: “That is, on a population level, a huge impact.”

Pauline’s comments were covered widely, including in the Independent, the New Statesman, the Daily Mail and the Week.

Heidi Larson appears on Newsnight (at 22:29) discussing the reasons behind low immunisation rates and ways to improve vaccine confidence. Heidi said: “What people refer to as the anti-vaccine movement is a very small proportion of the public. A bigger issue is hesitancy, questioning and uncertainty.”

Andy Haines discusses the challenges surrounding estimating the mortality impact of climate change on BBC Radio 4’s More or Less. Andy said: “”It’s easier to estimate direct effects like floods than more indirect effects like migration.”

Judith Glynn talks to the Telegraph (£) about research she co-authored suggesting that survivors of Ebola are five times more likely to die in the year following recovery than the general population. Judith said: “We know that Ebola can infect the kidney. If you get acute kidney problems it can give rise to acute renal failure later so this as a cause of death is possible. I would emphasise that the evidence is quite weak for most cases. For most people the cause of death was based on interviews with family members.”

Judith’s comments are picked up widely, including in the Daily Mail, Haaretz and Canada.com.

Rachel Lowe speaks to AFP about this year’s rise in outbreaks of dengue, and her comments were also picked up by the Daily Mail

Jimmy Whitworth provides expert comment for BBC News following a study in the Lancet Infectious Diseases reporting that a new strain of strep A has been identified in the UK. Jimmy said: “This important study gives us a plausible clue to the worrying recent increase in cases of scarlet fever in children in England.”

Martin McKee speaks to the Times (£) and the Telegraph (£) on a study he co-authored suggesting that e-cigarettes may damage the heart.

On social media:

This week’s social media highlight comes from Twitter, where our video revealing the names of Florence Nightingale, Alice Ball and Marie Sklodowska-Curie proved very popular:

29 August-4 September 2019

Stephen Evans provides expert comment for the BBC on a Lancet study suggesting an increased breast cancer risk for women using MHT. Stephen said: “This is a ‘tour de force’ in what has been done and the way it has been done – the findings cannot be dismissed.”

Stephen’s views have been quoted widely, including in the Daily Mail, the Irish Examiner, the Huffington Post, and local news outlets across the UK.

A BMJ paper co-authored by Martin McKee discussing public health issues in the event of a no-deal Brexit, was the subject of a Guardian article. The authors said: “likely consequences include rises in suicides, alcohol-related deaths and some communicable diseases, such as tuberculosis and HIV, especially among vulnerable groups.”

Kaye Wellings discusses reasons why people may be having less sex on the BBC’s The Inquiry (begins at 11.30), suggesting that the 2008 recession may be to blame. Kaye said: “We certainly think it could be to do with the global recession… There’s empirical evidence that shows a connection between lack of sexual interest and unemployment.”

This led to soundbites on local and national stations around the world.

Rachel Lowe speaks with Reuters about how climate change may increase outbreaks of dengue fever. Rachel said: ““As the temperature warms, mosquitoes can survive at higher altitudes and then people who haven’t previously been exposed to different infections, and don’t have immunity to the diseases, are more susceptible.”

Claire Thompson talks to the Financial Times (£) about the Royal Horticultural Society’s supporting of food banks for the first time. Claire said: “Food banks are no longer a temporary solution for many people experiencing hardship. They are now an established part of the welfare landscape.”

Heidi Larson speaks to the Guardian about Facebook directing vaccine searches to public health pages. Heidi said: “We welcome Facebook’s efforts to mitigate the spread of misinformation about vaccines and connect people to sources of accurate information … social media response is an important dimension of our broader efforts to build trust and confidence in immunisation.”

LSHTM student Elliott Rogers speaks to the Guardian about his work on an international project run by the Urban Health Project, which works with local students to map ‘infection points’ in Brazilian favelas. Elliott said: “I’ve never seen research so connected to the community.”

On social media:

This week’s social media highlight comes from Twitter, where Gillian McKay’s account of her deployment to the Democratic Republic of the Congo was featured in conjunction with our online course in Disease Outbreaks.

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Recruitment has started! Our first two patients were randomised to the WOMAN-2 trial on 24th Aug by the team at Holy Family Hospital!

Today is historic, after 2 years of preparation, the first two patients have been randomised to the WOMAN-2 Trial by the…

Posted by The WOMAN Trials on Saturday, 24 August 2019


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