30 Aug – 5 Sept 2014

Simon Brooker joins an expert panel for BBC World Service In the Balance to discuss raising funds for neglected tropical diseases, in light of the attention now being given to the Ebola virus: “Many NTDs take a long time to develop to get to that severe stage. These diseases occur among populations on the periphery of health systems who don’t have access to adequate diagnosis and treatment; therefore they are forgotten by the health services, whereas with Ebola it has been more dramatic in a short space of time.”

Peter Piot is interviewed on CNN – The World Right Now about the current Ebola epidemic as well as past outbreaks: “Every other of the 25 outbreaks that we know of were contained, they were devastating, but only in small communities and with a maximum of 300 people that died.

Peter Piot speaks NPR about the scale of the current outbreak: “This is absolutely unexpected and unprecedented. We have here a situation where Ebola finds an enormously fertile ground in very poor countries with very dysfunctional health systems.”

Peter is also interviewed by other high profile media outlets including CCTV America,RFI, South China Morning Post and Wall Street Journal.

Peter speaks to the Associated Press about the spread of Ebola to Senegal. His comments are covered by a number of publications including NBC News: “I think it illustrates the ineffectiveness of closing borders and cancelling flights. People will still find a way to get around.”

He also talks to Associated Press about the possibility of using the antibodies in survivors’ blood to treat Ebola patients, and the necessity of urgent research: “I hope this is the last Ebola outbreak where all we have is isolation, quarantine and supportive care to treat patients.” The story runs in over 300 outlets around the world including Guardian, Daily Mail, Yahoo news, Seattle Times, Fox News and Huffington Post.

Peter Piot and Martin Hibberd comment on results of a new trial which showed 100% success rate in treating primates with Ebola with the ZMapp drug:

Peter Piot in The Guardian: “This well designed trial in non-human primates provides the most convincing evidence to date that ZMapp may be an effective treatment of Ebola infection in humans. It is now critical that human trials start as soon as possible.”

Martin Hibberd in Daily Mail:This looks to be a very well designed study with better than expected results, which gives great hope for future clinical trials. I hope the team can receive sufficient funding to undertake these clinical trials straight away as this is by far the most advanced potential treatment option available to my knowledge.”

Martin and Peter’s comments are used in several other publications includingThe Daily Telegraph, The Independent, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News and The Yorkshire Evening Post.

Catherine Houlihan, Ron Behrens and Dave Moore write in the BMJ, calling for the NHS to make a greater contribution to tackling the Ebola outbreak in affected countries: “We believe that in order to support the UK’s response, the NHS must allow staff temporary leave of absence from their post to contribute to the global response. Consultant physicians, specialty trainees and specialist nurses in specialties including infectious diseases, microbiology, virology, public health, intensive care and infection control are well placed to offer assistance and should be supported.” Their comments are reported in the Guardian.

David Heymann speaks to Reuters Africa about how mining companies working in Africa should be responding to the Ebola outbreak: Instead of packing up and leaving, mining companies should work with the affected country to try and stop the outbreak. The most effective approach is to conduct a risk assessment before going into a country and determine what the factors might be and make sure that they can be mitigated.”

Martin Hibberd is interviewed on BBC World News TV about the Dengue fever outbreak in Japan.

Cicely Marston’s study of attitudes to anal sex among young people is covered by sites including Live Science, Madame Noire,  Cosmopolitan, The New Statesman and Daily Life:Current debates about young people’s sex lives often seem to focus narrowly on the impact of porn. But our study suggests we need to think more widely about the lack of importance society places on women’s rights, desires and concerns.”

Brendan Wren talks to Channel 4 News website about how easy it would be for terrorists to create biological weapons: “The pathogens are found in the natural environment – eg. Ebola virus in West Africa, or yersinia pestis, the bacterium that causes plague, is found naturally in many parts of the world including the western US. They are already dangerous and can be cultured and grown in large amounts, potentially for nefarious purposes.”

The Independent publishes a letter by Bob Carpenter, in response to an article about parents sharing a bed with their babies: “Cot deaths have again levelled out and more than 50 per cent of the deaths are now occurring when bed-sharing. Analysis suggests that most of these deaths would not have occurred had the babies not been bed sharing.”

Taane Clark is quoted in Medical News Today talking about his new research developing a genetic barcode for TB strains:“”There is increasing interest in new technologies that can assist those treating tuberculosis patients. This new barcode can be easily implemented and used to determine the strain-type that is a surrogate for virulence.” The research is also covered by specialist sites including Science Newline, Medical Express, Science Daily and Science Codex.

In an article about controlling bat populations to tackle rabies,SciDev.net report Ron Behrens’s opinion that novel methods are needed to tackle the disease, and that current vaccines and strategies aimed at the main global reservoirs of the disease, such as dogs and foxes, don’t work in bats because they are harder to access and vaccine-laden baiting doesn’t work.

Martin McKee talks to The Lancet about the implications for health of a comprehensive free-trade agreement being negotiated between the European Union and the USA: “The whole process is one of undermining the precautionary principle, which industrial lobbies have been trying to do for years… We have absolutely no idea whether or not the NHS will be protected, and I don’t think anybody is in a position to say that it definitely will or will not… I find it very surprising that Commission officials would feel confident to make such a prediction, given that there are so many uncertainties involved.”

Ricardo Uauy talks to SciDev.net about nutrition and the forthcoming Sustainable Development Goals:Science tells us it is not enough to reduce hunger by half — one of the MDGs — we need new goals targeting the availability of the right foods, with essential micronutrients, not just calories. We have put the emphasis on eliminating hunger by producing enough cereals that provide calories — energy. This is a good starting point, but it is clearly insufficient, as we need not just more food, but better quality food to achieve healthy growth. We know that micronutrient malnutrition prevents children from growing, and affects their immune system and brain development.”

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