Host your own virtual alumni event

Have you got a skill you’d love to share with other alumni? Do you have a topic that you want to discuss? Would you like to network with alumni? Host your own LSHTM virtual event!

We are looking for alumni to host virtual events for our LSHTM community, giving you an opportunity to network with our global alumni community. Would you like to host:

  • A discussion on a subject of interest, e.g. COVID-19, climate change, etc.
  • Share a skill you have.
  • Host a networking event for your region.
  • Or any other virtual event ideas you have!

Let us know your ideas by email alumni@lshtm.ac.uk.                                  

2 – 9 September

A snapshot of media coverage on COVID-19

Beate Kampmann

(09/09) Beate tells The Telegraph (£) that it is too early to say whether AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine trial is “doomed”, amid their decision to pause the trial after a suspected adverse reaction in a participant. Beate said: “It’s always a concern if someone in the trial develops a serious adverse reaction… but if we had five or six cases I would be much more alarmed.”

(07/09) Beate discusses the ‘COVAX’ global vaccine allocation plan on BBC News. Beate said: “COVAX is an initiative that has been set up to look into the equity of access of the COVID vaccines … We cannot solve the pandemic by just one country going it alone. We need to all play a part to get vaccines to all people who need them.”

(06/09) Beate highlights the need for comprehensive clinical trials to ensure the safety and efficacy of vaccines in The Telegraph (£), amid reports that a vaccine could be ready within weeks. Beate said: “This timeline is neither realistic, nor is it sensible to put this kind of pressure on the analysis of important trials … It is extremely unwise to proceed with licensing any vaccine without a proven track record for safety and efficacy, in any country.”

James Logan

(09/09) After receiving a royal visit from HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, James tells ITV News that dogs could potentially be used as a “powerful diagnostic tool” for COVID-19. James said: “Hundreds of years ago people would diagnose others by smelling them. So, it’s a well known fact that infections change the way we smell and it’s very likely that the same happens with COVID-19. The good thing about dogs is that they are incredibly good at smelling and learning smells.”

(08/09) James speaks to BBC Spotlight about the potential for dogs to detect COVID-19 in a new trial. James said: “They can do it because they have different noses to ours. They are much more sensitive than ours and they can also learn. So they can learn to associate the smell of something with a reward.”

(02/08) James speaks to BBC Health Check about the COVID-19 detection dog trial. James said: “We’ve got good reason to believe there might be odour there, from other respiratory diseases you find changes in body odour, so there is no reason to believe COVID-19 would be any different.”

Sally Bloomfield

(09/09) Sally discusses the chances of a COVID-19 vaccine being rolled out nationally by December in the Huffington Post. Sally said: “It will take many, many months to produce enough vaccine to produce what we call ‘herd immunity’. There might be enough for those at highest risks – healthcare workers and people in extremely vulnerable groups – but to produce population herd immunity by Christmas, from what I’ve heard, is not a possibility.”

(09/09) Sally highlights the importance of maintaining good hand and surface hygiene in the Huffington Post. Sally said: “There is a risk of transferring the virus via hands or surfaces. If any one in the group is infected, a) they will be expelling droplets which will settle on to surfaces and b) they will likely be touching their mouth or nose and have the virus on their hands. Avoiding transmission via their hands and contact surfaces is key.”

Adam Kucharski

(08/09) In Sky News, Adam suggests that it could  be just a few weeks until the UK sees an increase in older people being admitted to hospital after the spike in young people testing positive. Adam said: “We’ve seen lots of changes in behaviours recently, more people are gathering now and in younger groups especially, more people are happy to gather.”

(04/08) Adam discusses with Science the importance of targeting clusters of cases after recent research suggests ‘backward contact tracing’ could prevent twice as many infections. Adam said: “Looking backwards can actually give you a disproportionate benefit in terms of identifying infections” 

Martin McKee

(08/09) Martin tells The Telegraph (£) that the COVID-19 situation in France and Spain should make the UK brace for a possible rise in hospital admissions. Martin said: “Once the R-value goes up and numbers go up it’s very easy for the virus to get out of control.”

(07/09) Martin speaks to The Guardian amid the UK reporting its highest increase of new daily COVID-19 cases since May. Martin said: “This virus can spread rapidly, exploiting any opportunity we give it – and we are giving it many by giving up on things that have worked so far.”

Stephen Evans

(09/09) Stephen tells Euronews that the suspension of AstaZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine trial shows how closely the process is being monitored. Stephen said: “In terms of short-cutting and dropping the standards, this will not be happening. The fact that this trial paused in the way that it has after a single case of an illness illustrates that they are not attempting to shortcut on bringing the vaccine to market.”

(09/09) In Reuters, Stephen comments on AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 trial pause, after an unexplained illness in a participant. Stephen said: “It is premature to speculate on whether the vaccine caused the adverse event, and even if it eventually is concluded that it is possible the vaccine was the cause, there may be other factors involved and it would not necessarily mean the vaccine could not be used at all.”

(02/08) Stephen is quoted in NewScientist about steroid drugs that reduce inflammation, potentially increasing survival in severe COVID-19 cases. Stephen said: “The landmark study compared the outcomes of those who had received one of three corticosteroid drugs – dexamethasone, hydrocortisone or methylprednisolone – with those who received standard care or a placebo…The evidence for benefit is strongest for dexamethasone.”

Other LSHTM experts

(09/09) Rachel Lowe outlines how colder temperatures could affect the survival of COVID-19 in winter, in the New Scientist (£). Rachel said: “Some leaders assumed that this would go away in hot weather. That would have led to complacency.”

(07/09) John Edmunds tells ITV News about the “risky period” we are in as schools reopen and the weather changes. John said: “I don’t think we’ve hit the sweet spot where we’re able to control the epidemic and allow the economy to return to some sort of normality.”

(07/09) Peter Piot is quoted in the Wall Street Journal about the disease severity of COVID-19. Peter said: This virus is really diabolical … It behaves unlike any other virus.”

(04/08) Brendan Wren speaks to iNews about the COVID-19 vaccine developed and tested in Russia that generated neutralizing antibodies in dozens of study subjects. Brendan said: “The report is a case of ‘so far so good’, but immunological responses may not necessarily evoke protection and further investigation is needed on the effectiveness of this vaccine for prevention of COVID-19.” Brendan was also quoted in CNN.

(04/08) Chris Bonell speaks to The Mirror about NHS Test and Trace reaching fewer than half of close contacts. Chris said: “The rate of contacts being reached has actually gone down. The overall 45.3% figure is nowhere near the 80% level of coverage that SAGE previously suggested as a target or the 68% figure that our model suggested was needed to prevent a second wave.”

(03/08) Research by Graham Medley and John Edmunds on coronavirus outbreaks spreading further among older children compared to those in primary school is cited in The Times. They found on average, primary schools were connected to 16 other schools but secondaries to 65.

(03/08) Tim Rhodes discusses with Times Higher Education how COVID-19 could change our approach to research. Tim said: “The idea that certainties can be progressed towards in a linear fashion over time by making science more accurate & precise is more obviously not the case.”

(03/08) Pauline Paterson speaks to BBC Newsnight (from 31:56) about challenges parents face in accessing routine vaccination services for their children. Pauline said: “A quarter of parents that were surveyed and interviewed had challenges either with booking their appointment or getting their child vaccinated.”

(03/08) Julian Peto explains to Channel 4 News the need for constant widespread testing of the whole population and the government’s announcement to support trials for rapid COVID-19 tests. Julian said: “It’s a big step in the right direction. They haven’t yet committed to the resources or given a timescale for testing the whole population regularly but this announcement is very welcome.”

(03/08) Kazuki Shimizu speaks to Reuters about the ruling party in Japan prioritising reviving the recession-hit economy over its pledge to contain the coronavirus pandemic. Kazuki said: “The government seriously needs to review previous mistakes in health communication. A health emergency must not be managed by the wishful thinking.”

(02/08) Kristine Belesova, David Heymann and Andy Haines publish an analysis article in the BMJ about integrating climate action for health into COVID-19 recovery plans. They said: “While the COVID-19 pandemic is a grave human tragedy, it can be used as an opportunity to implement sustainable economic recovery policies that safeguard the health of the current and future generations including by supporting rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.”

(02/08) Annelies Wilder-Smith speaks to Washington Post about the failure to enforce quarantine on travellers returning from coronavirus ‘hotspots’. Annelies disagreed with Priti Patel’s claim saying: “Of course 99.9 percent are not compliant.”

Further LSHTM coverage

(08/09) In the Daily Mail, Nicholas Berger discusses new research that analysed the drink purchases of more than 9,000 British households to see if there was a connection with food choices. Nicholas said: “We found that households at risk of obesity, who purchase high volumes of sugary or diet drinks, also have higher purchases of sweet snacks.”

(08/09) David Mabey is quoted in the Daily Mail amid Mongolia reporting its third case of bubonic plague. David said: “The disease is transmitted from rodents to human by flea bites. There were a number of cases recently in Madagascar where it was suspected there might have been human to human transmission due to so called pneumonic plague, when the infection spreads via the blood stream to the lungs, but this was never proven.”

On social media

This week’s social media highlight comes from Twitter, where we announced the launch of our new free online course with ARCTEC.

The COVID Symptom Study needs you!

The COVID Symptom Study is led by researchers at King’s College London and health science company ZOE. Through the specially designed app, over 4 million people regularly report how they are feeling (whether they feel unwell or not), making it the “the largest public science project of its kind anywhere in the world.” Data from the app, combined with participant swab tests, has allowed researchers to estimate the prevalence of COVID-19 in the UK population and contributed to key findings related to the disease. For example, this study used COVID Symptom Study data to show that loss of taste or smell was a significant COVID-19 symptom, leading the UK government to add it to its main list symptoms.

The study represents a new and innovative approach to conducting surveys, taking advantage of the high prevalence of smart phone use in the population to collect data from millions of people daily. Considering that typical response rates for surveys have been steadily declining over the past 50 years, the fact that the COVID Symptom Study has managed to get millions of people completing a health survey every day is particularly impressive.

I have been reporting on the app since it was launched in March this year – as a budding social researcher myself, I like being able to make a small, daily contribution to both the fight against COVID-19 and health research more generally.

If you have no symptoms, it literally takes about 10 seconds to report. You simply open up the app, and tap the button that says “I’m feeling physically normal”. If you’re “not feeling quite right”, as the app affectionately terms it, you are then asked to report whether you are experiencing a range of symptoms, from commonly known ones such as a high temperature, to less widely known symptoms such as having raised, itchy welts.

Once a week, the app also asks you to report how often you have left the house to go to various types of places, from trips outside involving little interaction with others, like exercising in a park, to trips involving more interaction, such as going on public transport or visiting the pharmacy.

About a month ago, app users were also invited to complete a one-off survey about their eating habits during the previous 4 weeks. Afterwards, they were then asked the same set of questions, but this time asked to consider their eating habits during February. Attempting to give more or less accurate answers to these questions was quite tricky (how much ice cream DID I eat in February?) and highlights some of the challenges in using surveys to research health related behaviours such as eating habits. People often do not accurately report what they actually do, either because they genuinely can’t remember or because they give what they perceive to be a more socially desirable answer.

Another limitation of using a survey which relies on self-reported symptoms to measure the prevalence of COVID-19 in the population is that it does not capture asymptomatic cases. This is why the ONS Coronavirus Infection Survey, which is based on results of swab tests sent to a random sample of households in the UK, consistently gives slightly higher estimates of COVID-19 prevalence than the COVID Symptom Study.  

If more people download and regularly report on the app, then better estimates can be generated from the data and clearer insights can be gained into the prevalence of COVID-19 in the population. You can find out more about the study and download the app here.

If you want to know more about the use of survey methodology in health research, the following eBooks are available through Discover:

Abramson, J. & Abramson, Z. (2008). Research methods in community medicine:  surveys, epidemiological research, programme evaluation, clinical trials. (6th ed.) John Wiley.

Chander, T. & Durrand, M. (2014). Principles of social research (2nd ed.) Open University Press.

Bowling, A. (2015). Research methods in health: investigating health and health services (4th ed.) Open University Press.

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Households buying high volumes of sugary or diet soft drinks linked to low socio-economic status and less healthy food purchases

A new PHI|Lab study published in PLOS Medicine found that households purchasing high volumes of sugary or diet drinks are more likely to have lower socio-economic status, higher body mass index (BMI) and overall less healthy food purchases.

The study was led by PHI|Lab members Nicolas Berger and Laura Cornelsen who analysed data on food and beverage purchases from nearly 9,000 British households who regularly purchased drinks such as soft drinks, juice or alcoholic beverages in 2016. The study aimed to better understand whether households with obesity are effectively targeted by current policies aimed at specific foods and drinks, as well as what the key sources of energy and nutrients are for those households in order to generate new effective policies.

Using latent class analysis, this study identified seven different groups of households on the basis of their regular beverage purchasing behaviour. Each group of households was characterised by relatively higher purchases of one or two categories of beverages: Sugar Sweetened Beverages (SSBs), Diet beverages, Fruit juices and Milk-based drinks, Beer and Cider, Wine, Water and lastly a Diverse group who purchased moderate levels of many different beverages.

Most of the household sample were in the Diverse group (30%), another 18% of the households were in the groups purchasing mostly SSB or Wine respectively, while the Diet beverage group made up 16% of the households. Beer and Cider, Fruit and milk-based drinks, and Water made up 7%, 6% and 4% of households, respectively.

By looking at other characteristics of the households, the results showed that those in the Diverse group were more likely to have higher income, whereas lower social grade was more likely for households in the SSB, Diet beverage or Beer and Cider groups.

The proportion of households with overweight or obesity was the highest in the SSB and Diet beverage groups (66.8% and 72.5%, respectively). When looking at total food and beverage purchases, households in the SSB group obtained higher total energy than other groups in which a smaller proportion of energy was from fruits and vegetables, and a greater proportion of energy was from less healthy food and beverages, than other groups. For households in both SSB and Diet beverage groups, there was a tendency to purchase a high proportion of energy from sweet snacks (~18%).

These findings suggest that households purchasing mostly sugary or diet drinks are at a higher risk of obesity, and might additionally benefit from policies that target sweet snacks, as a way of reducing their excess energy intake – for example, by extending the UK Treasury Soft Drinks Industry Levy to sweet snacks.

Reference

Nicolas Berger, Steve Cummins, Alexander Allen, Richard Smith, Laura Cornelsen. Patterns of beverage purchases amongst British households: a latent class analysis. PLOS Medicine. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1003245

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COVID-19 Alumni Stories: Thijs Feuth

Thijs Feuth (Diploma in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 2018) works as a Pulmonary Medicine Fellow at Turku University Hospital, in Finland. In this blog, he explains what it has been like to work within a hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic. He also shares how Finland’s preventative measures led to a smaller outbreak than elsewhere in Europe.

How has the COVID-19 outbreak affected your work?

From the beginning in January 2020, when COVID-19 cases started being recognised outside of Wuhan, we began planning and discussing in our hospital about what would happen if it came to Europe. It was important that we remained engaged with the situation in China. When COVID-19 eventually came to Europe, in that first month in our hospital, we were seeing very few cases and a lot of regular patients were not coming to the hospital because we had decided to do telephone calls to non-urgent patients instead of seeing them face to face. Although the government placed restrictions to reduce the R0, we still expected many cases because we did not know how effective these restrictions would be. However, quite soon it became clear that we were not seeing as large number of cases as other countries and so after some weeks we could start to see non-urgent patients and transition back to normal clinical work.  

How have you been responding to the outbreak?

Our hospital does symptomatic testing for suspected COVID-19 cases and although in the beginning there were a shortage of tests, presently we are testing quite a lot. With the first cases we saw, there was still much uncertainty about COVID-19 treatment and prognosis. There was a lot of fear among patients because the focus in the news was on COVID-19 related mortality. We had to be clear in communicating to patients that even though people were dying, still the vast majority of people were surviving. It was difficult to see the fear in patients who were being admitted for shortness of breath, afraid of ICU admission and at the same time not being able to see their family, at the moment that they needed them the most. Those first days for me were quite emotional but of course we tried not to show that to patients, we tried to show confidence.

During that time, I also had some different research projects going on. One was a study gathering real time clinical data on COVID-19 cases and providing updates twice per week. Another one was a survey focused on health care workers in the pulmonology department and their feelings about the COVID-19 pandemic. We are not so used to being open about our emotions in Finland, it is the culture here to keep feelings, especially the bad ones, to yourself. However, we were getting signals that the situation was really very heavy for everyone, and we wanted to create an environment where people could talk about their worries. The survey first addressed what positive feelings health workers might have about the pandemic e.g. do people feel grateful to be a part of the efforts against this disease, do they have positive feelings about themselves? Then it addressed what worries and concerns they had about the pandemic e.g. were they worried about their own health, or the health of their loved ones, or the country?

There were also open questions that allowed respondents to bring up any other concerns, and we received many answers to that, such as uncertainty about the future, worry about PPE resources to protect themselves, the worry about living alone during this crisis. But there were also a lot of comments on how people were dealing with these feelings, for example going out into nature, taking a walk and taking time for selfcare. This survey was quite useful, from the respondents we received a lot of feedback that it was very good that we had opened up this discussion.

How has your country’s response to the outbreak affected your work?

In Finland we haven’t had as large of an outbreak. The virus arrived in Finland a bit later than the UK, and by that time we were already having political engagement going on, so the response was efficient. Instead of dealing with an epidemic, we had the kind of prevention of an epidemic.

One thing that has been interesting to see is how the general public has now received an education on epidemiology and virology. They have gotten a lot of information through the media. Not everyone can understand it in the right way but I think it’s quite great to see everyone engaged in this way.

How has LSHTM’s training helped you during this outbreak?

LSHTM‘s training has been quite useful, especially as outbreak recognition was part of my course.  For example, one year ago there was an outbreak of invasive pneumococcal disease in shipyards in Turku, Finland. Because I had been at LSHTM, I was very focused on identifying early on that there was an outbreak and that we needed to act. Similarly, with COVID-19, very early on when the only cases were in Wuhan I was quite engaged with the reports, alerting our pulmonology department to what was happing in Wuhan and putting it on the agenda for discussion. In those early days we were already discussing what could happen if the outbreak reached Europe, how would we act and how we would prepare. The LSHTM alumni network has also been very helpful. The DTM&H WhatsApp group has really been useful in getting information about the pandemic from alumni around the world. Aside from relying on the news, publications in the medical literature and bulletins from the WHO, it was good to get information that helped us all at the beginning of the pandemic to understand what was happening worldwide.

If you are an alumnus and would like to share your COVID-19 story, please click here to find out more.

Information about how you can support, promote and share LSHTM’s COVID-19 Response work is available here.

Alumni needed: Be part of our pioneering Pentacell Project

We are looking for Public Health alumni to undertake paid roles facilitating small groups of incoming students as part of the new LSHTM Pentacell Project.

The LSHTM Pentacell Project is an intervention designed to develop a sense of belonging among MSc students in Public Health studying remotely, to promote student mental health and retention. The ongoing global pandemic means that LSHTM’s first “London-based” term of teaching will be done solely online so this pilot will play a key role in increasing and improving student support and wellbeing.

A pentacell would consist of MSc students organised into small groups of five meeting weekly throughout their MSc programme to offer mutual support, share wisdom, develop skills and maintain direction. The pilot aims to support 200 students in 40 pentacells.

Each group will also have an alumni facilitator to support them and guide them through their journey. Each alumni would facilitate three pentacells.

The time commitment would be around 40 hours in the first term with a rate of pay in the region of £15ph. We will review the project at that point and if it is successful, apply for larger amounts of external funding to expand the project.

Specific training and supervision will be provided by a group of LSHTM experts. At the end of each half-term, each Pentacell will prepare a short presentation on how they have used their Pentacell in the preceding five weeks.

The benefits to the students include:

  • Increased welfare support, addressing fragmentation and isolation.
  • Support for mental health and wellbeing with secondary benefits for their education and future networking.
  • Increased sense of institutional belonging and community.

The benefits to alumni include:

  • Valuable work experience and career development.
  • Increased engagement with LSHTM and an opportunity to give back to our School community.

The benefits to LSHTM include:

  • If the pilot proves successful it could prove a useful model for future work with students.
  • Increased student satisfaction.
  • A closer relationship with students and alumni.

If you are empathic, like to work with people and are interested in group dynamics, this is a great opportunity for you to develop your skills. Please register your interest here.

The job description and person specification can be found here.

Jules D. Millogo: Founder of Konkourona Alliance Foundation

Jules D. Millogo (MSc in Epidemiology of Communicable Diseases, 2000) is a Public Health physician with more than 25 years of experience working in developing countries at national and international levels. She currently serves as Director of Public Health and Partnerships at MSD (Merck, Sharp & Dohme, Inc. Kenilworth, NJ). In this blog piece, he discusses his non-profit organisation that improves the lives of the individuals who live in Burkina Faso, the country he grew up in. He also explains how his role in working with vaccines has changed since the COVID-19 outbreak.

“My path to becoming a Public Health physician was a challenging one. I am originally from Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in the world, and was fortunate that my father chose me as the only child out of seven surviving children in our family to go to school. There was no school in Konkourona, the village where I was born, so I was sent to live in a neighbouring village that had an elementary school. I somehow managed to overcome bouts of homelessness, hunger and illnesses from infectious diseases that often come with extreme poverty, and enjoy learning. After seeing six of my siblings die from preventable diseases, I was determined to become a physician. I managed to make my way through various educational institutions throughout the country all the way through medical school, after which I worked as a District Medical Officer in the country. After working as a Medical Officer, I held various positions inside and outside of the country in support of public health in an effort to save or improve as many lives as possible. In parallel, I did whatever I could to support family members and friends from my village fight extreme poverty. 

“I had the good fortune of attending LSHTM in 1999. It changed my life dramatically, offering job opportunities in international organisations. Upon leaving the school, in September 2000, I was directly hired by the World Health Organization (WHO) to work in the Vaccine, Assessment and Monitoring Unit. The technical skills learnt in LSHTM helped me to interact with public health leaders from around the world without being intimidated. LSHTM training, in addition to my experience as Head of the National Immunization Program from a developing country, is a combination that gives me a perspective and a credible voice among my peers from within and outside of Industry. In short, attending LSHTM changed the course of my life in absolutely positive ways.

“Last year, I co-founded a non-profit organisation, Konkourona Alliance Foundation (KAFO), to empower the people in my village to do more good for more people. Our focus is on improving access to education, healthcare and water, which we hope will drastically improve their lives. So far, we have helped the villagers build new classrooms to reduce overcrowding and an office for the school Director and teachers. We are sending computers and monitors and supporting the purchase of textbooks so that when school starts in September, learning conditions will be so greatly improved. We are in the process of building houses for the teachers now so that they have a clean, safe place to live with their families during the school year, rather than having six teachers and the school Director live crowded in a single, two-room structure infested with bats. The houses are expected to be completed in September, after which we will focus on helping the community build a health centre with facilities for primary health and maternal care. The centre will also include a pharmacy, housing for healthcare workers and latrines. Our goal is to install the infrastructure to provide running water and electricity to all of the new healthcare facilities.

“Vaccination programs around the world- including programs using the company I work for (Merck Global Vaccine Division) products- have been directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. National Immunisation Programs have delayed vaccine introduction or suspended vaccination campaigns. This, of course, affects not only our company’s business but more importantly, public health. It is very likely that disease eradication, elimination or control programs will have set back, resulting in deaths that could have been averted. On a more direct level, my job as the Merck Liaison to WHO includes face-to-face interactions with counterparts in the global immunisation community has been severely hampered. Since March 2020, many meetings have been held virtually or cancelled. Working for Industry put me on a “lucky” group as I can work from home. I have full-time employment that is not directly affected by the current circumstances. I am very concerned about WHO and other organisations that have the direct responsibility of responding not only to the COVID-19 pandemic, but also other health emergencies such as Ebola, measles outbreaks, etc.”

Update: A school building for teachers have been now completed and Jules has now embarked on a campaign to build a health center in this village, with the goal of reducing maternal and child mortality from preventable diseases. 

If you would like to share your story, please email alumni@lshtm.ac.uk for more details.

26 August – 1 September

A snapshot of media coverage on COVID-19

Martin McKee

(27/08) Martin McKee discusses the role of travel in the recent surge in cases of COVID-19 in Europe in TIME Magazine. Martin said: “Increased travel combined with relaxed restrictions has almost certainly led to a rise in cases…In a tourist resort, where people are coming from many different places, the probability that somebody will be infected is increased.”

(27/08) Martin speaks to The Telegraph about the progress made in understanding the virus, and the dangers of the autumn months. Martin said: “We have learned an enormous amount in the intervening period…We are in a different position from March – we know an awful lot more. But this is still a very dangerous virus. If we let down our guard too much it will come back with a vengeance.”

Pauline Scheelbeek

(26/08) Pauline Scheelbeek discusses the first analysis of nine government backed dietary recommendations from the Eatwell Guide in The Guardian. Pauline said: “Our study demonstrates that the Eatwell Guide forms an effective first step towards more healthy and sustainable diets in the UK…Further adherence to the guidelines would not only result in population health benefits, but is also associated with lower environmental footprint due to reduced greenhouse gas emission.”

(26/08) Pauline explained to The Telegraph about the benefits of adhering to the analysed Eatwell Guide recommendations. Pauline said: “We found that for each and every single recommendation that you adhere to, we see a positive health and environment impact in return.”

Nicholas Jewell

(27/08) Nick Jewell discussed the trial he co-led with the World Mosquito Program in The Guardian, which showed mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia bacteria can dramatically reduced dengue transmission in Indonesia. Nick said: “Doubly exciting is that the trial design used here provides a template that other candidate health interventions can follow.”

(27/08) Nick told Nature that the trial results, a 77% reduction in dengue cases in areas that received Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes, were “pretty staggering”. Nick said: “I’ve never been involved in a study quite as successful as this. We’ve never had anything like this. Condoms provide this level of protection.”

Brendan Wren

(01/09) Brendan Wren comments on the detection of the first case of COVID-19 reinfection by the University of Hong Kong, in the New Scientist. Brendan explained: “This is a very rare example of reinfection and it should not negate the global drive to develop COVID-19 vaccines.”

(31/08) Brendan also commented on the reinfection case to HuffPost UK, and potential implications for vaccine development. Brendan said: “It is to be expected that the virus will naturally mutate over time.”

Rachel Lowe

(29/08) Rachel Lowe is interviewed by BBC Weather World (from 08:52) on the potential impact of winter on the COVID19 response. Rachel said: ” As we move into the Northern Hemisphere winter we’ll have to be very aware of how cold of how this winter may be, and how that will impact not only this coronavirus but also all the other pathogens that we have in winter. This whole package could overwhelm the emergency services if we’re not well prepared.”

Dr Rachel Lowe on BBC Weather World

(13/08) Rachel co-authors an opinion piece in the BMJ about the impact of COVID-19 in Latin America. The authors said: “A vigorous & coordinated effort is required for the region to withstand not only the health crisis, but also the unprecedented economic impact of the pandemic.”

Other LSHTM experts

(01/09) Graham Medley talks to BBC World at One (from 21:30) about the potential rise in infections from the return to schools and work. Graham said: “It’s about how we learn as individuals, and as a society, to live with COVID-19.”

(30/08) Amiya Bhatia co-authors a piece published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization about the need to integrate prevention of violence against children into COVID-19 response measures. The authors said: “Efforts to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 response measures on violence against children should be an essential component of pandemic response and recovery.”

(30/08) Beate Kampmann explained to The Guardian the dangers of fast-tracking vaccine development. Beate said: “I’m more and more concerned that things are getting done in a rush…We have to be careful because what we do with COVID-19 could have repercussions for trust in all vaccine programmes.

(29/08) Martin Hibberd tells iNews that on-the-spot tests will be a useful additional control measure. Martin said: “While large scale PCR and serological [antibody] testing is still needed to combat COVID-19 disease, these new, rapid, ‘point of care’ tests can add a very useful additional control measure, that should now be integrated into the control measures.”

(28/08) Mishal Khan co-authors a Nature Medicine correspondence asking – can schools of global public health dismantle colonial legacies? The authors wrote: “The school’s Decolonizing Global Health and Black Lives Matter groups reflect a new generation of global public health professionals who are more empowered to question unexamined assumptions, legacies and the so-called heroes of the industry. And they are rightly demanding more of their institutions.”

(27/08) Heidi Larson speaks to BBC News about attitudes towards the flu vaccine amidst concerns about a second COVID-19 wave. Heidi said: “Some years it really isn’t that effective against all strains…But I would certainly urge people to take it anyway as you wouldn’t want the strains that it does protect against…It’s also important to limit the stress on the system.”

On social media

This week’s social media highlight is the final episode of it’s first season, looking at COVID-19 alongside pandemics of the past and public health.

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Accessible eye health technology shows large advantages over current method for detecting childhood problems in lower and middle-income countries

A nurse trained in red reflex testing giving health education to mothers attending a child health clinic. Photograph: Furahini Mndeme

A new study from ICEH has revealed that an existing, easily accessible method of detecting causes of avoidable blindness would be more beneficial in lower and middle-income countries than the current standard.

The research, carried out in Tanzania, tested four different screening tools for cataract and retinoblastoma, common causes of blindness. The methods included simple torchlight, which is currently recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for primary eye care, and three more advanced methods: Arclight™, CatCam and PEEK Retina.

Torchlight, Arclight and CatCam can all perform red reflex testing, a method whereby light is projected through the pupil into the eye. The resulting reflection can reveal a number of potential abnormalities of vision. The final method, PEEK Retina, captures pictures of the retina directly through a smartphone attachment.

Devices designed specifically for testing the red reflex are more commonly used in higher-income countries, which may contribute to better outcomes in those countries. Lower-income countries such as Tanzania have a much higher burden of poor health linked to vision and are more likely to use torchlight to assess eye problems.

This study, published in Eye, had ophthalmic nurses at a paediatric ophthalmic clinic in Kilimanjaro use the four different methods on children who had already been assessed by an ophthalmologist to have either cataract or retinoblastoma. This was the first time these methods have been compared.

Nurses performing red reflex test using Arclight during training. Photograph: Furahini Mndeme

The results showed a significant advantage for the newer three methods, with the ability to accurately detect the right disease at 97.6% for CatCam, 92.7% for Arclight, 90.2% for PEEK retina and 7.3% for torchlight.

Following these results, the investigators looked to determine if the newer methods were feasible within a primary healthcare setting in Tanzania. Reproductive and Child Health (RCH) Nurses, who normally carry out child services such as immunisation but not eye screening, were trained to use the three newer methods of detection.

Despite CatCam performing best in the previous study, the devices have limited availability. In contrast, the Arclight is relatively affordable and available.  Therefore, after training, nurses who would regularly assess children at 12 local Reproductive and Child Health clinics were provided with Arclights to use in their normal practice.

After three months of using the Arclight, the nurses completed a questionnaire which revealed that the majority found the devices easy to use and they were able to integrate screening into their normal practice. The nurses had also detected several children with causes of blindness during the trial. The combined results from the two trials have led to the authors suggesting that red reflex testing should be recommended by WHO instead of torchlight examination to help detect potential causes of blinding, which could lead to improvements in eye health in countries that need it most.

Publication

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41433-020-1019-5

Contact

If you have any questions about this publication or for further details please get in touch at iceh@lshtm.ac.uk

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