World Malaria Day 2015: play a game and save a life

  18764_lores         Image credit: CDC/ James Gathany

IN 2013, my colleague and I attended an ISNTD meeting (The International Society for Neglected Tropical Diseases) in London where we heard about an innovative approach to expand rapid diagnosis of malaria by crowdsourcing volunteer help. Volunteers played an online game, and we wrote about it in Helping the Crowd Fight Malaria.

Two years later this game, has hunted down over 722,000 parasites. 

The MalariaSpot online game takes just one minute and works by getting you to analyse real blood samples. Tap the parasites but don't let the leucocytes mislead you!

Why you should play? 
A single diagnosis can take up to 30 minutes of a specialist's time, as they manually look for parasites in the blood with a microscope – up to 100 images have to be visually checked by a specialist. There aren’t enough in the world to deal with the 200 million people infected each year.

Crowdsourcing malaria parasite quantification could be a scalable, fast, ubiquitous and accurate screening system, essential for malaria eradication.

Take part for World Malaria Day 25th April

ISNTD are calling for more gamers to take part this weekend (it is after all world malaria day on Saturday 25th April). 

Just follow this link, enjoy yourself, [free apps for android and iphone/ipad] and help others:

MalariaSpot online game

To find out more about the founder and the game you can view a video of his 2013 presentation here: Dr. Miguel Luengo-Oroz 

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E-Learning Course on Bioinformatics of Animal Viruses

Nucleotide sequencing has become a very popular technique for diagnosis and characterization of pathogens and is accessible to most veterinary practices.

A nucleotide sequence provides information on the nature of the pathogen, its source and its main characteristics such as strain, virulence and drug resistance.

Bioinformatics provides tools to gather, store, and analyse these biological sequences, by dissecting and interpreting biological data from different organisms

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)  in collaboration with the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics (SIB)  have developed a new e-learning course on bioinformatics of animal viruses to improve prevention and control of animal diseases.

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The first module entitled "Phylogenetics of Animal Pathogens: Basic Principles and Applications" was released in 2013. Designed as a self-learning module for animal health laboratory staff, it is organized in four chapters: 1) basic notions on phylogenetic trees;         Book by Isaac Salazar
2) how to build phylogenetic trees; 3) how to interpret phylogenetic trees, and 4) exercises. Many examples are included such as influenza, Foot-and-Mouth Disease and Peste des Petits Ruminants viruses. The entire course can be completed in approximately 4 hours.
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The second module, entitled “BLAST and Multiple Sequence Alignment (MSA) Programs” was released in May 2014. This module is subdivided into two parts that outline two of the main bioinformatics tools that help with the analysis of large sequences: Basic Local Alignment Search Tool (BLAST) and Multiple Sequence Alignment (MSA). This new module requires approx. 2 hours to complete the BLAST chapter and 2 more hours are needed to complete the MSA chapter.

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Debate over Infectious Salmon Anaemia Virus in Wild Fish

Miroslav Djuric, DVM

Infectious salmon anaemia virus (ISAV) is a pathogen of marine-farmed Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). However, ISAV can be transmitted experimentally to fish in fresh water. Outbreaks are restricted to Atlantic salmon but other salmonids may harbour the virus and act as reservoirs. ISAV remains an emerging fish pathogen because of the asymptomatic infections in marine wild fish. Natural outbreaks are usually chronic, lasting for several months and mortality varies between 15-100%.Atlantic-salmon-public-domain-image

Diagnosis is based on characteristic gross pathology and light microscopy, anaemia and absence of pathogenic bacteria.  Supporting diagnosis of the virus is achieved by culture on the salmon head kidney cell line (SHK-1), a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test or enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA).2

ISAV was first diagnosed in southwest Norway in 1984 and has since been diagnosed in Canada, Scotland, the USA, the Faeroe Islands and Chile. The first outbreak of ISAV in marine-farmed Atlantic salmon in the Southern hemisphere occurred in Chile in 2007.

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Tuberculosis treatment- end of an era?

TB_cdc_JaniceHaneyCarr

The 1940s saw the beginning of the era of effective drug therapy for TB with the discovery of streptomycin. At the beginning of the 21st century we are seeing its end. Last month doctors in India reported an outbreak of a strain of TB that was termed totally drug resistant. It could be a false alarm because as it turns out the strains were not tested against all known drugs for TB but they were resistant to all 12 of the most common first and second line drugs.

Unfortunately India wasn’t the first place to report totally drug resistance such strains were reported in Italy in 2007 and Iran in 2009. Its presence in India is a concern, say experts because of the large poor population living in crowded conditions and government funded treatment of only simple TB cases.

TB develops drug resistance readily, probably aided by the long treatment times needed. Drug resistant strains followed very soon after the development of the first anti TB drugs and multiple drug resistant (MDR) forms heralded the resurgence of TB globally in the 1980s.

In response the World Health Organization developed the DOTS strategy, where adherence to the drug regime is ensured by observing the patient each time they take a drug dose. But despite this half a million cases of MDR TB occur each year because of poor adherence, poor quality drugs or erratic supply of drugs.

In 2006 the next step on the slippery slope to an incurable TB was the appearance of extremely drug resistant TB in an outbreak in South Africa. This was resistant to first and some secondline drugs.

This increasing drug resistance puts recent progress in decreasing the number of worldwide TB cases in jeopardy.

What can be done? Early diagnosis and testing and a better vaccine would go a long way to getting cases early and giving the right drugs. Treating early and accurately will stop the spread of TB.

TB diagnosis is antiquated – requiring use of microscopy in low resource settings. Matters are complicated by unreliable blood tests on the market which are attractive, quick to do and cheap. WHO issued a warning about those last year.

Progress is being made towards a rapid test. The Xpert MTB/RIF assay is a real-time PCR assay that is fully automated, and that has demonstrated high performance and could be deployed in a range of low- and middle-income settings. The World Health Organization (WHO) has publicly backed it.

World TB day is on 24th March 2012. Join the campaign against this disease of poverty here.

CABI is publishing a book about tuberculosis this year: Tuberculosis diagnosis and treatment.

See Global Health Knowledge Base for access to Global Health abstracts on tuberculosis

Photo credit: Janice Haney Carr