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Between August and December 2017, more than 625,000 Rohingya from Myanmar fled into Bangladesh, settling in informal makeshift camps in Cox’s Bazar district and joining 212,000 Rohingya already present. In early November, a diphtheria outbreak hit the camps, with 440 reported cases during the first month. A rise in cases during early December led to a collaboration between teams from Médecins sans Frontières—who were running a provisional diphtheria treatment centre—and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine with the goal to use transmission dynamic models to forecast the potential scale of the outbreak and the resulting resource needs. Methods We first adjusted for delays between symptom onset and case presentation using the observed distribution of reporting delays from previously reported cases. We then fit a compartmental transmission model to the adjusted incidence stratified by age group and location. Model forecasts with a lead time of 2 weeks were issued on 12, 20, 26 and 30 December and communicated to decision-makers. Results The first forecast estimated that the outbreak would peak on 19 December in Balukhali camp with 303 (95% posterior predictive interval 122–599) cases and would continue to grow in Kutupalong camp, requiring a bed capacity of 316 (95% posterior predictive interval (PPI) 197–499). On 19 December, a total of 54 cases were reported, lower than forecasted. Subsequent forecasts were more accurate: on 20 December, we predicted a total of 912 cases (95% PPI 367–2183) and 136 (95% PPI 55–327) hospitalizations until the end of the year, with 616 cases actually reported during this period. Conclusions Real-time modelling enabled feedback of key information about the potential scale of the epidemic, resource needs and mechanisms of transmission to decision-makers at a time when this information was largely unknown. By 20 December, the model generated reliable forecasts and helped support decision-making on operational aspects of the outbreak response, such as hospital bed and staff needs, and with advocacy for control measures. Although modelling is only one component of the evidence base for decision-making in outbreak situations, suitable analysis and forecasting techniques can be used to gain insights into an ongoing outbreak.
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BACKGROUND: Provision of antiretroviral therapy (ART) during conflict settings is rarely attempted and little is known about the expected patterns of mortality. The Central African Republic (CAR) continues to have a low coverage of ART despite an estimated 110,000 people living with HIV and 5000 AIDS-related deaths in 2018. We present results from a cohort in Zemio, Haut-Mboumou prefecture. This region had the highest prevalence of HIV nationally (14.8% in a 2010 survey), and was subject to repeated attacks by armed groups on civilians during the observed period. METHODS: Conflict from armed groups can impact cohort mortality rates i) directly if HIV patients are victims of armed conflict, or ii) indirectly if population displacement or fear of movement reduces access to ART. Using monthly counts of civilian deaths, injuries and abductions, we estimated the impact of the conflict on patient mortality. We also determined patient-level risk factors for mortality and how the risk of mortality varies with time spent in the cohort. Model-fitting was performed in a Bayesian framework, using logistic regression with terms accounting for temporal autocorrelation. RESULTS: Patients were recruited and observed in the HIV treatment program from October 2011 to May 2017. Overall 1631 patients were enrolled and 1628 were included in the analysis giving 48,430 person-months at risk and 145 deaths. The crude mortality rate after 12 months was 0.92 (95% CI 0.90, 0.93). Our model showed that patient mortality did not increase during periods of heightened conflict; the odds ratios (OR) 95% credible interval (CrI) for i) civilian fatalities and injuries, and ii) civilian abductions on patient mortality both spanned unity. The risk of mortality for individual patients was highest in the second month after entering the cohort, and declined seven-fold over the first 12 months. Male sex was associated with a higher mortality (odds ratio 1.70 [95% CrI 1.20, 2.33]) along with the severity of opportunistic infections (OIs) at baseline (OR 2.52; 95% CrI 2.01, 3.23 for stage 2 OIs compared with stage 1). CONCLUSIONS: Our results show that chronic conflict did not appear to adversely affect rates of mortality in this cohort, and that mortality was driven predominantly by patient-specific risk factors. The risk of mortality and recovery of CD4 T-cell counts observed in this conflict setting are comparable to those in stable resource poor settings, suggesting that conflict should not be a barrier in access to ART.
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OBJECTIVES: This study aimed to explore barriers to accessing care, if any, among people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHA) in two districts of Bihar. We also aimed to assess attitudes towards PLHA among healthcare providers and community members. DESIGN: This qualitative study used an exploratory study design through thematic analysis of semistructured, in-depth interviews. SETTING: Two districts were purposively selected for the study, namely the capital Patna and a peripheral district located approximately 100 km from Patna, in order to glean insights from a diverse sample of respondents. PARTICIPANTS: Our team purposively selected 71 participants, including 35 PLHA, 10 community members and 26 healthcare providers. RESULTS: The overarching theme that evolved from these data through thematic coding identified that enacted stigma and discrimination interfere with each step in the HIV care continuum for PLHA in Bihar, India, especially outside urban areas. The five themes that contributed to these results include: perception of HIV as a dirty illness at the community level; non-consensual disclosure of HIV status; reliance on identifying PLHA to guide procedures and resistance to universal precautions; refusal to treat identified PLHA and referrals to other health centres for treatment; and inadequate knowledge and fear among health providers with respect to HIV transmission. CONCLUSIONS: The continued presence of discriminatory and stigmatising attitudes towards PLHA negatively impacts both disclosure of HIV status as well as access to care and treatment. We recognise a pressing need to improve the knowledge of HIV transmission, and implement universal precautions across all health facilities in the state, not just to reduce stigma and discrimination but also to ensure proper infection control. In order to improve treatment adherence and encourage optimal utilisation of services, it is imperative that the health system invest more in stigma reduction in Bihar and move beyond more ineffective, punitive approaches.
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BACKGROUND: HIV programs are increasingly confronted with failing antiretroviral therapy (ART), including second-line regimens. WHO has provided guidelines on switching to third-line ART. In a Médecins Sans Frontières clinic in Mumbai, India, receiving referred presumptive second-line ART failure cases, an evidence-based protocol consisting of viral load (VL) testing, enhanced adherence counselling (EAC) and genotype for switching was implemented. OBJECTIVE: To document the outcome and genotype of presumptive second-line ART failure cases switched to third-line or maintained on second-line ART. DESIGN: Retrospective cohort study of patients referred between January 2011 and September 2017. RESULTS: The cases (n = 120) were complex with median 9.2 years of ART exposure, poor adherence at baseline, and exposure to multiple ART regimens other than recommended by WHO. Out of 90 evaluated cases, 39(43%) were maintained on second-line ART. Forty-nine (54%) were ever switched to third-line ART. Twelve months virological suppression was 72% in the second-line and 93% in the third-line ART cohort, while retention in care was 80% and 94% respectively. Genotyping showed 62% resistance for PIs, and 52% triple class resistance to NRTIs, NNRTIs and PIs. Resistance was noted for the new class of integrase inhibitors, and for different drugs without any documented previous exposure to the same drug. CONCLUSION: Adopting WHO guidelines on switching ART regimens and provision of EAC can prevent unnecessary switching/exposure to third-line ART regimens. Genotyping is urgently required in national HIV programs, which currently use only the exposure history of patients for switching to third-line ART regimens.
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Letter to the Editor
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AIM: This study describes an Australian cohort of paediatric Buruli ulcer (BU) patients and compares them with adult BU patients. METHODS: Analysis of a prospective cohort of all BU cases managed at Barwon Health, Victoria, from 1 January 1998 to 31 May 2018 was performed. Children were defined as ≤15 years of age. RESULTS: A total of 565 patients were included: 52 (9.2%) children, 289 (51.2%) adults aged 16-64 years and 224 (39.6%) adults aged ≥65 years. Among children, half were female and the median age was 8.0 years (interquartile range 4.8-12.3 years). Six (11.5%) cases were diagnosed from 2001 to 2006, 14 (26.9%) from 2007 to 2012 and 32 (61.5%) from 2013 to 2018. Compared to adults, children had a significantly higher proportion of non-ulcerative lesions (32.7%, P < 0.001) and a higher proportion of severe lesions (26.9%, P < 0.01). The median duration of symptoms prior to diagnosis was shorter for children compared with adults aged 16-64 years (42 vs. 56 days, P = 0.04). Children were significantly less likely to experience antibiotic complications (6.1%) compared with adults (20.6%, P < 0.001), but had a significantly higher rate of paradoxical reactions (38.8%) compared with adults aged 16-64 (19.2%) (P < 0.001). Paradoxical reactions in children occurred significantly earlier than in adults (median 17 vs. 56 days, P < 0.01). Cure rates were similarly high for children compared to adults treated with antibiotics alone or with antibiotics and surgery. CONCLUSIONS: Paediatric BU cases in Australia are increasing and represent an important but stable proportion of Australian BU cohorts. Compared with adults, there are significant differences in clinical presentation and treatment outcomes.
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Malaria rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) emerged in the early 1990s into largely unregulated markets, and uncertain field performance was a major concern for the acceptance of tests for malaria case management. This, combined with the need to guide procurement decisions of UN agencies and WHO Member States, led to the creation of an independent, internationally coordinated RDT evaluation programme aiming to provide comparative performance data of commercially available RDTs. Products were assessed against Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax samples diluted to two densities, along with malaria-negative samples from healthy individuals, and from people with immunological abnormalities or non-malarial infections. Three measures were established as indicators of performance, (i) panel detection score (PDS) determined against low density panels prepared from P. falciparum and P. vivax wild-type samples, (ii) false positive rate, and (iii) invalid rate, and minimum criteria defined. Over eight rounds of the programme, 332 products were tested. Between Rounds 1 and 8, substantial improvements were seen in all performance measures. The number of products meeting all criteria increased from 26.8% (11/41) in Round 1, to 79.4% (27/34) in Round 8. While products submitted to further evaluation rounds under compulsory re-testing did not show improvement, those voluntarily resubmitted showed significant increases in P. falciparum (p = 0.002) and P. vivax PDS (p < 0.001), with more products meeting the criteria upon re-testing. Through this programme, the differentiation of products based on comparative performance, combined with policy changes has been influential in the acceptance of malaria RDTs as a case-management tool, enabling a policy of parasite-based diagnosis prior to treatment. Publication of product testing results has produced a transparent market allowing users and procurers to clearly identify appropriate products for their situation, and could form a model for introduction of other, broad-scale diagnostics.
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The current outbreak of Ebola that has been raging out of control for over 1 y in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has brought back painful memories from West Africa about the dangers of the global health security approach. Drawing on the author’s personal experience of working as a medic in both outbreaks, this article reflects on the challenges of responding to the disease inside a global health security framework. Insights and recommendations are made as to how the global health community can contribute towards gaining better control of Ebola both now and in the future.
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Introduction Africa contributes little to the biomedical literature despite its high burden of infectious diseases. Global health research partnerships aimed at addressing Africa-endemic disease may be polarised. Therefore, we assessed the contribution of researchers in Africa to research on six infectious diseases. METHODS: We reviewed publications on HIV and malaria (2013-2016), tuberculosis (2014-2016), salmonellosis, Ebola haemorrhagic fever and Buruli ulcer disease (1980-2016) conducted in Africa and indexed in the PubMed database using Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses protocol. Papers reporting original research done in Africa with at least one laboratory test performed on biological samples were included. We studied African author proportion and placement per study type, disease, funding, study country and lingua franca. RESULTS: We included 1182 of 2871 retrieved articles that met the inclusion criteria. Of these, 1109 (93.2%) had at least one Africa-based author, 552 (49.8%) had an African first author and 41.3% (n=458) an African last author. Papers on salmonellosis and tuberculosis had a higher proportion of African last authors (p<0.001) compared with the other diseases. Most of African first and last authors had an affiliation from an Anglophone country. HIV, malaria, tuberculosis and Ebola had the most extramurally funded studies (≥70%), but less than 10% of the acknowledged funding was from an African funder. CONCLUSION: African researchers are under-represented in first and last authorship positions in papers published from research done in Africa. This calls for greater investment in capacity building and equitable research partnerships at every level of the global health community.
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