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Oxford Medical Sciences Divisional Panel has conferred the title of Professor on three members of our Centre. Ben Cooper - Professor of Epidemiology, Sassy Molyneux - Professor of Global Health and Piero Olliaro - Professor of Poverty Related Infectious Diseases were awarded these titles in recognition of their distinction in their respective fields and contributions to the research, teaching and administration of the Department and we congratulate them on their success!
Subnational estimates of factors associated with under-five mortality in Kenya: a spatio-temporal analysis, 1993-2014.
BackgroundTo improve child survival, it is necessary to describe and understand the spatial and temporal variation of factors associated with child survival beyond national aggregates, anchored at decentralised health planning units. Therefore, we aimed to provide subnational estimates of factors associated with child survival while elucidating areas of progress, stagnation and decline in Kenya.MethodsTwenty household surveys and three population censuses conducted since 1989 were assembled and spatially aligned to 47 subnational Kenyan county boundaries. Bayesian spatio-temporal Gaussian process regression models accounting for inadequate sample size and spatio-temporal relatedness were fitted for 43 factors at county level between 1993 and 2014.ResultsNationally, the coverage and prevalence were highly variable with 38 factors recording an improvement. The absolute percentage change (1993-2014) was heterogeneous ranging between 1% and 898%. At the county level, the estimates varied across space and over time with a majority showing improvements after 2008 which was preceded by a period of deterioration (late-1990 to early-2000). Counties in Northern Kenya were consistently observed to have lower coverage of interventions and remained disadvantaged in 2014 while areas around Central Kenya had and historically have had higher coverage across all intervention domains. Most factors in Western and South-East Kenya recorded moderate intervention coverage although having a high infection prevalence of both HIV and malaria.ConclusionThe heterogeneous estimates necessitates prioritisation of the marginalised counties to achieve health equity and improve child survival uniformly across the country. Efforts are required to narrow the gap between counties across all the drivers of child survival. The generated estimates will facilitate improved benchmarking and establish a baseline for monitoring child development goals at subnational level.
Introduction: The 4-aminoquinolines, chloroquine, and hydroxychloroquine have been used for over 70 years for malaria and rheumatological conditions, respectively. Their broad-spectrum antiviral activity, excellent safety profile, tolerability, low cost, and ready availability made them prime repurposing therapeutic candidates at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.Areas covered: Here, the authors discuss the history of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, the in vitro data which led to their widespread repurposing and adoption in COVID-19 and their complex pharmacokinetics. The evidence for the use of these drugs is assessed through in vivo animal experiments and the wealth of conflicting data and interpretations published during COVID-19, including the more informative results from randomized controlled trials (RCTs). The safety aspects of these drugs, in particular cardiotoxicity, are then reviewed.Expert opinion: The evidence from clinical trials in COVID-19 supports the well-established safety record of the 4-aminoquinolines at currently recommended dosage. In hospitalized patients with severe COVID-19 RCTs show clearly that the 4-aminoquinolines are not beneficial. The only treatments with proven benefit at this stage of infection are immunomodulators (dexamethasone, IL-6 receptor antagonists). No antiviral drugs have proven life-saving in late-stage COVID-19.
New Hope for a "Cursed" Crop? Understanding Stakeholder Attitudes to Plant Molecular Farming With Modified Tobacco in Europe.
Plant molecular farming (PMF) with tobacco could provide a sustainable and cheap platform for the production of high-value proteins for medical use. It could also offer European tobacco farmers an alternative, healthful end use for their crop. New plant breeding techniques (NPBTs) offer a means of quickly and precisely optimizing molecular farming platforms for this purpose. However, there has been little empirical research focussing on the barriers and facilitators of these technologies in the agricultural sphere. Here, we explore key stakeholder perceptions toward this combination of technologies, exploring their understanding of risk and opportunity. We interviewed N = 24 key stakeholders - tobacco farmers, agronomists, policymakers, and researchers - in three tobacco-growing areas of Spain and Italy. Our findings demonstrate these stakeholders have a favorable attitude toward PMF with tobacco due to its beneficial medical purpose and the opportunity it provides farmers to continue growing tobacco in a declining European market. Tobacco producers also reported favorable views toward NPBTs, though for some this was contingent on their use for non-food crops like tobacco. Most stakeholders' concerns are economic in nature, such as potential profitability and demands for new agronomic practices or infrastructure. Tobacco producer associations were thought to be important facilitators for future PMF scale-up. The attitude toward these technologies by smoking tobacco companies is, however, unknown and constitutes a potential risk to the development of PMF.
The Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study (GBD) 2019 provides a rules-based synthesis of the available evidence on levels and trends in health outcomes, a diverse set of risk factors, and health system responses. GBD 2019 covered 204 countries and territories, as well as first administrative level disaggregations for 22 countries, from 1990 to 2019. Because GBD is highly standardised and comprehensive, spanning both fatal and non-fatal outcomes, and uses a mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive list of hierarchical disease and injury causes, the study provides a powerful basis for detailed and broad insights on global health trends and emerging challenges. GBD 2019 incorporates data from 281 586 sources and provides more than 3·5 billion estimates of health outcome and health system measures of interest for global, national, and subnational policy dialogue. All GBD estimates are publicly available and adhere to the Guidelines on Accurate and Transparent Health Estimate Reporting. From this vast amount of information, five key insights that are important for health, social, and economic development strategies have been distilled. These insights are subject to the many limitations outlined in each of the component GBD capstone papers.
MalariaGEN is a data-sharing network that enables groups around the world to work together on the genomic epidemiology of malaria. Here we describe a new release of curated genome variation data on 7,000 Plasmodium falciparum samples from MalariaGEN partner studies in 28 malaria-endemic countries. High-quality genotype calls on 3 million single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and short indels were produced using a standardised analysis pipeline. Copy number variants associated with drug resistance and structural variants that cause failure of rapid diagnostic tests were also analysed. Almost all samples showed genetic evidence of resistance to at least one antimalarial drug, and some samples from Southeast Asia carried markers of resistance to six commonly-used drugs. Genes expressed during the mosquito stage of the parasite life-cycle are prominent among loci that show strong geographic differentiation. By continuing to enlarge this open data resource we aim to facilitate research into the evolutionary processes affecting malaria control and to accelerate development of the surveillance toolkit required for malaria elimination.
The challenges of estimating the human global burden of disease of antimicrobial resistant bacteria.
Estimating the contribution of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) to global mortality and healthcare costs enables evaluation of interventions, informs policy decisions on resource allocation, and drives research priorities. However assembling the high quality, patient-level data required for global estimates is challenging. Capacity for accurate microbiology culture and antimicrobial susceptibility testing is woefully neglected in low and middle-income countries, and further surveillance and research on community antimicrobial usage, bias in blood culture sampling, and the contribution of co-morbidities such as diabetes is essential. International collaboration between governments, policy makers, academics, microbiologists, front-line clinicians, veterinarians, the food and agriculture industry and the public is critical to understand and tackle AMR.
Is stopping secondary prophylaxis safe in HIV-positive talaromycosis patients? Experience from Myanmar.
ObjectivesThe aim of the study was to determine whether it is safe to stop secondary prophylaxis in patients with talaromycosis after immune reconstitution with a sustained increase in CD4 count to ≥ 100 cells/µL after antiretroviral therapy (ART).MethodsA retrospective cohort analysis was performed in HIV-infected patients treated for talaromycosis between June 2009 and June 2017 in Medical Action Myanmar (MAM) clinics.ResultsAmong a cohort of 5466 HIV-infected patients, 41 patients were diagnosed with and treated for clinical talaromycosis. All the patients were on ART and had a CD4 count 100 cells/µL for at least 1 year. Throughout the duration of follow-up post itraconazole cessation, the observed incidence of relapse was zero with a total follow-up of 93.8 person-years (95% confidence interval 0-4 per 100 person-years). The median (25th, 75th percentile) duration of follow-up post-prophylaxis discontinuation was 2.8 (2.1, 6.3) years.ConclusionsSecondary prophylaxis can be safely stopped in patients with talaromycosis after immune reconstitution with a sustained increase in CD4 count to ≥ 100 cells/µL after highly active antiretroviral therapy.
Impact of a package of diagnostic tools, clinical algorithm, and training and communication on outpatient acute fever case management in low- and middle-income countries: protocol for a randomized controlled trial.
BackgroundThe management of acute febrile illnesses places a heavy burden on clinical services in many low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Bacterial and viral aetiologies of acute fevers are often clinically indistinguishable and, in the absence of diagnostic tests, the 'just-in-case' use of antibiotics by many health workers has become common practice, which has an impact on drug-resistant infections. Our study aims to answer the following question: in patients with undifferentiated febrile illness presenting to outpatient clinics/peripheral health centres in LMICs, can we demonstrate an improvement in clinical outcomes and reduce unnecessary antibiotic prescription over current practice by using a combination of simple, accurate diagnostic tests, clinical algorithms, and training and communication (intervention package)?MethodsWe designed a randomized, controlled clinical trial to evaluate the impact of our intervention package on clinical outcomes and antibiotic prescription rates in acute febrile illnesses. Available, point-of-care, pathogen-specific and non-pathogen specific (host markers), rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) included in the intervention package were selected based on pre-defined criteria. Nine clinical study sites in six countries (Burkina Faso, Ghana, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Uganda), which represent heterogeneous outpatient care settings, were selected. We considered the expected seasonal variations in the incidence of acute febrile illnesses across all the sites by ensuring a recruitment period of 12 months. A master protocol was developed and adapted for country-specific ethical submissions. Diagnostic algorithms and choice of RDTs acknowledged current data on aetiologies of acute febrile illnesses in each country. We included a qualitative evaluation of drivers and/or deterrents of uptake of new diagnostics and antibiotic use for acute febrile illnesses. Sample size estimations were based on historical site data of antibiotic prescription practices for malarial and non-malarial acute fevers. Overall, 9 semi-independent studies will enrol a minimum of 21,876 patients and an aggregate data meta-analysis will be conducted on completion.DiscussionThis study is expected to generate vital evidence needed to inform policy decisions on the role of rapid diagnostic tests in the clinical management of acute febrile illnesses, with a view to controlling the rise of antimicrobial resistance in LMICs.Trial registrationClinicaltrials.gov NCT04081051 . Registered on 6 September 2019. Protocol version 1.4 dated 20 December 2019.
Economic considerations support C-reactive protein testing alongside malaria rapid diagnostic tests to guide antimicrobial therapy for patients with febrile illness in settings with low malaria endemicity.
Malaria is no longer a common cause of febrile illness in many regions of the tropics. In part, this success is a result of improved access to accurate diagnosis and effective anti-malarial treatment, including in many hard-to-reach rural areas. However, in these settings, management of other causes of febrile illness remains challenging. Health systems are often weak and other than malaria rapid tests no other diagnostics are available. With millions of deaths occurring annually due to treatable bacterial infections and the ever increasing spread of antimicrobial resistance, improvement in the management of febrile illness is a global public health priority. Whilst numerous promising point-of-care diagnostics are in the pipeline, substantial progress can be made in the interim with existing tools: C-reactive protein (CRP) is a highly sensitive and moderately specific biomarker of bacterial infection and has been in clinical use for these purposes for decades, with dozens of low-cost devices commercially available. This paper takes a health-economics approach to consider the possible advantages of CRP point-of-care tests alongside rapid diagnostic tests for malaria, potentially in a single multiplex device, to guide antimicrobial therapy for patients with febrile illness. Three rudimentary assessments of the costs and benefits of this approach all indicate that this is likely to be cost-effective when considering the incremental costs of the CRP tests as compared with either (i) the improved health outcomes for patients with bacterial illnesses; (ii) the costs of antimicrobial resistance averted; or (iii) the economic benefits of better management of remaining malaria cases and shorter malaria elimination campaigns in areas of low transmission. While CRP-guided antibiotic therapy alone cannot resolve all challenges associated with management of febrile illness in remote tropical settings, in the short-term a multiplexed CRP and malaria RDT could be highly cost-effective and utilize the well-established funding and distribution systems already in place for malaria RDTs. These findings should spark further interest amongst industry, academics and policy-makers in the development and deployment of such diagnostics, and discussion on their geographically appropriate use.
Inter-prescriber variability in the decision to prescribe antibiotics to febrile patients attending primary care in Myanmar
Abstract Background Most antibiotic prescribing occurs in primary care. Even within the same health facility, there may be differences between prescribers in their tendency to prescribe antibiotics, which may be masked by summary data. We aimed to quantify prescriber variability in antibiotic prescription to patients with acute fever in primary care clinics in Myanmar. Methods We conducted a secondary analysis of prescribing data from 1090 patient consultations with 40 prescribing doctors from a trial investigating the effect of point-of-care C-reactive protein (CRP) tests on antibiotic prescription for acute fever. We used multilevel logistic regression models to assess inter-prescriber variability in the decision to prescribe antibiotics. Results The median odds ratio (MOR) in the unadjusted model was 1.82 (95% CI: 1.47–2.56) indicating that when two prescribers from this population are randomly selected then in half of these pairs the odds of prescription will be greater than 1.82-fold higher in one prescriber than the other. The estimated variability from this sample of prescribers corresponds to a population of prescribers where the top 25% of prescribers will prescribe antibiotics to over 41% of patients while the bottom 25% will prescribe antibiotics to less than 23% of patients. Inter-prescriber variation in antibiotic prescribing remained after adjustment for patient characteristics and CRP information (P < 0.001). Conclusions Despite sharing the same management guidelines, there was substantial inter-prescriber variation in antibiotic prescription to patients with acute fever. This variation should be considered when designing trials and stewardship programmes aiming to reduce inappropriate antibiotic prescribing.
A Bayesian phase 2 model based adaptive design to optimise antivenom dosing: Application to a dose-finding trial for a novel Russell’s viper antivenom in Myanmar
For most antivenoms there is little information from clinical studies to infer the relationship between dose and efficacy or dose and toxicity. Antivenom dose-finding studies usually recruit too few patients (e.g. fewer than 20) relative to clinically significant event rates (e.g. 5%). Model based adaptive dose-finding studies make efficient use of accrued patient data by using information across dosing levels, and converge rapidly to the contextually defined ‘optimal dose’. Adequate sample sizes for adaptive dose-finding trials can be determined by simulation. We propose a model based, Bayesian phase 2 type, adaptive clinical trial design for the characterisation of optimal initial antivenom doses in contexts where both efficacy and toxicity are measured as binary endpoints. This design is illustrated in the context of dose-finding for Daboia siamensis (Eastern Russell’s viper) envenoming in Myanmar. The design formalises the optimal initial dose of antivenom as the dose closest to that giving a pre-specified desired efficacy, but resulting in less than a pre-specified maximum toxicity. For Daboia siamensis envenoming, efficacy is defined as the restoration of blood coagulability within six hours, and toxicity is defined as anaphylaxis. Comprehensive simulation studies compared the expected behaviour of the model based design to a simpler rule based design (a modified ‘3+3’ design). The model based design can identify an optimal dose after fewer patients relative to the rule based design. Open source code for the simulations is made available in order to determine adequate sample sizes for future adaptive snakebite trials. Antivenom dose-finding trials would benefit from using standard model based adaptive designs. Dose-finding trials where rare events (e.g. 5% occurrence) are of clinical importance necessitate larger sample sizes than current practice. We will apply the model based design to determine a safe and efficacious dose for a novel lyophilised antivenom to treat Daboia siamensis envenoming in Myanmar.