Malaria Vaccine Trial Brings Hope

On Tuesday ITV news announced that a malaria vaccine, developed by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), and trialled in Ghana, has almost halved the number of cases of malaria in children and could be for sale in Africa within a year.

According to ITV, GSK said it is planning to release the drug to market at the reduced price of $5 per vaccine. Although this cost is still expensive for millions across the Sub-Saharan region, it is relatively cheap and a major breakthrough in the fight against this costly, deadly disease.

The trial is one of the biggest ever undertaken and the results show that the vaccine could save millions of lives each year. 15,000 people took part in it, across seven African countries, including Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique.

Professor Tsiri Agbenyega told Lawrence McGinty, from ITV news that they ‘have reached a “eureka moment” in the development of just such a vaccine – the first in the world against a parasite.’ His hospital in Agogo is one of 11 centres where trials of the malaria vaccine are being carried out.

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Although the full results are not yet available, the results are encouraging at this half-way point, as the vaccine nearly halves the number of episodes of malaria in children aged between 17 months and 5 years. For every 1,000 children vaccinated, 941 cases of clinical malaria were prevented over 18 months of follow-up.

 You can read more about it on ITV news here.

Surgeon jailed for negligence & nurse found guilty of mis-conduct

Yesterday David Sellu, a consultant surgeon, was jailed for 2 and a half years for manslaughter after he failed to act quickly enough to examine and operate on a patient he had diagnosed with a rupture in his bowel. The judge said that the surgeon should have prescribed antibiotics and looked at abdominal scans earlier. Although there was a chance that the patient would die even if he had received treatment, the risks were increased by the delay in action.

Elizabeth Joslin, a lawyer for the Crown Prosecution Service, said: ‘David Sellu’s care fell far below the expected standard, with terrible consequences. Prosecution of doctors for gross negligence manslaughter is rare and the threshold for criminal prosecution is high, but this doctor’s actions were not mistakes or errors of judgment, but negligence so serious that he has now been convicted of a criminal offence.

You can read more about the case in the Guardian here

I thought it was quite interesting that also in the news this week, Janice Harry, chief nurse at Stafford Hospital between 1998 and 2006, was given a 5 year caution, but was still found fit to practice for her part in the Mid-Staffs scandal.

A Nursing and Midwifery Council panel heard that during some night shifts, a single nurse was looking after 17 patients on a ward. It said Mrs Harry should have been focused on staffing levels but she was distracted by ‘training, targets and other matters‘.

The panel told her ‘you had effectively closed your mind to your direct operational responsibilities and had limited yourself to the strategic role. You had the professional responsibility for every nurse in the Trust….you had in the past placed patients at risk of harm.

You can read more about the case here

I think that both these cases show how important it is that doctors and nurses should always put the patient first, and I think it is a good thing that there are stricter controls in place now to ensure that bad practice does not happen in the future. However, it has made me realise just how big a responsibility medicine is, and I will have to make sure that I am always focussed on the patient first and not distracted by other things like targets. I also think it shows how important it is for everyone involved in caring for a patient to work as a team, and to report anything that falls below standard.

Ada Lovelace Day

Today is Ada Lovelace Day, a worldwide event to promote female role models in the STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). Ada Lovelace Day encourages people to talk about women scientists and engineers that have inspired them, with the hope that more women will be encouraged to work in these areas. You can read more about it in this Guardian article.

Ada Lovelace was the world’s first computer programmer in 1842, well before computers were even invented. Her friend, Charles Babbage came up with the idea for an Analytical Engine and he asked Ada to translate his lecture notes for him from French to English. However, she did much more than that.

Suw Charman-Anderson, the founder of Ada Lovelace Day, said: ‘Ada wrote what is essentially a computer program. She wrote a description of how the machine could be programmed using punched cards to calculate Bernoulli numbers, a complex series of numbers. She broke the process for calculating the numbers down into small formulae and then she described how you would code those formulae into punched cards, so it could be worked out by the machine. She understood that the Analytical Engine could actually be used, given the right algorithms, to create music or to create art.’

Ada’s mother was responsible for making sure she had an education in maths and the sciences, after her father, the poet Lord Byron, left them when Ada was only a month old. Sadly, Ada died of cancer of the uterus, aged just 36, and her work wasn’t recognised until much later after her death. Now she is recognised as being more than 100 years ahead of her time.

You can read more about her here.

Since I became interested in studying medicine, I have learnt about the historical role of women in medicine, such as Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, the first female British doctor, Florence Nightingale and Marie Curie. During the past year, I’ve shadowed two really good female doctors, Kirsty Armstrong and Sue Heyes, who have both shown me what women can achieve in medicine now, here and in Malawi, and I can’t wait to become a doctor and hopefully inspire others like they inspired me.

Read about more inspiring women in science, technology, engineering and maths here.

Obamacare

I’m interested, reading in the BBC news here, about the new Affordable Care Act (ACA) that President Obama has just introduced in America.

Mr Obama said the ACA would be “life changing for the 15% of Americans who don’t have health insurance. Tens of thousands of Americans die each year just because they don’t have health insurance. Millions more live with the fear that they’ll go broke if they get sick. And today, we begin to free millions of our fellow Americans from that fear.

There’s another interesting article about it here, which gives the view of a young American woman.

I find it hard to believe that until now seven million Americans couldn’t afford health insurance and many died instead of getting access to life-changing care. 

It makes me really appreciate our NHS which is free for everyone at the point of delivery.

Fall in hip replacement death rates news

It was interesting to read this article today about recovery after hip replacement operations. 

According to a study of more than 400,000 patients, in The Lancet recently, death rates after hip replacement surgery have fallen by half in England and Wales between 2003 and 2011. This is mostly due to elderly patients being fitter now and also because there is better physiotherapy after the operation, with patients encouraged to start walking the day after surgery. Other reasons include the use of a spinal anaesthetic which is likely to lead to fewer complications and specific treatments to stop blood clots after surgery.

The patients most at risk after hip replacement surgery are those with severe liver disease or people who have had a heart attack, have diabetes or renal disease. Surprisingly overweight people tend to have a lower risk of death than those who are not overweight.

I think this article shows how important post-operative care is, and also the importance of a good multi-disciplinary team. The role of physiotherapists is just as important as the role of surgeons and anaesthetists in ensuring good recovery.

 

Great news which will save a life every 3 seconds

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I was really excited to read in the news here that Justine Greening, the international development secretary, has announced that the UK will support the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria over the next three years with a pledge of £1 billion, if the overall target of $15 billion is met from other governments and donors. Barack Obama has promised $1.65 billion for 2014 and Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Iceland have each pledged $750 million. Now, other governments like Australia, Canada and Germany will hopefully follow suit and match the UK’s offer.

If they do, it means that the UK will be able to deliver 32 million mosquito nets with the potential to protect over 64 million people (equivalent to the entire UK population) and save a life every 3 seconds. They will also be able to fund lifesaving anti-retroviral therapy for 750,000 people living with HIV and TB treatment for more than a million people. The Global Fund is estimated to have saved more than 8.7 million lives since it was set up.

I am particularly happy about this announcement as I feel I have played a small part in it myself. Back in March this year, I wrote to my MP asking him to ask Justine Greening to increase Britain’s support for the Global Fund. You can read my letter to him here.

I received a reply here and also an invitation from Jeremy Lefroy to go to Westminster to make a presentation to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases (APPMG), which you can read about here.

I am really proud of the part I have played in this news today, and I hope that one day soon there will be no more malaria in the world.