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1.  International External Quality Assurance for Laboratory Diagnosis of Diphtheria ▿  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2009;47(12):4037-4042.
The diphtheria surveillance network (DIPNET) encompassing National Diphtheria Reference Centers from 25 European countries is a Dedicated Surveillance Network recognized by the European Commission. A key DIPNET objective is the quality assessment of microbiological procedures for diphtheria across the European Union and beyond. A detailed questionnaire on the level of reference laboratory services and an external quality assessment (EQA) panel comprising six simulated throat specimens were sent to 34 centers. Twenty-three centers are designated National Diphtheria Reference Centers, with the laboratory in the United Kingdom being the only WHO Collaborating Centre. A variety of screening and identification tests were used, including the cysteinase test (20/34 centers), pyrazinamidase test (17/34 centers), and commercial kits (25/34 centers). The classic Elek test for toxigenicity testing is mostly used (28/34 centers), with variations in serum sources and antitoxin concentrations. Many laboratories reported problems obtaining Elek reagents or media. Only six centers produced acceptable results for all six specimens. Overall, 21% of identification and 13% of toxigenicity reports were unacceptable. Many centers could not isolate the target organism, and most found difficulties with the specimens that contained Corynebacterium striatum as a commensal contaminant. Nineteen centers generated either false-positive or negative toxigenic results, which may have caused inappropriate medical management. The discrepancies in this diphtheria diagnostics EQA alarmingly reflect the urgent need to improve laboratory performance in diphtheria diagnostics in Europe, standardize feasible and robust microbiological methods, and build awareness among public health authorities. Therefore, DIPNET recommends that regular workshops and EQA distributions for diphtheria diagnostics should be supported and maintained.
PMCID: PMC2786670  PMID: 19828749
2.  Geographic Distribution of Staphylococcus aureus Causing Invasive Infections in Europe: A Molecular-Epidemiological Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(1):e1000215.
Hajo Grundmann and colleagues describe the development of a new interactive mapping tool for analyzing the spatial distribution of invasive Staphylococcus aureus clones.
Staphylococcus aureus is one of the most important human pathogens and methicillin-resistant variants (MRSAs) are a major cause of hospital and community-acquired infection. We aimed to map the geographic distribution of the dominant clones that cause invasive infections in Europe.
Methods and Findings
In each country, staphylococcal reference laboratories secured the participation of a sufficient number of hospital laboratories to achieve national geo-demographic representation. Participating laboratories collected successive methicillin-susceptible (MSSA) and MRSA isolates from patients with invasive S. aureus infection using an agreed protocol. All isolates were sent to the respective national reference laboratories and characterised by quality-controlled sequence typing of the variable region of the staphylococcal spa gene (spa typing), and data were uploaded to a central database. Relevant genetic and phenotypic information was assembled for interactive interrogation by a purpose-built Web-based mapping application. Between September 2006 and February 2007, 357 laboratories serving 450 hospitals in 26 countries collected 2,890 MSSA and MRSA isolates from patients with invasive S. aureus infection. A wide geographical distribution of spa types was found with some prevalent in all European countries. MSSA were more diverse than MRSA. Genetic diversity of MRSA differed considerably between countries with dominant MRSA spa types forming distinctive geographical clusters. We provide evidence that a network approach consisting of decentralised typing and visualisation of aggregated data using an interactive mapping tool can provide important information on the dynamics of MRSA populations such as early signalling of emerging strains, cross border spread, and importation by travel.
In contrast to MSSA, MRSA spa types have a predominantly regional distribution in Europe. This finding is indicative of the selection and spread of a limited number of clones within health care networks, suggesting that control efforts aimed at interrupting the spread within and between health care institutions may not only be feasible but ultimately successful and should therefore be strongly encouraged.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
The bacterium Staphylococcus aureus lives on the skin and in the nose of about a third of healthy people. Although S. aureus usually coexists peacefully with its human carriers, it is also an important disease-causing organism or pathogen. If it enters the body through a cut or during a surgical procedure, S. aureus can cause minor infections such as pimples and boils or more serious, life-threatening infections such as blood poisoning and pneumonia. Minor S. aureus infections can be treated without antibiotics—by draining a boil, for example. Invasive infections are usually treated with antibiotics. Unfortunately, many of the S. aureus clones (groups of bacteria that are all genetically related and descended from a single, common ancestor) that are now circulating are resistant to methicillin and several other antibiotics. Invasive methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) infections are a particular problem in hospitals and other health care facilities (so-called hospital-acquired MRSA infections), but they can also occur in otherwise healthy people who have not been admitted to a hospital (community-acquired MRSA infections).
Why Was This Study Done?
The severity and outcome of an S. aureus infection in an individual depends in part on the ability of the bacterial clone with which the individual is infected to cause disease—the clone's “virulence.” Public-health officials and infectious disease experts would like to know the geographic distribution of the virulent S. aureus clones that cause invasive infections, because this information should help them understand how these pathogens spread and thus how to control them. Different clones of S. aureus can be distinguished by “molecular typing,” the determination of clone-specific sequences of nucleotides in variable regions of the bacterial genome (the bacterium's blueprint; genomes consist of DNA, long chains of nucleotides). In this study, the researchers use molecular typing to map the geographic distribution of MRSA and methicillin-sensitive S. aureus (MSSA) clones causing invasive infections in Europe; a MRSA clone emerges when an MSSA clone acquires antibiotic resistance from another type of bacteria so it is useful to understand the geographic distribution of both MRSA and MSSA.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Between September 2006 and February 2007, 357 laboratories serving 450 hospitals in 26 European countries collected almost 3,000 MRSA and MSSA isolates from patients with invasive S. aureus infections. The isolates were sent to the relevant national staphylococcal reference laboratory (SRL) where they were characterized by quality-controlled sequence typing of the variable region of a staphylococcal gene called spa (spa typing). The spa typing data were entered into a central database and then analyzed by a public, purpose-built Web-based mapping tool (SRL-Maps), which provides interactive access and easy-to-understand illustrations of the geographical distribution of S. aureus clones. Using this mapping tool, the researchers found that there was a wide geographical distribution of spa types across Europe with some types being common in all European countries. MSSA isolates were more diverse than MRSA isolates and the genetic diversity (variability) of MRSA differed considerably between countries. Most importantly, major MRSA spa types occurred in distinct geographical clusters.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings provide the first representative snapshot of the genetic population structure of S. aureus across Europe. Because the researchers used spa typing, which analyzes only a small region of one gene, and characterized only 3,000 isolates, analysis of other parts of the S. aureus genome in more isolates is now needed to build a complete portrait of the geographical abundance of the S. aureus clones that cause invasive infections in Europe. However, the finding that MRSA spa types occur mainly in geographical clusters has important implications for the control of MRSA, because it indicates that a limited number of clones are spreading within health care networks, which means that MRSA is mainly spread by patients who are repeatedly admitted to different hospitals. Control efforts aimed at interrupting this spread within and between health care institutions may be feasible and ultimately successful, suggest the researchers, and should be strongly encouraged. In addition, this study shows how, by sharing typing results on a Web-based platform, an international surveillance network can provide clinicians and infection control teams with crucial information about the dynamics of pathogens such as S. aureus, including early warnings about emerging virulent clones.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Franklin D. Lowy
The UK Health Protection Agency provides information about Staphylococcus aureus
The UK National Health Service Choices Web site has pages on staphylococcal infections and on MRSA
The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease has information about MRSA
The US Centers for Disease Control and Infection provides information about MRSA for the public and professionals
MedlinePlus provides links to further resources on staphylococcal infections and on MRSA (in English and Spanish)
SRL-Maps can be freely accessed
PMCID: PMC2796391  PMID: 20084094
3.  Xenotransplantation-associated infectious risk: a WHO consultation 
Xenotransplantation  2012;19(2):72-81.
Xenotransplantation carries the potential risk of the transmission of infection with the cells or tissues of the graft. The degree of risk is unknown in the absence of clinical trials. The clinical application of xenotransplantation has important implications for infectious disease surveillance, both at the national and international levels. Preclinical data indicate that infectious disease events associated with clinical xenotransplantation from swine, should they occur, will be rare; data in human trials are limited but have demonstrated no transmission of porcine microorganisms including porcine endogenous retrovirus. Xenotransplantation will necessitate the development of surveillance programs to detect known infectious agents and, potentially, previously unknown or unexpected pathogens. The development of surveillance and safety programs for clinical trials in xenotransplantation is guided by a “Precautionary Principle,” with the deployment of appropriate screening procedures and assays for source animals and xenograft recipients even in the absence of data suggesting infectious risk. All assays require training, standardization and validation, and sharing of laboratory methods and expertise to optimize the quality of the surveillance and diagnostic testing. Investigation of suspected xenogeneic infection events (xenosis, xenozoonosis) should be performed in collaboration with an expert data safety review panel and the appropriate public health and competent authorities. It should be considered an obligation of performance of xenotransplantation trials to report outcomes, including any infectious disease transmissions, in the scientific literature. Repositories of samples from source animals and from recipients prior to, and following xenograft transplantation are essential to the investigation of possible infectious disease events. Concerns over any potential hazards associated with xenotransplantation may overshadow potential benefits. Careful microbiological screening of source animals used as xenotransplant donors may enhance the safety of transplantation beyond that of allotransplant procedures. Xenogeneic tissues may be relatively resistant to infection by some human pathogens. Moreover, xenotransplantation may be made available at the time when patients require organ replacement on a clinical basis. Insights gained in studies of the microbiology and immunology of xenotransplantation will benefit transplant recipients in the future. This document summarizes approaches to disease surveillance in individual recipients of nonhuman tissues.
PMCID: PMC3768267  PMID: 22497509
Clinical assays; clinical trials; donor; derived infection; infectious disease; porcine endogenous retrovirus; safety; xenotransplantation
4.  Benefits of a European Project on Diagnostics of Highly Pathogenic Agents and Assessment of Potential “Dual Use” Issues 
Quality assurance exercises and networking on the detection of highly infectious pathogens (QUANDHIP) is a joint action initiative set up in 2011 that has successfully unified the primary objectives of the European Network on Highly Pathogenic Bacteria (ENHPB) and of P4-laboratories (ENP4-Lab) both of which aimed to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and response capabilities of laboratories directed at protecting the health of European citizens against high consequence bacteria and viruses of significant public health concern. Both networks have established a common collaborative consortium of 37 nationally and internationally recognized institutions with laboratory facilities from 22 European countries. The specific objectives and achievements include the initiation and establishment of a recognized and acceptable quality assurance scheme, including practical external quality assurance exercises, comprising living agents, that aims to improve laboratory performance, accuracy, and detection capabilities in support of patient management and public health responses; recognized training schemes for diagnostics and handling of highly pathogenic agents; international repositories comprising highly pathogenic bacteria and viruses for the development of standardized reference material; a standardized and transparent Biosafety and Biosecurity strategy protecting healthcare personnel and the community in dealing with high consequence pathogens; the design and organization of response capabilities dealing with cross-border events with highly infectious pathogens including the consideration of diagnostic capabilities of individual European laboratories. The project tackled several sensitive issues regarding Biosafety, Biosecurity and “dual use” concerns. The article will give an overview of the project outcomes and discuss the assessment of potential “dual use” issues.
PMCID: PMC4227464  PMID: 25426479
EQAE in diagnostic; anthrax; tularemia; plague; melioidosis; glanders; brucellosis; dual use research of concern
5.  Intensified Tuberculosis Case Finding among Malnourished Children in Nutritional Rehabilitation Centres of Karnataka, India: Missed Opportunities 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e84255.
Severe acute malnutrition (SAM) is the most serious form of malnutrition affecting children under-five and is associated with many infectious diseases including Tuberculosis (TB). In India, nutritional rehabilitation centres (NRCs) have been recently established for the management of SAM including TB. The National TB Programme (NTP) in India has introduced a revised algorithm for diagnosing paediatric TB. We aimed to examine whether NRCs adhered to these guidelines in diagnosing TB among SAM children.
A cross-sectional study involving review of records of all SAM children identified by health workers during 2012 in six tehsils (sub-districts) with NRCs (population: 1.8 million) of Karnataka, India.
Of 1927 identified SAM children, 1632 (85%) reached NRCs. Of them, 1173 (72%) were evaluated for TB and 19(2%) were diagnosed as TB. Of 1173, diagnostic algorithm was followed in 460 (37%). Among remaining 763 not evaluated as per algorithm, tuberculin skin test alone was conducted in 307 (41%), chest radiography alone in 99 (13%) and no investigations in 337 (45%). The yield of TB was higher among children evaluated as per algorithm (4%) as compared to those who were not (0.3%) (OR: 15.3 [95%CI: 3.5-66.3]). Several operational challenges including non-availability of a full-time paediatrician, non-functioning X-ray machine due to frequent power cuts, use of tuberculin with suboptimal strength and difficulties in adhering to a complex diagnostic algorithm were observed.
This study showed that TB screening in NRCs was sub-optimal in Karnataka. Some children did not reach the NRC, while many of those who did were either not or sub-optimally evaluated for TB. This study pointed to a number of operational issues that need to be addressed if this collaborative strategy is to identify more TB cases amongst malnourished children in India.
PMCID: PMC3865256  PMID: 24358350
6.  Accelerating the Development of 21st-Century Toxicology: Outcome of a Human Toxicology Project Consortium Workshop 
Toxicological Sciences  2011;125(2):327-334.
The U.S. National Research Council (NRC) report on “Toxicity Testing in the 21st century” calls for a fundamental shift in the way that chemicals are tested for human health effects and evaluated in risk assessments. The new approach would move toward in vitro methods, typically using human cells in a high-throughput context. The in vitro methods would be designed to detect significant perturbations to “toxicity pathways,” i.e., key biological pathways that, when sufficiently perturbed, lead to adverse health outcomes. To explore progress on the report’s implementation, the Human Toxicology Project Consortium hosted a workshop on 9–10 November 2010 in Washington, DC. The Consortium is a coalition of several corporations, a research institute, and a non-governmental organization dedicated to accelerating the implementation of 21st-century Toxicology as aligned with the NRC vision. The goal of the workshop was to identify practical and scientific ways to accelerate implementation of the NRC vision. The workshop format consisted of plenary presentations, breakout group discussions, and concluding commentaries. The program faculty was drawn from industry, academia, government, and public interest organizations. Most presentations summarized ongoing efforts to modernize toxicology testing and approaches, each with some overlap with the NRC vision. In light of these efforts, the workshop identified recommendations for accelerating implementation of the NRC vision, including greater strategic coordination and planning across projects (facilitated by a steering group), the development of projects that test the proof of concept for implementation of the NRC vision, and greater outreach and communication across stakeholder communities.
PMCID: PMC3262850  PMID: 21948868
toxicity testing in the 21st century; safety assessment; in vitro alternatives; National Research Council
7.  A Binational Model of Collaboration for Enhancing Cross-border ID Surveillance 
The purpose of this demonstration is to describe the cross-border collaborative processes used for the development of a transparent methodology to identify and prioritize zoonotic infectious disease agents in the California-Baja California border region.
International borders present unique challenges for the surveillance of infectious disease. Border communities represent locations with vast differences in cultures and languages, governing institutions, healthcare access, and priorities for the collection and surveillance of disease data. Pathogens and the health and security risks they create do not respect geographical and political boundaries. However, the organizations responsible for the surveillance and control of these agents must function within the borders of their respective governments. One Border One Health (OBOH) is a binational, multidisciplinary initiative aimed at engaging partners in the US and Mexico to identify and implement methods for successful communication and collaboration to enhance health capacity and disease surveillance within the border region. The advancements of international initiatives such as OBOH will help to develop the types of multi-country networks necessary for the effective monitoring of disease patterns and risks.
One Border One Health Surveillance Committee participants represent multi-disciplinary professionals working together for the advancement of One Health principles in the California/Baja California border region. This showcase documents the identification and prioritization of zoonotic infectious disease agents along the US-Mexico border, by use of a transparent methodology which engaged public and private partners from both countries. Preliminary research and input from collaborators in government, academic, and private sectors in the US and Mexico allowed for review and discussion of current methodologies available for prioritizing infectious agents. The DISCONTOOLS Work Package 2 Prioritization Scoring Model was selected as the basis for scoring and weighting various zoonotic diseases of concern within border region. Subject matter experts were then asked to review and score an initial list of diseases, in order to produce a final ranked list of pathogens. The intent is that these prioritized pathogens will be used by government agencies to make informed decisions, integrating priorities from both nations with regards to infectious disease surveillance. This collaboration provides insight into the binational cooperation needed for the selection of diseases to be considered in a regional, integrated disease surveillance system. To the authors’ knowledge this is the first transparent scientific-based approach to pathogen prioritization in the US-Mexico border region.
OBOH is the first binational regional network of its kind along the US-Mexico border recognizing the interconnectivity between human, animal, and environmental health. Given the limited resources in the current economic climate, the use of regional integrated surveillance systems provide an opportunity to protect and improve border health and security by moving away from species-specific surveillance programs. The process showcased here for the transparent review and prioritization of pathogens along the California-Baja California border can be used as a model along the entire US-Mexico Border. The ultimate aim is to protect border communities through the creation of a binational, early warning surveillance system which would allow for actionable and timely interventions to limit emergence, mitigate spread, provide gap analysis, and enhance prevention and control for several emergent and re-emergent diseases. Ultimately, this will decrease negative health and environmental impacts while improving agricultural and economic outcomes in both nations. However, obstacles such as continued sustainability, identification of new multi-disciplinary collaborators, cooperation between government agencies, and identifying funding for advancement of integrated regional surveillance systems remain challenges.
PMCID: PMC3692861
One Health; disease surveillance; cross-border collaborative
8.  Multidrug Resistance in Salmonella enterica Serotype Typhimurium from Humans in France (1993 to 2003) 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2006;44(3):700-708.
The aim of this study was to determine the distribution of the antimicrobial resistance phenotypes (R types), the phage types and XbaI-pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) types, the genes coding for resistance to β-lactams and to quinolones, and the class 1 integrons among a representative sample of Salmonella enterica serotype Typhimurium isolates collected from humans in 2002 through the French National Reference Center for Salmonella (NRC-Salm) network. The trends in the evolution of antimicrobial resistance of serotype Typhimurium were reviewed by using NRC-Salm data from 1993, 1997, 2000, and 2003. In 2002, 3,998 isolates of serotype Typhimurium were registered at the NRC-Salm among 11,775 serotyped S. enterica isolates (34%). The most common multiple antibiotic resistance pattern was resistance to amoxicillin, chloramphenicol, streptomycin and spectinomycin, sulfonamides, and tetracycline (ACSSpSuTe R type), with 156 isolates (48.8%). One isolate resistant to extended-spectrum cephalosporins due to the production of TEM-52 extended-spectrum β-lactamase was detected (0.3%), and one multidrug-resistant isolate was highly resistant to ciprofloxacin (MIC > 32 mg/liter). We found that 57.2% of the isolates tested belonged to the DT104 clone. The main resistance pattern of DT104 isolates was R type ACSSpSuTe (83.2%). However, evolutionary changes have occurred within DT104, involving both loss (variants of Salmonella genomic island 1) and acquisition of genes for drug resistance to trimethoprim or to quinolones. PFGE profile X1 was the most prevalent (74.5%) among DT104 isolates, indicating the need to use a more discriminatory subtyping method for such isolates. Global data from the NRC-Salm suggested that DT104 was the main cause of multidrug resistance in serotype Typhimurium from humans from at least 1997 to 2003, with a roughly stable prevalence during this period.
PMCID: PMC1393144  PMID: 16517842
9.  A Discussion of Exposure Science in the 21st Century: A Vision and a Strategy 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2013;121(4):405-409.
Background: The National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences recently published the report Exposure Science in the 21st Century: A Vision and a Strategy. The expert committee undertaking this report included expertise from ecology, chemistry, exposure science, toxicology, public health, bioethics, engineering, medicine, and policy.
Objective: Our aim is to inform members of the scientific community in fields aligned with environmental and public health so they are more able to appreciate the full breadth of the vision and understand the framework developed in order to move the vision forward.
Discussion: Although the NRC report was commissioned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, it is solely the consensus product of the independent volunteer committee, whose findings were subject to the rigorous peer-review procedures of the NRC. In addition to reviewing the history and current status of exposure science, the report lays out a vision for the future and makes recommendations that include both short-term and long-term milestones.
Conclusion: To accomplish the vision presented in the NRC report, resources will be needed to complete studies, develop and use analyses of exposure, and build databases associated with individual and population exposures, as well as to train the next generation of exposure scientists. Important excerpts as well as paraphrased statements from the report appear in this commentary; however, the general observations and comments are our own.
PMCID: PMC3620766  PMID: 23380895
eco-exposome; exposome; exposure assessment; exposure science; National Research Council
10.  Toward a Global View of Alcohol, Tobacco, Cannabis, and Cocaine Use: Findings from the WHO World Mental Health Surveys 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(7):e141.
Alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drug use cause considerable morbidity and mortality, but good cross-national epidemiological data are limited. This paper describes such data from the first 17 countries participating in the World Health Organization's (WHO's) World Mental Health (WMH) Survey Initiative.
Methods and Findings
Household surveys with a combined sample size of 85,052 were carried out in the Americas (Colombia, Mexico, United States), Europe (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Ukraine), Middle East and Africa (Israel, Lebanon, Nigeria, South Africa), Asia (Japan, People's Republic of China), and Oceania (New Zealand). The WHO Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI) was used to assess the prevalence and correlates of a wide variety of mental and substance disorders. This paper focuses on lifetime use and age of initiation of tobacco, alcohol, cannabis, and cocaine. Alcohol had been used by most in the Americas, Europe, Japan, and New Zealand, with smaller proportions in the Middle East, Africa, and China. Cannabis use in the US and New Zealand (both 42%) was far higher than in any other country. The US was also an outlier in cocaine use (16%). Males were more likely than females to have used drugs; and a sex–cohort interaction was observed, whereby not only were younger cohorts more likely to use all drugs, but the male–female gap was closing in more recent cohorts. The period of risk for drug initiation also appears to be lengthening longer into adulthood among more recent cohorts. Associations with sociodemographic variables were consistent across countries, as were the curves of incidence of lifetime use.
Globally, drug use is not distributed evenly and is not simply related to drug policy, since countries with stringent user-level illegal drug policies did not have lower levels of use than countries with liberal ones. Sex differences were consistently documented, but are decreasing in more recent cohorts, who also have higher levels of illegal drug use and extensions in the period of risk for initiation.
Louisa Degenhardt and colleagues report an international survey of 17 countries that finds clear differences in drug use across different regions of the world.
Editors' Summary
Understanding how much disability and death a particular disease causes (known as the “burden of disease”) is important. Knowing the burden of a disease in a country contributes to the development of healthier nations by directing strategies and policies against the disease. Researchers' understanding of the burden of diseases across different countries was piecemeal until the 1990 launch of a special World Health Organization (WHO) project, the Global Burden of Disease Project. In 2002, on the basis of updated information from this ongoing project, the WHO estimated that 91 million people were affected by alcohol use disorders and 15 million by drug use disorders.
Why Was This Study Done?
It is widely accepted that alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drug use are linked with a considerable amount of illness, disability, and death. However, there are few high-quality data quantifying the amount across different countries, especially in less-developed countries. The researchers therefore set out to collect basic patterns of alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, and cocaine use in different countries. They documented lifetime use of these substances in each county, focusing on young adults. They also wanted to examine the age of onset of use and whether the type of drugs used was affected by one's social and economic status.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Data on drug use were available from 54,069 survey participants in 17 countries. The 17 countries were determined by the availability of collaborators and on funding for the survey. Trained lay interviewers carried out face-to-face interviews (except in France where the interviews were done over the telephone) using a standardized, structured diagnostic interview for psychiatric conditions. Participants were asked if they had ever used (a) alcohol, (b) tobacco (cigarettes, cigars or pipes), (c) cannabis (marijuana, hashish), or (d) cocaine. If they had used any of these drugs, they were asked about the age they started using each type of drug. The age of first tobacco smoking was not assessed in New Zealand, Japan, France, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, Italy, or Spain. The interviewers also recorded the participants' sex, age, years of education, marital status, employment, and household income.
The researchers found that in the Americas, Europe, Japan, and New Zealand, alcohol had been used by the vast majority of survey participants, compared to smaller proportions in the Middle East, Africa, and China. The global distribution of drug use is unevenly distributed with the US having the highest levels of both legal and illegal drug use among all countries surveyed. There are differences in both legal and illegal drug use among different socioeconomic groups. For example, males were more likely than females to have used all drug types; younger adults were more likely than older adults to have used all drugs examined; and higher income was related to drug use of all kinds. Marital status was found to be linked only to illegal drug use—the use of cocaine and cannabis is more likely in people who have never been married or were previously married. Drug use does not appear to be related to drug policy, as countries with more stringent policies (e.g., the US) did not have lower levels of illegal drug use than countries with more liberal policies (e.g., The Netherlands).
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings present comprehensive and useful data on the patterns of drug use from national samples representing all regions of the world. The data will add to the understanding of the global burden of disease and should be useful to government and health organizations in developing policies to combat these problems. The study does have its limitations—for example, it surveyed only 17 of the world's countries, within these countries there were different rates of participation, and it is unclear whether people accurately report their drug use when interviewed. Nevertheless, the study did find clear differences in drug use across different regions of the world, with the US having among the highest levels of legal and illegal drug use of all the countries surveyed.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Facts and figures on alcohol are available from the World Health Organization, including information about the burden of disease worldwide as a result of alcohol
Information on the management of substance abuse is available from WHO
Information on the Global Burden of Disease Project is also available from WHO
Researchers from the University of New South Wales, Australia and the University of Queensland co-chair, sponsors the Global Burden of Disease Mental Disorders and Illicit Drug Use Expert Group, which examines illicit drug use and disorders
The UN World Drug Report is available from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime
The University of New South Wales also runs the Secretariat for the Reference Group to the United Nations on HIV and Injecting Drug Use
PMCID: PMC2443200  PMID: 18597549
11.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Particulate Matter Health Effects Research Centers Program: a midcourse report of status, progress, and plans. 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2003;111(8):1074-1092.
In 1998 Congress mandated expanded U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) health effects research on ambient air particulate matter (PM) and a National Research Council (NRC) committee to provide research oversight. The U.S. EPA currently supports intramural and extramural PM research, including five academically based PM centers. The PM centers in their first 2.5 years have initiated research directed at critical issues identified by the NRC committee, including collaborative activities, and sponsored scientific workshops in key research areas. Through these activities, there is a better understanding of PM health effects and scientific uncertainties. Future PM centers research will focus on long-term effects associated with chronic PM exposures. This report provides a synopsis of accomplishments to date, short-term goals (during the next 2.5 years) and longer-term goals. It consists of six sections: biological mechanisms, acute effects, chronic effects, dosimetry, exposure assessment, and the specific attributes of a coordinated PM centers program.
PMCID: PMC1241556  PMID: 12826479
12.  Pleurocidin-family cationic antimicrobial peptides are cytolytic for breast carcinoma cells and prevent growth of tumor xenografts 
Breast Cancer Research : BCR  2011;13(5):R102.
Cationic antimicrobial peptides (CAPs) defend against microbial pathogens; however, certain CAPs also exhibit anticancer activity. The purpose of this investigation was to determine the effect of the pleurocidin-family CAPs, NRC-03 and NRC-07, on breast cancer cells.
MTT (3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide) and acid phosphatase cell-viability assays were used to assess NRC-03- and NRC-07-mediated killing of breast carcinoma cells. Erythrocyte lysis was determined with hemolysis assay. NRC-03 and NRC-07 binding to breast cancer cells and normal fibroblasts was assessed with fluorescence microscopy by using biotinylated-NRC-03 and -NRC-07. Lactate dehydrogenase-release assays and scanning electron microscopy were used to evaluate the effect of NRC-03 and NRC-07 on the cell membrane. Flow-cytometric analysis of 3,3'-dihexyloxacarbocyanine iodide- and dihydroethidium-stained breast cancer cells was used to evaluate the effects of NRC-03 and NRC-07 on mitochondrial membrane integrity and reactive oxygen species (ROS) production, respectively. Tumoricidal activity of NRC-03 and NRC-07 was evaluated in NOD SCID mice bearing breast cancer xenografts.
NRC-03 and NRC-07 killed breast cancer cells, including drug-resistant variants, and human mammary epithelial cells but showed little or no lysis of human dermal fibroblasts, umbilical vein endothelial cells, or erythrocytes. Sublethal doses of NRC-03 and, to a lesser extent, NRC-07 significantly reduced the median effective concentration (EC50) of cisplatin for breast cancer cells. NRC-03 and NRC-07 bound to breast cancer cells but not fibroblasts, suggesting that killing required peptide binding to target cells. NRC-03- and NRC-07-mediated killing of breast cancer cells correlated with expression of several different anionic cell-surface molecules, suggesting that NRC-03 and NRC-07 bind to a variety of negatively-charged cell-surface molecules. NRC-03 and NRC-07 also caused significant and irreversible cell-membrane damage in breast cancer cells but not in fibroblasts. NRC-03- and NRC-07-mediated cell death involved, but did not require, mitochondrial membrane damage and ROS production. Importantly, intratumoral administration of NRC-03 and NRC-07 killed breast cancer cells grown as xenografts in NOD SCID mice.
These findings warrant the development of stable and targeted forms of NRC-03 and/or NRC-07 that might be used alone or in combination with conventional chemotherapeutic drugs for the treatment of breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC3262215  PMID: 22023734
13.  Declining trends in some sexually transmitted diseases in Belgium between 1983 and 1989. 
Genitourinary Medicine  1991;67(5):374-377.
OBJECTIVE--To examine trends in some sexually transmitted diseases in Belgium and to discuss them in the light of the European background. DESIGN--Analysis of the time trends of C trachomatis and N gonorrhoeae infections diagnosed by a network of microbiological laboratories, and of male urethritis diagnosed by a network of general practitioners. SETTING--Belgium. SUBJECTS--Reports of C trachomatis and N gonorrhoeae infections by a network of microbiological laboratories, and of male urethritis by a network of general practitioners, to the Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology. RESULTS--Whereas an increase in the number of C trachomatis infections, more pronounced among women, was observed up to 1986, a small decrease has been observed afterwards in males. The mean number of chlamydial infections per laboratory and per year was 4.2 in 1983, 15.7 in 1986 and 13.9 in 1989. A decrease in the number of N gonorrhoeae infections, more pronounced among men, has been observed. The mean number of cases of gonorrhoea per laboratory and per year was 10.9 in 1983 and only 2.2 in 1989. The same declining trend has been observed in another surveillance programme of male urethritis, based on a network of general practitioners. The number of cases of male urethritis per 100 patient encounters went down from 0.06 in 1982-3 to 0.04 in 1988-9. CONCLUSION--The declining trend in Western Europe in incidence of gonococcal infections and of urethritis in men is also occurring in Belgium, but genital chlamydial infections remain an important public health problem.
PMCID: PMC1194735  PMID: 1743708
14.  Innoversity in knowledge-for-action and adaptation to climate change: the first steps of an ‘evidence-based climatic health’ transfrontier training program 
It has become increasingly clear to the international scientific community that climate change is real and has important consequences for human health. To meet these new challenges, the World Health Organization recommends reinforcing the adaptive capacity of health systems. One of the possible avenues in this respect is to promote awareness and knowledge translation in climatic health, at both the local and global scales. Within such perspective, two major themes have emerged in the field of public health research: 1) the development of advanced training adapted to ‘global environment’ change and to the specific needs of various groups of actors (doctors, nurses, public health practitioners, health care managers, public service managers, local communities, etc) and 2) the development of strategies for implementing research results and applying various types of evidence to the management of public health issues affected by climate change. Progress on these two fronts will depend on maximum innovation in transdisciplinary and transsectoral collaborations. The general purpose of this article is to present the program of a new research and learning chair designed for this double set of developmental objectives – a chair that emphasizes ‘innoversity’ (the dynamic relationship between innovation and diversity) and ‘transfrontier ecolearning for adaptive actions’. The Écoapprentissages, santé mentale et climat collaborative research chair (University of Montreal and Quebec National Public Health Institute) based in Montreal is a center for ‘transdisciplinary research’ on the transfrontier knowledge-for-action that can aid adaptation of the public health sector, the public mental health sector, and the public service sector to climate change, as well as a center for complex collaborations on evidence-based climatic health ‘training’. This program-focused article comprises two main sections. The first section presents the ‘general’ and ‘specific contexts’ in which the chair emerged. The ‘general context’ pertains to the health-related challenge of finding ways to integrate, transfer, and implement knowledge, a particularly pointed challenge in Canada. The ‘specific context’ refers to the emerging research field of adaptation of public health to climate change. In the second section, the characteristics of the research chair are more extensively detailed (the vision of ‘innoversity’ and ‘ transfrontier knowledge-for-action,’ the approach of shared responsibility and complex collaboration, objectives, and major axes of research). We conclude with a call for complex collaboration toward knowledge-for-action in public health services/mental health services/public services’ adaptation to climate change: this call is aimed at individual and institutional actors in the North and South/West and East concerned by these issues.
PMCID: PMC3643138  PMID: 23745068
global changing environment; climatic health; adaptation to climate change; adaptive capacity; innoversity; diversity; complex collaboration; transdisciplinary knowledge-for-action; transfrontier training; andragogy; continuing education; ecocompetency; public health; mental health; health professional; public service manager; knowledge translation; implementation science; ecolearning; ecomanagement; eco-decision-making
15.  Pneumococcal meningitis and vaccine effects in the era of conjugate vaccination: results of 20 years of nationwide surveillance in Germany 
Long-term complications and a case mortality rate of 7.5% make meningitis caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae a serious clinical threat. In 2006, a general pneumococcal conjugate vaccination (PCV) recommendation was issued for all children under 2 years in Germany. Here, we investigate serotype changes in meningitis cases after this vaccine recommendation.
The German National Reference Center for Streptococci (NRCS) has conducted surveillance for invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) in Germany since 1992. Pneumococcal isolates were serotyped by the Neufeld’s Quellung reaction and antibiotic susceptibility was tested using the broth microdilution method.
Of 22,204 IPD isolates sent to the NRCS from July 1992 to June 2013, 3,086 were meningitis cases. Microbiological and statistical investigations were performed to characterize and quantify all meningitis cases, focusing on changes reflecting implementation of the national PCV recommendation. 1,766 isolates (57.2% of meningitis cases) were from adults (≥16 years) and 1,320 isolates (42.8%) originated from children (<16 years). Overall, the leading serotypes were 14 (9.7%), 7F (7.8%), 3 (6.9%), 19F (5.7%) and 23F (5.0%). Among children, serotypes 14 (16.2%), 7F (8.9%) and 19F (7.1%) were most common, whereas among adults, serotypes 3 (9.6%), 7F (6.9%), 22F (5.0%), 23F (4.9%) and 14 (4.8%) were most prevalent. After the introduction of general PCV7/10/13 vaccination a significant decrease for most vaccine serotypes was observed. Generally, the differences in antibiotic nonsusceptibility between children <16 years and adults ≥16 were low. For macrolides in the pre-PCV7 period, a significantly higher proportion of resistant isolates was found in children (25.1%), compared to the post-vaccination period (9.7%; p<0.0001).
Implementation of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccines broadly reduced vaccine-type meningitis cases. Changes in serotype prevalence must be continuously monitored to observe future trends concerning pneumococcal meningitis.
PMCID: PMC4335684
Streptococcus pneumoniae; Meningitis; Serotypes; Vaccine coverage; Antibiotic susceptibility; Age
16.  Implementation of a National Reference Laboratory for Buruli Ulcer Disease in Togo 
In a previous study PCR analysis of clinical samples from suspected cases of Buruli ulcer disease (BUD) from Togo and external quality assurance (EQA) for local microscopy were conducted at an external reference laboratory in Germany. The relatively poor performance of local microscopy as well as effort and time associated with shipment of PCR samples necessitated the implementation of stringent EQA measures and availability of local laboratory capacity. This study describes the approach to implementation of a national BUD reference laboratory in Togo.
Large scale outreach activities accompanied by regular training programs for health care professionals were conducted in the regions “Maritime” and “Central,” standard operating procedures defined all processes in participating laboratories (regional, national and external reference laboratories) as well as the interaction between laboratories and partners in the field. Microscopy was conducted at regional level and slides were subjected to EQA at national and external reference laboratories. For PCR analysis, sample pairs were collected and subjected to a dry-reagent-based IS2404-PCR (DRB-PCR) at national level and standard IS2404 PCR followed by IS2404 qPCR analysis of negative samples at the external reference laboratory.
Principal Findings
The inter-laboratory concordance rates for microscopy ranged from 89% to 94%; overall, microscopy confirmed 50% of all suspected BUD cases. The inter-laboratory concordance rate for PCR was 96% with an overall PCR case confirmation rate of 78%. Compared to a previous study, the rate of BUD patients with non-ulcerative lesions increased from 37% to 50%, the mean duration of disease before clinical diagnosis decreased significantly from 182.6 to 82.1 days among patients with ulcerative lesions, and the percentage of category III lesions decreased from 30.3% to 19.2%.
High inter-laboratory concordance rates as well as case confirmation rates of 50% (microscopy), 71% (PCR at national level), and 78% (including qPCR confirmation at external reference laboratory) suggest high standards of BUD diagnostics. The increase of non-ulcerative lesions, as well as the decrease in diagnostic delay and category III lesions, prove the effect of comprehensive EQA and training measures involving also procedures outside the laboratory.
Author Summary
Buruli ulcer disease (BUD), the third most common mycobacterial disease worldwide, is treated with standardized antimycobacterial therapy. According to WHO recommendations at least 50% of cases should be laboratory confirmed by polymerase chain reaction (PCR). In a previous study PCR analysis of clinical samples from suspected BUD cases from Togo and external quality assurance (EQA) for local microscopy were conducted at an external reference laboratory in Germany. The relatively poor performance of local microscopy as well as time and effort associated with shipment of clinical samples abroad necessitated the availability of a local BUD reference laboratory and the implementation of stringent EQA measures. All processes in the laboratories as well as in the field were defined by standard operating procedures, microscopy conducted at regional facilities was subjected to EQA at national and external reference level, and PCR samples were analyzed in parallel at national and external reference laboratories. Inter-laboratory concordance rates of >90% and case confirmation rates of 50% (microscopy) and >70% (PCR) respectively suggest high standards of BUD diagnostics. Furthermore, an increase of non-ulcerative lesions and a decrease in diagnostic delay and category III lesions reflect the impact of comprehensive EQA measures also involving procedures outside the laboratory on the quality of BUD control.
PMCID: PMC3554568  PMID: 23359828
17.  “A Good Personal Scientific Relationship”: Philip Morris Scientists and the Chulabhorn Research Institute, Bangkok 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(12):e238.
This paper examines the efforts of consultants affiliated with Philip Morris (PM), the world's leading transnational tobacco corporation, to influence scientific research and training in Thailand via the Chulabhorn Research Institute (CRI). A leading Southeast Asian institute for environmental health science, the CRI is headed by Professor Dr. Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn, the daughter of the King of Thailand, and it has assumed international significance via its designation as a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre in December 2005.
Methods and Findings
This paper analyses previously confidential tobacco industry documents that were made publicly available following litigation in the United States. PM documents reveal that ostensibly independent overseas scientists, now identified as industry consultants, were able to gain access to the Thai scientific community. Most significantly, PM scientist Roger Walk has established close connections with the CRI. Documents indicate that Walk was able to use such links to influence the study and teaching of environmental toxicology in the institute and to develop relations with key officials and local scientists so as to advance the interests of PM within Thailand and across Asia. While sensitivities surrounding royal patronage of the CRI make public criticism extremely difficult, indications of ongoing involvement by tobacco industry consultants suggest the need for detailed scrutiny of such relationships.
The establishment of close links with the CRI advances industry strategies to influence scientific research and debate around tobacco and health, particularly regarding secondhand smoke, to link with academic institutions, and to build relationships with national elites. Such strategies assume particular significance in the national and regional contexts presented here amid the globalisation of the tobacco pandemic. From an international perspective, particular concern is raised by the CRI's recently awarded status as a WHO Collaborating Centre. Since the network of WHO Collaborating Centres rests on the principle of “using national institutions for international purposes,” the documents presented below suggest that more rigorous safeguards are required to ensure that such use advances public health goals rather than the objectives of transnational corporations.
Jeff Collin and Ross MacKenzie analyze tobacco industry documents and find that Philip Morris consultants were able to gain access to a Thai research institute that is a WHO Collaborating Centre.
Editors' Summary
Tobacco use kills 5.4 million people a year (one person every six seconds) and accounts for one in ten adult deaths worldwide. Globally, the use of tobacco is on the rise, especially in developing countries, which have become a major target for tobacco industry marketing. The tobacco industry has worked hard to try and influence public perceptions about the risks of smoking and the risk of inhaling secondhand smoke (passive smoking). The industry has used a variety of tactics to downplay the health hazards of smoking or inhaling secondhand smoke—two examples are publishing articles casting doubts about the health hazards of tobacco and funding research that is biased toward giving pro-industry results. Another tactic is for tobacco industry consultants to try and gain entry to universities and other academic centers to see if they can influence research and teaching activities.
Why Was This Study Done?
The researchers were concerned that consultants from the tobacco company Philip Morris had gained access to an academic research center in Thailand called the Chulabhorn Research Institute (CRI). The CRI is an internationally renowned teaching institution for a variety of scientific disciplines, including environmental toxicology (the study of how chemicals in the environment, such as tobacco smoke, can affect human health), biomedicine, and biotechnology. The institute has secured funding from the Thai government, the Association of Southeast Nations and the United Nations Development Programme. In 2005 the institute's environmental toxicology unit was designated a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre. WHO Collaborating Centres are “institutions such as research institutes, parts of universities or academies, that are designated by the Director-General of the WHO to carry out activities in support of the WHO's programs” ( The researchers were concerned that Philip Morris consultants had been able to develop relationships with the CRI to help advance the company's interests.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers analyzed previously confidential tobacco industry documents that were made publicly available online following litigation in the United States. They searched two online collections of industry documents—the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library and Tobacco Documents Online—as well as the online collections operated by US-based tobacco companies. They found that consultants to Philip Morris were able to gain access to the scientific community in Thailand. A Philip Morris scientist named Roger Walk was able to establish close connections to the CRI, and he used these connections to influence research and teaching activities at the CRI on environmental toxicology. Walk was also able to build relationships with government officials and scientists in Thailand to help advance the interests of Philip Morris in the country and across Asia.
What Do these Findings Mean?
This study provides evidence that the tobacco industry has established close links with a research institute in Thailand that collaborates with the WHO, and has been able to influence the institute's teaching curriculum and research. Such links are of great concern to the public health community, which is working hard to reduce deaths and disease due to tobacco. These links raise the possibility that the tobacco industry is managing to influence medical research and teaching at academic institutions. The WHO has stated that a firewall is in place between itself and the tobacco industry—but the study authors argue, based on their findings, that “this firewall is not impenetrable.” The study findings, they conclude, highlight a challenge posed to international tobacco control efforts, especially with respect to Article 5.3 of an international treaty called the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control; Article 5.3 addresses the need to protect public health policies from the vested interests of the tobacco industry. The authors say that better safeguards must be put in place to prevent tobacco companies from thwarting public health goals.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The Legacy Tobacco Documents Library contains over 9.7 million documents created by tobacco companies
Tobacco Documents Online contains over 4 million tobacco industry documents
Over 900 WHO Collaborating Centres are at work in 99 Member States on many health disciplines
The WHO held an inquiry in 2000 into possible tobacco industry influence over the organization (and over other UN agencies), and has published its recommendations in response to this inquiry
The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is an international treaty on controlling tobacco
PMCID: PMC2605886  PMID: 19108600
18.  Main Report 
Genetics in Medicine  2006;8(Suppl 1):12S-252S.
States vary widely in their use of newborn screening tests, with some mandating screening for as few as three conditions and others mandating as many as 43 conditions, including varying numbers of the 40+ conditions that can be detected by tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS). There has been no national guidance on the best candidate conditions for newborn screening since the National Academy of Sciences report of 19751 and the United States Congress Office of Technology Assessment report of 1988,2 despite rapid developments since then in genetics, in screening technologies, and in some treatments.
In 2002, the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) commissioned the American College of Medical Genetics (ACMG) to: Conduct an analysis of the scientific literature on the effectiveness of newborn screening.Gather expert opinion to delineate the best evidence for screening for specified conditions and develop recommendations focused on newborn screening, including but not limited to the development of a uniform condition panel.Consider other components of the newborn screening system that are critical to achieving the expected outcomes in those screened.
A group of experts in various areas of subspecialty medicine and primary care, health policy, law, public health, and consumers worked with a steering committee and several expert work groups, using a two-tiered approach to assess and rank conditions. A first step was developing a set of principles to guide the analysis. This was followed by developing criteria by which conditions could be evaluated, and then identifying the conditions to be evaluated. A large and broadly representative group of experts was asked to provide their opinions on the extent to which particular conditions met the selected criteria, relying on supporting evidence and references from the scientific literature. The criteria were distributed among three main categories for each condition: The availability and characteristics of the screening test;The availability and complexity of diagnostic services; andThe availability and efficacy of treatments related to the conditions. A survey process utilizing a data collection instrument was used to gather expert opinion on the conditions in the first tier of the assessment. The data collection format and survey provided the opportunity to quantify expert opinion and to obtain the views of a diverse set of interest groups (necessary due to the subjective nature of some of the criteria). Statistical analysis of data produced a score for each condition, which determined its ranking and initial placement in one of three categories (high scoring, moderately scoring, or low scoring/absence of a newborn screening test). In the second tier of these analyses, the evidence base related to each condition was assessed in depth (e.g., via systematic reviews of reference lists including MedLine, PubMed and others; books; Internet searches; professional guidelines; clinical evidence; and cost/economic evidence and modeling). The fact sheets reflecting these analyses were evaluated by at least two acknowledged experts for each condition. These experts assessed the data and the associated references related to each criterion and provided corrections where appropriate, assigned a value to the level of evidence and the quality of the studies that established the evidence base, and determined whether there were significant variances from the survey data. Survey results were subsequently realigned with the evidence obtained from the scientific literature during the second-tier analysis for all objective criteria, based on input from at least three acknowledged experts in each condition. The information from these two tiers of assessment was then considered with regard to the overriding principles and other technology or condition-specific recommendations. On the basis of this information, conditions were assigned to one of three categories as described above:Core Panel;Secondary Targets (conditions that are part of the differential diagnosis of a core panel condition.); andNot Appropriate for Newborn Screening (either no newborn screening test is available or there is poor performance with regard to multiple other evaluation criteria).
ACMG also considered features of optimal newborn screening programs beyond the tests themselves by assessing the degree to which programs met certain goals (e.g., availability of educational programs, proportions of newborns screened and followed up). Assessments were based on the input of experts serving in various capacities in newborn screening programs and on 2002 data provided by the programs of the National Newborn Screening and Genetics Resource Center (NNSGRC). In addition, a brief cost-effectiveness assessment of newborn screening was conducted.
Uniform panel
A total of 292 individuals determined to be generally representative of the regional distribution of the United States population and of areas of expertise or involvement in newborn screening provided a total of 3,949 evaluations of 84 conditions. For each condition, the responses of at least three experts in that condition were compared with those of all respondents for that condition and found to be consistent. A score of 1,200 on the data collection instrument provided a logical separation point between high scoring conditions (1,200–1,799 of a possible 2,100) and low scoring (<1,000) conditions. A group of conditions with intermediate scores (1,000–1,199) was identified, all of which were part of the differential diagnosis of a high scoring condition or apparent in the result of the multiplex assay. Some are identified by screening laboratories and others by diagnostic laboratories. This group was designated as a “secondary target” category for which the program must report the diagnostic result.
Using the validated evidence base and expert opinion, each condition that had previously been assigned to a category based on scores gathered through the data collection instrument was reconsidered. Again, the factors taken into consideration were: 1) available scientific evidence; 2) availability of a screening test; 3) presence of an efficacious treatment; 4) adequate understanding of the natural history of the condition; and 5) whether the condition was either part of the differential diagnosis of another condition or whether the screening test results related to a clinically significant condition.
The conditions were then assigned to one of three categories as previously described (core panel, secondary targets, or not appropriate for Newborn Screening).
Among the 29 conditions assigned to the core panel are three hemoglobinopathies associated with a Hb/S allele, six amino acidurias, five disorders of fatty oxidation, nine organic acidurias, and six unrelated conditions (congenital hypothyroidism (CH), biotinidase deficiency (BIOT), congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), classical galactosemia (GALT), hearing loss (HEAR) and cystic fibrosis (CF)). Twenty-three of the 29 conditions in the core panel are identified with multiplex technologies such as tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS) or high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC). On the basis of the evidence, six of the 35 conditions initially placed in the core panel were moved into the secondary target category, which expanded to 25 conditions. Test results not associated with potential disease in the infant (e.g., carriers) were also placed in the secondary target category. When newborn screening laboratory results definitively establish carrier status, the result should be made available to the health care professional community and families. Twenty-seven conditions were determined to be inappropriate for newborn screening at this time.
Conditions with limited evidence reported in the scientific literature were more difficult to evaluate, quantify and place in one of the three categories. In addition, many conditions were found to occur in multiple forms distinguished by age-of-onset, severity, or other features. Further, unless a condition was already included in newborn screening programs, there was a potential for bias in the information related to some criteria. In such circumstances, the quality of the studies underlying the data such as expert opinion that considered case reports and reasoning from first principles determined the placement of the conditions into particular categories.
Newborn screening program optimization
– Assessment of the activities of newborn screening programs, based on program reports, was done for the six program components: education; screening; follow-up; diagnostic confirmation; management; and program evaluation. Considerable variation was found between programs with regard to whether particular aspects (e.g., prenatal education program availability, tracking of specimen collection and delivery) were included and the degree to which they are provided. Newborn screening program evaluation systems also were assessed in order to determine their adequacy and uniformity with the goal being to improve interprogram evaluation and comparison to ensure that the expected outcomes from having been identified in screening are realized.
The state of the published evidence in the fast-moving worlds of newborn screening and medical genetics has not kept up with the implementation of new technologies, thus requiring the considerable use of expert opinion to develop recommendations about a core panel of conditions for newborn screening. Twenty-nine conditions were identified as primary targets for screening from which all components of the newborn screening system should be maximized. An additional 25 conditions were listed that could be identified in the course of screening for core panel conditions. Programs are obligated to establish a diagnosis and communicate the result to the health care provider and family. It is recognized that screening may not have been maximized for the detection of these secondary conditions but that some proportion of such cases may be found among those screened for core panel conditions. With additional screening, greater training of primary care health care professionals and subspecialists will be needed, as will the development of an infrastructure for appropriate follow-up and management throughout the lives of children who have been identified as having one of these rare conditions. Recommended actions to overcome barriers to an optimal newborn screening system include: The establishment of a national role in the scientific evaluation of conditions and the technologies by which they are screened;Standardization of case definitions and reporting procedures;Enhanced oversight of hospital-based screening activities;Long-term data collection and surveillance; andConsideration of the financial needs of programs to allow them to deliver the appropriate services to the screened population.
PMCID: PMC3109899
19.  Inauguration of the Cameroonian Society of Human Genetics  
The conjunction of “hard genetics” research centers, with well established biomedical and bioethics research groups, and the exceptional possibility to hold the 6th annual meeting of the African Society of Human Genetics (AfSHG, 13th–15th March 2009) was an excellent opportunity to get together in synergy the entire Cameroonian “DNA/RNA scientists” . This laid to the foundation of the Cameroonian Society of Human Genetics (CSHG) that was privilege to hold its inaugural meeting in conjunction to the 6th annual meeting of the AfSHG. The theme was "Human Origin, Genetic Diversity and Health”. The AfSHG and CSHG invited leading African and international scientists in genomics and population genetics to review recent data and provide an understanding of the state-of-knowledge of Human Origin and Genetic Diversity. Overall one opening ceremony eight session, five keynote and guest speakers, 18 invited oral communications, 13 free oral communications, 43 posters and two social events could summarize the meeting. This year’s conference was graced by the presence of one Nobel Prize winner Dr Richard Roberts (Physiology and Medicine 1993). The meeting registered up to ten contributions of Cameroonian scientists from the Diaspora (currently in USA, Belgium, Gambia, Sudan and Zimbabwe). Such Diaspora participation is an opportunity to generate collaborations with home country scientists and ultimately turn the “brain drain” to “brain circulation” that could reduce the impact of the migration of health professional from Africa. Interestingly, the personal implication of the Cameroonian Ministry of Public Heath who opened the meeting in the presence of the Secretary General of the Ministry of Higher Education and a representative of the Ministry of Scientific Research and Innovation was a wonderful opportunity for advocacy of genetic issues at the decision-makers level. Beyond our expectation, a major promise of the Cameroonian government was the creation of the National Human Genome Institute. If this goal comes true, this will be a critical step to bring more genetics for the purpose of Public Health to the Cameroonian people. The sub-Saharan African Region needs significant capacity building in the broad area of basic research in general and Genetics (especially Human Genetics) in particular. In that respect, the existence and current activities of the AfSHG and its impact at the National levels in Africa, is a major development for the continent and an initiative that needs further encouragement from the international community.
PMCID: PMC2984290  PMID: 21532717
Human Genetics ;  Africa
20.  Harmonization of Pulsed-Field Gel Electrophoresis Protocols for Epidemiological Typing of Strains of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus: a Single Approach Developed by Consensus in 10 European Laboratories and Its Application for Tracing the Spread of Related Strains 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2003;41(4):1574-1585.
Pulsed-fieldgel electrophoresis (PFGE) is the most common genotypic method used in reference and clinical laboratories for typing methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Many different protocols have been developed in laboratories that have extensive experience with the technique and have established national databases. However, the comparabilities of the different European PFGE protocols for MRSA and of the various national MRSA clones themselves had not been addressed until now. This multinational European Union (EU) project has established for the first time a European database of representative epidemic MRSA (EMRSA) strains and has compared them by using a new “harmonized” PFGE protocol developed by a consensus approach that has demonstrated sufficient reproducibility to allow the successful comparison of pulsed-field gels between laboratories and the tracking of strains around the EU. In-house protocols from 10 laboratories in eight European countries were compared by each center with a “gold standard” or initial harmonized protocol in which many of the parameters had been standardized. The group found that it was not important to standardize some elements of the protocol, such as the type of agarose, DNA block preparation, and plug digestion. Other elements were shown to be critical, namely, a standard gel volume and concentration of agarose, the DNA concentration in the plug, the ionic strength and volume of running buffer used, the running temperature, the voltage, and the switching times of electrophoresis. A new harmonized protocol was agreed on, further modified in a pilot study in two laboratories, and finally tested by all others. Seven laboratories' gels were found to be of sufficiently good quality to allow comparison of the strains by using a computer software program, while two gels could not be analyzed because of inadequate destaining and DNA overloading. Good-quality gels and inclusion of an internal quality control strain are essential before attempting intercenter PFGE comparisons. A number of clonally related strains have been shown to be present in multiple countries throughout Europe. The well-known Iberian clone has been demonstrated in Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, and Spain (and from the wider HARMONY collection in Portugal, Slovenia, and Sweden). Strains from the United Kingdom (EMRSA-15 and -16) have been identified in several othercountries, and other clonally related strains have also been identified. This highlights the need for closer international collaboration to monitor the spread of current epidemic strains as well as the emergence of new ones.
PMCID: PMC153895  PMID: 12682148
21.  Laboratory Confirmation of Buruli Ulcer Disease in Togo, 2007–2010 
Since the early 1990s more than 1,800 patients with lesions suspicious for Buruli ulcer disease (BUD) have been reported from Togo. However, less than five percent of these were laboratory confirmed. Since 2007, the Togolese National Buruli Ulcer Control Program has been supported by the German Leprosy and Tuberculosis Relief Association (DAHW). Collaboration with the Department for Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine (DITM), University Hospital, Munich, Germany, allowed IS2404 PCR analysis of diagnostic samples from patients with suspected BUD during a study period of three years.
Methodology/Principal Findings
The DAHW integrated active BUD case finding in the existing network of TB/Leprosy Controllers and organized regular training and outreach activities to identify BUD cases at community level. Clinically suspected cases were referred to health facilities for diagnosis and treatment. Microscopy was carried out locally, external quality assurance (EQA) at DITM. Diagnostic samples from 202 patients with suspected BUD were shipped to DITM, 109 BUD patients (54%) were confirmed by PCR, 43 (29.9%) by microscopy. All patients originated from Maritime Region. EQA for microscopy resulted in 62% concordant results.
This study presents a retrospective analysis of the first cohort of clinically suspected BUD cases from Togo subjected to systematic laboratory analysis over a period of three years and confirms the prevalence of BUD in Maritime Region. Intensified training in the field of case finding and sample collection increased the PCR case confirmation rate from initially less than 50% to 70%. With a PCR case confirmation rate of 54% for the entire study period the WHO standards (case confirmation rate ≥50%) have been met. EQA for microscopy suggests the need for intensified supervision and training. In January 2011 the National Hygiene Institute, Lomé, has assumed the role of a National Reference Laboratory for PCR confirmation and microscopy.
Author Summary
Buruli ulcer disease (BUD) is an emerging disease particularly affecting children under the age of 15 years. Due to scarring and contractures BUD may lead to severe functional disability. Introduction of antimycobacterial treatment necessitated the laboratory confirmation of BUD, and WHO recommends confirmation of at least 50% of patients with suspected BUD by polymerase chain reaction (PCR). In Togo, cases have been reported since the early 1990s. However, less than five percent were laboratory confirmed. Since 2007, the German Leprosy and Tuberculosis Relief Organization (DAHW) has supported the Togolese National Buruli Ulcer Control Program in the area of training, treatment and laboratory confirmation of BUD. In close collaboration of DAHW and the Department for Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine, University Hospital, Munich (DITM), diagnostic samples from Togolese patients with suspected BUD were subjected to PCR. Out of 202 suspected BUD cases 109 BUD patients (54%) were PCR confirmed over a period of three years. Whereas the PCR case confirmation rate initially was below 50%, intensified training measures for health staff in the field of clinical diagnosis and collection of diagnostic samples ultimately resulted in 69% PCR confirmed cases. Our findings confirm the prevalence of BUD in Maritime Region.
PMCID: PMC3139659  PMID: 21811641
22.  Cost-Effectiveness Analysis of Pharmaceutical Treatment Options in the First-Line Management of Major Depressive Disorder in Belgium 
Pharmacoeconomics  2014;32(5):479-493.
The objective of this study was to assess the cost effectiveness of commonly used antidepressants as first-line treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD) in Belgium.
The model structure was based on a decision tree developed by the Swedish TLV (Tandvårds- och läkemedelsförmånsverket) and adapted to the Belgium healthcare setting, using primary local data on the patterns of treatment and following KCE [Federal Knowledge Center (Federaal Kenniscentrum voor de Gezondheidszorg)] recommendations. Comparators were escitalopram, citalopram, fluoxetine, paroxetine, sertraline, duloxetine, venlafaxine, and mirtazapine. In the model, patients not achieving remission or relapsing after remission on the assessed treatment moved to a second therapeutic step (titration, switch, add-on, or transfer to a specialist). In case of failure in the second step or following a suicide attempt, patients were assumed to be referred to secondary care. The time horizon was 1 year and the analysis was conducted from the National Institute for Health and Disability Insurance (NIHDI; national health insurance) and societal perspectives. Remission rates were obtained from the TLV network meta-analysis and risk of relapse, efficacy following therapeutic change, risk of suicide attempts and related death, utilities, costs (2012), and resources were derived from the published literature and expert opinion. The effect of uncertainty in model parameters was estimated through scenario analyses and a probabilistic sensitivity analysis (PSA).
In the base-case analysis, escitalopram was identified as the optimal strategy: it dominated all other treatments except venlafaxine from the NIHDI perspective, against which it was cost effective with an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio of €6,352 per quality-adjusted life-year (QALY). Escitalopram also dominated all other treatments from the societal perspective. At a threshold of €30,000 per QALY and from the NIHDI perspective, the PSA showed that the probability of escitalopram being identified as the optimal strategy ranged from 61 % (vs. venlafaxine) to 100 % (vs. fluoxetine).
Escitalopram was associated with the highest probability of being the optimal treatment from the NIHDI and societal perspectives. This analysis, based on new Belgian clinical practice data and following KCE requirements, provides additional information that may be used to guide the choice of treatments in the management of MDD in Belgium.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s40273-014-0138-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4013445  PMID: 24554474
23.  Representation and Misrepresentation of Scientific Evidence in Contemporary Tobacco Regulation: A Review of Tobacco Industry Submissions to the UK Government Consultation on Standardised Packaging 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(3):e1001629.
Selda Ulucanlar and colleagues analyze submissions by two tobacco companies to the UK government consultation on standardized packaging.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Standardised packaging (SP) of tobacco products is an innovative tobacco control measure opposed by transnational tobacco companies (TTCs) whose responses to the UK government's public consultation on SP argued that evidence was inadequate to support implementing the measure. The government's initial decision, announced 11 months after the consultation closed, was to wait for ‘more evidence’, but four months later a second ‘independent review’ was launched. In view of the centrality of evidence to debates over SP and TTCs' history of denying harms and manufacturing uncertainty about scientific evidence, we analysed their submissions to examine how they used evidence to oppose SP.
Methods and Findings
We purposively selected and analysed two TTC submissions using a verification-oriented cross-documentary method to ascertain how published studies were used and interpretive analysis with a constructivist grounded theory approach to examine the conceptual significance of TTC critiques. The companies' overall argument was that the SP evidence base was seriously flawed and did not warrant the introduction of SP. However, this argument was underpinned by three complementary techniques that misrepresented the evidence base. First, published studies were repeatedly misquoted, distorting the main messages. Second, ‘mimicked scientific critique’ was used to undermine evidence; this form of critique insisted on methodological perfection, rejected methodological pluralism, adopted a litigation (not scientific) model, and was not rigorous. Third, TTCs engaged in ‘evidential landscaping’, promoting a parallel evidence base to deflect attention from SP and excluding company-held evidence relevant to SP. The study's sample was limited to sub-sections of two out of four submissions, but leaked industry documents suggest at least one other company used a similar approach.
The TTCs' claim that SP will not lead to public health benefits is largely without foundation. The tools of Better Regulation, particularly stakeholder consultation, provide an opportunity for highly resourced corporations to slow, weaken, or prevent public health policies.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Every year, about 6 million people die from tobacco-related diseases and, if current trends continue, annual tobacco-related deaths will increase to more than 8 million by 2030. To reduce this loss of life, national and international bodies have drawn up various conventions and directives designed to implement tobacco control measures such as the adoption of taxation policies aimed at reducing tobacco consumption and bans on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship. One innovative but largely unused tobacco control measure is standardised packaging of tobacco products. Standardised packaging aims to prevent the use of packaging as a marketing tool by removing all brand imagery and text (other than name) and by introducing packs of a standard shape and colour that include prominent pictorial health warnings. Standardised packaging was first suggested as a tobacco control measure in 1986 but has been consistently opposed by the tobacco industry.
Why Was This Study Done?
The UK is currently considering standardised packaging of tobacco products. In the UK, Better Regulation guidance obliges officials to seek the views of stakeholders, including corporations, on the government's cost and benefit estimates of regulatory measures such as standardised packaging and on the evidence underlying these estimates. In response to a public consultation about standardised packaging in July 2013, which considered submissions from several transnational tobacco companies (TTCs), the UK government announced that it would wait for the results of the standardised packaging legislation that Australia adopted in December 2012 before making its final decision about this tobacco control measure. Parliamentary debates and media statements have suggested that doubt over the adequacy of the evidence was the main reason for this ‘wait and see’ decision. Notably, TTCs have a history of manufacturing uncertainty about the scientific evidence related to the harms of tobacco. Given the centrality of evidence to the debate about standardised packaging, in this study, the researchers analyse submissions made by two TTCs, British American Tobacco (BAT) and Japan Tobacco International (JTI), to the first UK consultation on standardised packaging (a second review is currently underway and will report shortly) to examine how TTCs used evidence to oppose standardised packaging.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers analysed sub-sections of two of the four TTC submissions (those submitted by BAT and JTI) made to the public consultation using verification-oriented cross-documentary analysis, which compared references made to published sources with the original sources to ascertain how these sources had been used, and interpretative analysis to examine the conceptual significance of TTC critiques of the evidence on standardised packaging. The researchers report that the companies' overall argument was that the evidence base in support of standardised packaging was seriously flawed and did not warrant the introduction of such packaging. The researchers identified three ways in which the TTC reports misrepresented the evidence base. First, the TTCs misquoted published studies, thereby distorting the main messages of these studies. For example, the TTCs sometimes omitted important qualifying information when quoting from published studies. Second, the TTCs undermined evidence by employing experts to review published studies for methodological rigor and value in ways that did not conform to normal scientific critique approaches (‘mimicked scientific critique’). So, for example, the experts considered each piece of evidence in isolation for its ability to support standardised packaging rather than considering the cumulative weight of the evidence. Finally, the TTCs engaged in ‘evidential landscaping’. That is, they promoted research that deflected attention from standardised packaging (for example, research into social explanations of smoking behaviour) and omitted internal industry research on the role of packaging in marketing.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the TTC critique of the evidence in favour of standardised packaging that was presented to the UK public consultation on this tobacco control measure is highly misleading. However, because the researchers' analysis only considered subsections of the submissions from two TTCs, these findings may not be applicable to the other submissions or to other TTCs. Moreover, their analysis only considered the efforts made by TTCs to influence public health policy and not the effectiveness of these efforts. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that the claim of TTCs that standardised packaging will not lead to public health benefits is largely without foundation. More generally, these findings highlight the possibility that the tools of Better Regulation, particularly stakeholder consultation, provide an opportunity for wealthy corporations to slow, weaken, or prevent the implementation of public health policies.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The World Health Organization provides information about the dangers of tobacco (in several languages) and an article about first experiences with Australia's tobacco plain packaging law; for information about the tobacco industry's influence on policy, see the 2009 World Health Organization report ‘Tobacco industry interference with tobacco control’
A UK parliamentary briefing on standardised packaging of tobacco products, a press release about the consultation, and a summary report of the consultation are available; the ideas behind the UK's Better Regulation guidance are described in a leaflet produced by the Better Regulation Task Force
Cancer Research UK (CRUK) has a web page with information on standardised packaging and includes videos
Wikipedia has a page on standardised packaging of tobacco products (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopaedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies is a network of UK universities that undertakes original research, policy development, advocacy, and teaching and training in the field of tobacco control, an online resource managed by the University of Bath, provides up-to-date information on the tobacco industry and the tactics it uses to influence tobacco regulation
SmokeFree, a website provided by the UK National Health Service, offers advice on quitting smoking and includes personal stories from people who have stopped smoking, from the US National Cancer Institute, offers online tools and resources to help people quit smoking
PMCID: PMC3965396  PMID: 24667150
24.  Perspectives of public health laboratories in emerging infectious diseases 
The world has experienced an increased incidence and transboundary spread of emerging infectious diseases over the last four decades. We divided emerging infectious diseases into four categories, with subcategories in categories 1 and 4. The categorization was based on the nature and characteristics of pathogens or infectious agents causing the emerging infections, which are directly related to the mechanisms and patterns of infectious disease emergence. The factors or combinations of factors contributing to the emergence of these pathogens vary within each category. We also classified public health laboratories into three types based on function, namely, research, reference and analytical diagnostic laboratories, with the last category being subclassified into primary (community-based) public health and clinical (medical) analytical diagnostic laboratories. The frontline/leading and/or supportive roles to be adopted by each type of public health laboratory for optimal performance to establish the correct etiological agents causing the diseases or outbreaks vary with respect to each category of emerging infectious diseases. We emphasize the need, especially for an outbreak investigation, to establish a harmonized and coordinated national public health laboratory system that integrates different categories of public health laboratories within a country and that is closely linked to the national public health delivery system and regional and international high-end laboratories.
PMCID: PMC3697305
emerging infectious disease; public health laboratory
25.  Do recent data from the Seychelles Islands alter the conclusions of the NRC Report on the toxicological effects of methylmercury? 
In 2000, the National Research Council (NRC), an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, released a report entitled, "Toxicological Effects of Methylmercury." The overall conclusion of that report was that, at levels of exposure in some fish- and marine mammal-consuming communities (including those in the Faroe Islands and New Zealand), subtle but significant adverse effects on neuropsychological development were occurring as a result of in utero exposure. Since the release of that report, there has been continuing discussion of the public health relevance of current levels of exposure to Methylmercury. Much of this discussion has been linked to the release of the most recent longitudinal update of the Seychelles Island study. It has recently been posited that these findings supercede those of the NRC committee, and that based on the Seychelles findings, there is little or no risk of adverse neurodevelopmental effects at current levels of exposure. In this commentary, members of the NRC committee address the conclusions from the NRC report in light of the recent Seychelles data. We conclude that no evidence has emerged since the publication of the NRC report that alters the findings of that report.
PMCID: PMC365028  PMID: 14754462

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