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International Affairs

Tuberculosis (TB) is one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide. In 2015, there were 10.4 million new cases of TB and 1.4 million died from the disease. These numbers are so stark partly because TB is one of the leading causes of death for those living with HIV. This is despite the fact that with a timely diagnosis and proper treatment, most people who develop TB disease can be cured. The increase in multi-drug resistant (MDR) TB, with an estimated 480,000 cases in 2015, is further cause for concern.  

In 2000, Botswana had one of the highest rates of HIV worldwide with an estimated 35% HIV-infected adults. Botwana’s then President Festus Mogae even acknowledged at the AIDS Conference held in Durban, South Africa, the same year that his country was “threatened with extinction” due to the high mortality rate. Fifteen years later, HIV prevalence has decreased to 22.2%. Today, Botswana is an example that achieving the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets is indeed a possibility, despite the resource challenged setting and high HIV prevalence. Data from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)-funded Botswana Combination Prevention Project (BCPP) study suggest that among the group of HIV positive patients receiving ART that had their HIV viral load monitored, 96% were confirmed to have a suppressed HIV viral load.

Clinical microbiology laboratories are on the front lines of the fight against infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and related opportunistic infections, and in places like Ethiopia, the need for high-quality systems and training is imperative. The American Society for Microbiology (ASM), in a key partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-Ethiopia and the Government of Ethiopia, has focused on delivering customized training and mentoring programs to a variety of regional and health research laboratories in Ethiopia since 2011. The goal of this partnership is to control and prevent the spread of HIV-related opportunistic infections in a country that currently reports over 1.2 million cases of the disease, and assist in the diagnosis of other common pathogens.

“In 1998, HIV was something hiding. No one was talking about it,” says Dr. Christiane Adje-Toure, Laboratory Director of RETRO-CI and Laboratory Branch Chief of CDC-Cote d’Ivoire. Indeed, fear and stigma were huge hurdles in the HIV epidemic, with Cote d’Ivoire having one of the highest prevalence rates in West Africa. Timely diagnosis, followed by prompt treatment and care, was especially challenging for patients living in regions without the necessary infrastructure, diagnostics, and resources to transport specimens to the central testing facilities based in Abidjan. The risk for mortality among HIV positive infants grows with each passing day the infant goes without treatment. “By the time the results arrived, we would look for the mother, and the child had died the day before, or the week before, because it took us a month or two months before we get the results,” Dr. Yacouba Doumbia, Health Alliance International’s Technical Advisor for Preventing Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT).

Not only is the human body full of microbes, but so too are the foods we eat. Some of humanity’s oldest and most beloved dishes are the result of fermentation. Microbes, specifically yeasts or bacteria, are essential players in the fermentation process. While external microbes are essential for the production of each of the foods below, our gut microbiome interacts in unique and fascinating ways with each item, leading to speculated, and sometimes proven health benefits.

It's never too early to become a scientist. Here are some of our favorite activities and experiments that are sure to excite the curious kids in your life and teach them basic scientific lessons in a fun way.

Who speaks for the microbes of the ocean? Dr. Elisha Wood-Charlson does.

"The importance of ocean microbes is pretty straightforward. If you like breathing, eating seafood, or the idea of a beautiful white sand beach, then understanding microbial processes in the oceans becomes relevant," she told Cultures Magazine in an interview for the Microbes & Climate Change Issue.