WHO vs. trolls and bots

“Click here to sign a meaningless petition I created to ban this thing I don’t like.” “Give this posting a ‘like’ or Jesus won’t like you anymore.” “Read this story about how vaccines will kill your baby.” Thanks, Facebook. Yeah, it’s more complicated than that, but we can probably agree that FB should only be used to see what your high school crush looks like today, not as a source of news. WHO has reported a 30% increase in the number of measles cases from 2016 to 2017 and they say the increase falls squarely on the shoulders of vaccine hesitancy. According to the BBC, the Americas, Europe, and the Eastern Mediterranean show the largest increases in incidence. Here’s a list of common vaccine myths. Let’s see…given the fact that this writer won’t be conducting his own primary research on the topic anytime soon, should I choose to trust WHO and CDC or should I trust the Russian trolls and bots on Facebook? That’s a tough one.

Gaming without frontiers

The WHO has released the 11th version of its International Classification of Diseases, which aims to provide a universal standard for coding the conditions which patients can experience. A slightly controversial inclusion in this edition is the coding of gaming disorder, characterized by a long-term addiction to gaming that causes negative health outcomes for patients. Critics say codifying something like gaming as an addiction opens the doors for all the other strange addictions… like drinking paint. Gaming is obviously not the only thing the new ICD covers. Being the first update in almost 20 years, some updates were made like moving gender incongruence from being a mental health disorder into sexual health conditions, perhaps easing some stigma for transgender patients. Happy Pride y’all.

Just the essentials

The World Health Organization’s Essential Medicines List has been around for decades and provides the rest of the world’s health organizations a basis for creating their own cost-effective formularies. Well what use is a list of essential medicines if we don’t know who to treat with them? To that end, the WHO has released the Essential Diagnostics List. It’s designed to diagnose the world’s most common diseases, as well as “priority diseases,” like HIV and malaria. The list currently includes 113 tests, but expect that to grow in the next few years as the WHO gets more feedback. Speaking of essential lists, here’s 33 Essential Life Hacks. Disclaimer: Buzzfeed and the WHO probably have a wildly diverging understanding of what “essential” means.

Zika update: no one thinks it’s scary anymore

We’ve done a full 360 on Zika. In early 2016, the WHO declared Zika to be a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern.” Less than two years later we’re just injecting it into brains willy-nilly to see what it does. To be fair, it does seem to kill glioblastomas pretty effectively, so we’ll give mad scientists a pass this time. Still, the Zika crisis did seem to peter out quickly in the Americas, at least quicker than US government investors expected. Without any real epidemic threat from the virus forthcoming, funding for the government and Sanofi’s vaccine development partnership has dried up. There are still two vaccine candidates from GSK and Takeda in development, but the decision has been criticized as short-sighted.

WHO is Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus?

Last Tuesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) elected their first African Director-General. First, who knew they elected this position? Second, it’s about time. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was nominated by his home country of Ethiopia and has an impressive resume of international posts. It seems like the WHO did its homework in selecting someone from Africa. According to the UN, Africa is expected to have ~25% of the world’s population by 2050 and ~39% by 2100, representing the majority of the population growth. Well done WHO, but we do wonder if they know that WHAT plays second base and I DON’T KNOW plays third.

4. WHO: “Super-bugs definitely NOT saving the day”

Slight paraphrase, but the point holds. This week, WHO released its rapidly (tragically) expanding list of “super-bugs”—drug-resistant bacteria that have stopped responding to antibiotics. For some context, these strains resulted in more than 50,000 fatalities last year. The older and infirmed are usually at greatest risk, but five-alarm bells are sounding from new findings that pediatric infection has increased sevenfold within the decade. With our last lines of antibiotic defense now losing efficacy, the fix comes down to R&D. However, new antibiotic discoveries are limited after 70 years of research, and…pharma doesn’t get huge ROIs from antibiotic research. But Pharma, hear us at InsightCity—if anyone is saving the day, and all of humanity—it will be you.

4. The ethics of “good enough”

That’s what Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders, WHO, and other experts are discussing. The West African Ebola crisis led to a push for accelerated access to treatments, arguing that using a potential therapy with promising results in animal studies is OK during a major public health crisis. Meaning, even if the FDA hasn’t approved it for use in humans, patients should still have access (in some circumstances). MSF’s article in The Journal of Medical Ethics seeks to define these “exceptional circumstances” and the goals of using unproven therapies. This could be a tipping point for research ethics. Good news, since there’s still no approved treatment for Ebola.