Health Life

Computer modelling predicts where vaccines are needed most

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Researchers have developed a model that can estimate regional disease burden and the impact of vaccination, even in the absence of robust surveillance data, a study in eLife reveals.

The report, originally published on May 26, highlights areas that would have the greatest benefit from initiating a against the virus, Japanese encephalitis (JE). This will in turn guide rational assessment of the cost and benefit of vaccinations, and support policymaker decisions on allocating vaccines.

JE is a viral of the brain transmitted by mosquitoes. It is endemic in Asia-Pacific countries, with three billion people at risk of infection according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Only a small number of infections are symptomatic (ranging from one in 25 to one in 1,000), but people with symptomatic infections have a high risk of death (around one in three of those infected). Those who survive are often left with considerable neurological and psychological symptoms.

There are a number of vaccines available for JE, but in 2013, WHO prequalification was given to a new JE vaccine that requires only a single dose, is cheap to produce and is safer than previous vaccines. This led to a great increase in vaccination in Asia. However, given the disease’s widespread prevalence across several countries, it has not been possible to estimate the impact of these vaccinations on disease burden.

“Vaccination is the most effective method of prevention but it is difficult to decide where it should be implemented or to estimate the quantitative impact without good-quality surveillance data from before and after vaccination,” says lead author Tran Minh Quan, who was a Research Assistant at the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit, Wellcome Trust Asia Program, Vietnam, at the time of the study, and is now a graduate student at

Health article

How a tablet computer and mobile van are improving cancer detection

Rebecca Richards-Kortum, Ph.D., of Rice University, has devoted her career to understanding how technology can improve health and save lives. Her recent research focuses on creating affordable screening tools for cervical cancer, the fourth most common cancer among women worldwide.

Imaging technology has helped turn this goal into reality. The technology was developed with support from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering and the National Cancer Institute.

Improving cervical cancer detection

There are two main challenges in testing for cervical cancer and human papillomavirus (HPV), the virus that causes cervical cancer: It requires costly tools and extensive lab work.

“Both of these challenges are really important for patients who are medically underserved,” Dr. Richards-Kortum notes. “Those could be patients who live in rural areas or poor areas of the U.S. or in low- and middle-income countries around the world.”

More than 90% of cervical cancer deaths happen in low- and middle-income countries, according to the World Health Organization. That’s where Dr. Richards-Kortum and her colleagues come in.

A portable microscope

They’ve developed a low-cost fiber optic microscope that allows health care providers to see the same things they would during a tissue biopsy. A biopsy is the most effective way to diagnose cervical cancer.

“We can make this technology for very low cost, it runs on a tablet computer, and it’s completely portable and battery powered.”

– Rebecca Richards-Kortum, Ph.D.

“We can make this technology for very low cost, it runs on a tablet computer, and it’s completely portable and battery powered,” she says.

It also requires less training and expertise to use. Usually, women with an abnormal Pap smear have to have a procedure called a colposcopy. During this procedure, a provider takes a small tissue sample from the cervix. The sample is sent to a lab