The Healthy Dose February 17, 2011

Top Story

New Study: No Birth Defect Risk Seen with Popular anti-Malaria Drug

Reuters reports a new study from the Archives of Internal Medicine which shows that the popular anti-malarial Malarone may be safe for pregnant women.

Pregnant women who take the anti-malarial drug Malarone during their first trimester might not be increasing their baby’s risk of birth defects, a new study suggests.

Most anti-malaria drugs — including this one — are not approved for use in pregnancy. So when pregnant women want to travel to malaria-ridden regions, they face a huge problem: should they take preventive medicines that haven’t been proven safe for the fetus?

…The new study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, is the first to look at pregnant women’s use of Malarone — known generically as atovaquone-proguanil — and the risk of birth defects.
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The Global Health and Development Beat

Family Planning – A study in Nigeria has determined that the absence of federal a budget line for family planning was a major challenge to family planning commodity security.

Maternal Health – Afghan doctor Ibrahim Shinwari has praised the support of the government of Canada in improving maternal health in Afghanistan during a recent visit to Canada.

Cholera – Bangladesh will hold a massive cholera vaccine trial.

Cholera – The CDC has praised the efforts of the government of the Dominican Republic to stem its recent outbreak of cholera.

Cholera – An outbreak in Papua New Guinea has resulted in over 493 deaths and over 10,000 reported cases since 2009.

Millennium Development Goals – Activists in Tanzania have declared that the country is off track in its efforts to meet the MDGs by 2015.

HIV/AIDS – The UN has reported that laws in Asia-Pacific states have prevented those infected with HIV or at risk of infection from receiving proper treatments.

HIV/AIDS – The United States and Ukraine have agreed to to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS from 2011 to 2015.

Pneumonia – Shortly after introducing a free vaccine for infants under the age of one in Kenya, a significant increase in vaccinations has been reported.

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The Players

USAID –  Mara Rudman nominated as assistant USAID Administrator for the Middle East

DFID – In a speech at Chatham House, head Andrew Mitchell spoke about the need to continue to help achieve the MDGs in the BRIC countries.

AusAID – A UN expert has called on the Australian development organization to take a human rights-based approach in the implementation of their aid and development programs.

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Buzzing on the Blogs:

Duncan Green digs into the online debate over the cause of sharply rising food prices. 

Round and round we go on speculation – is it driving food price volatility or not? Tim Wise disagrees with Paul Krugman (a speculation sceptic – specscep?) Meanwhile, at the snarky end of things, Tim Worstall really doesn’t think much of the Guardian’s John Vidal and his ‘banks are killing people’ line.

‘Instability will be most felt by those in urban areas – in the form of a disaffected middle and upper class, and a large cohort of the urban poor who, lacking alternative food sources, might be pushed over the brink by price increases’ Edward Carr reckons it may be richer consumers that have the most to lose from price volatility. [h/t Rob Bailey]

The Guardian development podcast + accompanying articles explore land grabbing in Africa

Alex Evans updates us on the new (and worsening) food price spike – this time with China’s worst drought in 2000 years.

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By Mark Leon Goldberg and Tom Murphy. Image credit