Healthy Dose: How Sunshine Helps Patients Recover From Tuberculosis

September 4, 2012


Researchers have known that Vitamin D plays a role in the recovery of TB patients. A new study uncovers how and why it works. From Reuters:

A study led by British researchers has found that high doses of vitamin D – which is made in the body when exposed to sunlight – given alongside antibiotic treatment, appears to help patients recover more quickly from the infectious lung disease.

The findings suggest high doses of the vitamin dampen down the body’s inflammatory response to infection, reducing damage to the lungs, said Adrian Martineau, a senior lecturer in respiratory infection and immunity at Queen Mary University of London, who led the study.

“Sometimes these inflammatory responses can cause tissue damage leading to … cavities in the lung,” he said.

“If we can help these cavities to heal more quickly, then patients should be infectious for a shorter period of time, and they may also suffer less lung damage.”

The researchers also said they think vitamin D’s ability to dampen inflammatory responses without interfering with the action of antibiotics suggests supplements might be useful for patients taking antibiotics for diseases like pneumonia, sepsis and other lung infections.

TB, which people in wealthier parts of the world often mistakenly believe to be a thing of the past, is proving a tough disease to beat. In 2010, it infected 8.8 million people worldwide and killed 1.4 million.


The researchers also found that Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacteria that cause TB, cleared from the phlegm coughed up from deep in the lungs faster in patients on vitamin D, taking an average of 23 days to become undetectable under the microscope compared to 36 days in those on placebo.

Martineau said it was too early to recommend all TB patients take high-dose vitamin D alongside antibiotics, as more research with a larger group of patients was needed first.


Global Health and Development Beat

HIV/AIDS – South African and South Korean researchers are trying to develop a mobile app to determine if a person has HIV.

Child Health – South Africa’s programs to prevent the transmission of HIV from mother to child have been successful, said Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi to Parliament.

Child Health – Early exclusive breastfeeding in Guinea is a challenge to implement due to various cultural practices, putting children at greater risk.

Pesticides – There are health concerns for Bangladeshi farmers who are misusing pesticides, putting themselves and others at risk.

WASH – Water meant for drought-hit villages in India is not making it to the final destination.

Malaria – Researchers have measured the highest levels ever of DDT in breast milk in South African mothers who have been exposed to the pesticide during home spraying.

HIV/AIDS – HIV continues to spread in Eastern Europe and Central Asia with little evidence that things will get better soon.


The Players

WFP – Says it distributed food aid to 3.3 million people in Darfur over the month of July. 1.8 million recipients were refugees.

Red Cross – ICRC President Peter Maurer is in Syria and will appeal to President Assad to allow aid workers access to hard hit areas in the country.

UNICEF – Is working with Nigeria to pilot a polio vaccination program in 10 high-risk local government areas of Jigawa and Zamfara States.

USAID – Held a workshop over the weekend in advance of the commencement of the Sustainable Water and Sanitation in Africa pilot program in Nigeria’s Bauchi state.

Plan – Will shortly begin the distribution of one million bednets across Liberia.

Health for All Coalition – NGO members in Sierra Leone staged a anti-cholera awareness campaign over the weekend, reports the Concord Times.


Buzzing in the Blogs

A look into what the Dodd-Frank “Conflict Minerals” legislation may be able to accomplish in terms of reducing sexual violence in eastern DRC, and the challenges that remain.

For decades, mineral smuggling has been a way of sponsoring guerrilla wars in the region, and the aim of the law is to ensure that all public companies trading in these commodities make sure that their business does not benefit warlords in the region, particularly in the eastern DRC.

One of the main drivers behind the legislation is widespread sexual violence and rape in the region.

In August 2009, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, for example, highlighted the link between armed conflict, sexual violence, and minerals when she visited eastern Congo, and Margot Wallstrom, the UN’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict, famously referred to the DRC as “the rape capital of the world”.

Yet in many reports and in much work done on rape prevention, the economic background underpinnings of the region are rarely referenced.

Oxfam, for example, called on the Congolese government and the international community to “increase provision of medical care for survivors of sexual, violence, ensure that the protection provided by the UN peacekeepers and Congolese security services is tailored to local realities and to reform the Congolese security sector and justice system”. In a similar vein, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague’s commission aimed to tackle sexual violence by setting up a team of experts using the “skills of doctors, lawyers, police, psychologists, forensic specialists and experts in the care and protection of victims and witnesses”.

Such recommendations, although crucial and of value, do not take into consideration deeper dynamics. These proposals fail to address the fact that behind the warlords’ activities lies a complex political and economic situation in which global market interests are at stake. Additionally, it must be noted that, more often than not, companies do not have private armies and depend on local militias to access mines and even organise their exploitation.

In this context, mass rape has been used increasingly as a form of terror in mining zones, employed in ways to facilitate armed militias gaining access to and maintaining control over priceless resources. Indeed, prevalence of rape seems to be correlated to the presence of mines. According to Venantie Bisimwa, a women’s rights activist from Bukavu, “rape is the most economical form of violence against a community: families are instantaneously destroyed”.


Capital Events


2:00 PM – A Conversation with Rudwan Dawod on his Incarceration in The Sudan – Wilson School


2:00 PM – The Melodrama of Conflict and the Tragedy of Resolution: Work with the genre of conflict narratives – GMU

7:00 PM – Interventions: A Life in War and Peace w/ Kofi Annan – Politics & Prose


8:30 AM – Infrastructure and Business Opportunities in North Africa – National Council on US-Arab Relations

11:00 AM – Sebastian Junger’s War and the Laws of War – American Red Cross

*3:00 PM – Policy Implications of The Lancet MSM and HIV Series – CSIS

4:00 PM – The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Its Impact on Human Rights – AU Law


9:30 AM – Kenya’s Momentous Year Ahead: A Conversation with Willy Mutunga Chief Justice of the Kenyan Supreme Court – CSIS


By Mark Leon Goldberg and Tom Murphy; Photo Credit

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