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    UCL Populations & Lifelong Health Domain Symposium 2017

    By Guest Blogger, on 20 January 2017

    pencil-iconWritten by Emmeline Brown, MRes Translational Neurology, UCL Institute of Neurology

    We must “recognise the myriad of influences on what makes us sick and what makes us healthy” began Professor Dame Anne Johnson, welcoming attendees to this symposium at the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health.

    Professor Dame Johnson pointed to UCL’s history of pioneering and expanding a transdisciplinary approach, emphasising the role of preventative measures and the need to provide research that can be used by policy-makers.

    (Re)building healthier cities
    Professor Michael Davies and Professor David Osrin, presenting the keynote session, discussed the need to understand the interactions between ‘soft’ (economic and social) and ‘hard’ (engineered) urban systems, in order to tackle the multiple challenges arising from globalisation.

    Professor Osrin highlighted community participation in Mumbai, where he has been based since 2004: community women’s groups there who discussed issues, came up with solutions and implemented them achieved a 30% reduction in rural newborn deaths.

    IMG_6560-103

    We heard extensively from early and mid-career researchers. Dr Evangelia Chrysikou described her work in exploring the exteriors of mental health facilities in Camden and the effects of these on stigmatisation. Dr Jens Kandt spoke about his research classifying neighbourhoods by multiple characteristics to develop an integrated perspective on urban health; and Marios Poullas described his study into the effects of El Nino Southern Oscillation on public health in India.

    Digital Health

    Andrew Eland, Engineering Director of Artificial Intelligence company DeepMind, began with the potential of digital tools in health innovations.

    He had many insights into the use of deep learning to improve the efficiency of hospitals, which would not be possible with cumbersome paper medical files. He also spoke of the concurrent need to gain public trust in use of data through greater security and transparency.

    (more…)

    Lunch Hour Lecture: Bones, mummies, tuberculosis and ancient DNA

    By Ella Richards, on 18 March 2016

    As World Tuberculosis Day approaches on 24 March, Dr Helen Donoghue (UCL Clinical Microbiology) ends this term’s series of Lunch Hour Lectures by looking back at 9,000 year old tuberculosis DNA.

    MTB

    MTB via Flickr

    What is tuberculosis 

    Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) that spread via aerosol and primarily affects the lungs.

    Although there are current health scares about antibiotic-resistant strains of TB, due to modern sanitation, vaccination programmes and antibiotics there have not been any major TB epidemics in the UK in the 21st century. However, it is currently estimated that one third of the world’s population is infected with various strains of MTB. These infections often pass under the radar because the majority of them are latent, meaning that the infected person does not have any symptoms of the disease.

    TB is one of the world’s oldest diseases, in part due to this high level of latency. There are multiple strains of MTB, all associated with differing areas of the globe. What is striking about these strains is that people with TB generally carry the strain of MTB associated with their ethnic origin, despite their current location.

    For Dr Donoghue, this is evidence that MTB has evolved with humans. She argued that in the Neolithic and Palaeolithic periods, when humans lived in small populations, pathogens that were highly infectious and killed their hosts quickly failed to survive as they would simply wipe out tribes. In contrast, MTB’s combination of high latency rates and virulence means that carriers transmit the disease before dying.

    What’s more, evolving with humans has meant that there are numerous strains of extinct MTB, as well as extant MTB. The research conducted by Dr Donoghue and her team means that new methods are being perfected to analyse these extinct, ancient strains. (more…)

    Reducing tuberculosis in London and beyond: the woodpecker and weasel approach

    By Guest Blogger, on 27 March 2015

    pencil-iconWritten by Catherine Smith, UCL Infection and Population Health PhD student

    'What do we need to know to reach, treat, and cure everyone with TB?' eventMany people are surprised to learn that the problem of tuberculosis in London is so serious that it is now known as the ‘TB capital of Europe’. In the worst affected London Borough of Newham, more than one in every thousand people is diagnosed with the disease each year, and the trend is increasing.

    I live in Islington, where the situation is not quite as severe. However, it is still alarming to note that the rate here is much closer to that of relatively high incidence countries, like Bosnia and Herzegovina and Brazil, than the USA or Sweden.

    London is also a major hub for TB research. On 24 March, the 133rd anniversary of the discovery of the pathogen that causes the disease, researchers from UCL and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine jointly hosted an event that asked the question: What do we need to know to reach, treat, and cure everyone with TB? The event was attended by 270 people, and watched online by over 1,300 from 46 different countries via a live stream.

    (more…)

    Targeting zero deaths from TB: progress, reality and hope

    By news editor, on 9 April 2013

    pencil-icon  Written by Isobella Honeyborne, Aidan Hanrath and Santino Capocci (UCL Medical Sciences)

    “The highest mountain in Africa is not Kilimanjaro but the TB mountain – and it’s more difficult to scale.” (Dr Steve Lawn).

    The annual World TB Day marks the announcement by Robert Koch in 1882 of the discovery of the infectious cause of tuberculosis (TB). This was commemorated by UCL on Monday 25 March with a meeting of experts from London and around the world at the Royal Free Hospital.

    TB_bacteria‘Targeting zero deaths from TB: progress, reality and hope’ was hosted by UCL Professors Ali Zumla and Tim McHugh, and Dr Marc Lipman, North Central London TB lead and UCL Senior Lecturer.

    The global theme picked up on a series of articles launched by The Lancet Infectious Diseases at the event.

    The day was introduced by UCL President & Provost Professor Malcolm Grant with a theme that ran through the whole meeting – the need for an ‘integrated strategy’ to tackle tuberculosis. He highlighted UCL’s interdisciplinary strengths and important role in the global TB research effort.

    (more…)