Headline July 22, 2014

'''.... DR KAMRAN KHAN... -THEN- : 


The woman wipes her brow, looks at her son, and begins the gruesome process of butchering the recently killed  porcupine.

First they skin the animal; then they boil the carcass to strip off the quills.

With the animal's flesh pink and raw, the woman tears into its belly with machete and pulls out the yellow glistening internal organs. 

Blood begins to flow as she chops the quivering carcass into quarters, kneading the meat with her hands.

This is an encounter with the blood and attendant microbes of other species that, as Brilliant puts it,  is  "more intimate than sex." Multiply that interaction   -each of which could seed a devastating new infection:

A thousand fold everyday throughout Central Africa and other viral hotspots, and you can see why Wolfe is worried. "It's as if there is a lottery going on and the odds are getting better and better for the  microbe," he says.

" And the stakes are getting higher and higher all the time."

And The New Age of Epidemiology is on us:

While our growing global connectedness makes us more vulnerable to new diseases, it also gives us powerful weapons.

With the Internet and mobile phones, epidemiologists can quickly track new outbreaks as they happen  -even in the most remote corners of the world. Groups like GFV and the New York City-based-

Have set up lasting partnerships on the ground with local governments, building scientific and organisational capacities to respond to new viral threats.

Even the Department of Defence is playing a vital role, thanks to a network of high-tech microbiology labs in vulnerable countries like Egypt, Kenya, and Indonesia.

The armed forces have been deeply involved in infectious diseases research for decades, in part to ensure the health of troops deployed overseas.

'We can maintain active surveillance on new pathogens in these countries," says Captain Kevin Russell, director of the military Global Emerging Infections Surveillance and response System.

"Maybe preventing a pandemic is beyond our means now, but we can get ahead of the curve."

Wolfe sees it as a competition: Can our technological connectedness trump the risks of our biological and geographic connectedness? That's one reason he's pushed GVF to pioneer what he calls digital epidemiology, which uses:

The resources of the Internet to make predictive sense of the viral chatter picked up in the field.

When he at last became a medical student, Gunasekara, now GFV's chief innovation officer, helped develop a system called Medic Mobile, which allows health workers in remote areas of developing countries to connect to hospitals.

Now he and his team are setting up a bioinformatics strategy that could mine data from Internet searches and social media to pinpoint new outbreaks as they dawn  -and potentially predict new pandemics the way the CIA might predict a terrorist attack.

GFV isn't the only place practising epidemiology.

At Harvard, bioinformatics expert John Brownstein has developed HealthMap, an app that scours the Web for information on emerging diseases and displays it geographically.

Dr Kamran Khan at the  University of Toronto has helped create Bio-Diaspora, a project that integrates  real-time information  on infectious diseases with data on a global travel  patterns.

But it's San Francisco -based GVF,  with its Silicon Valley connections, that seems best poised to push the field forward.

"Forecasting has been missing pieces of the puzzle." says Gunasekra. "We can mine data from the field and the Internet and try to come up with algorithms that forecast where these things are going next."

Dr Wolfe's larger goal is to yank epidemiology into the digital age, to stop chasing pandemics as opposed to predicting and preventing them.

''On infectious diseases we are where cardiology was in the 1950s,'' he says. ''We're finally beginning to understand why pandemics happen instead of just reacting to them.''

What's needed is a global effort to scale up that kind of proactive work to ensure that every hot spot has surveillance running for new pathogens in animals and in human beings and that it has its own GVF type group to do the work.

Viruses don't respect borders   -whether between nations or between species  -and in a world where airlines act like bloodlines, global health is only as strong as its weakest link.

We got lucky with the relatively weak swine flu pandemics in 2009,  but history tells our luck won't last.

''We sit here dodging bullets left and right, assuming we have an invisible shield,'' says Dr Wolfe:

''But you can't dodge bullets forever.''

With respectful dedication to the people Central Africa ; the Students, Professors and Teachers-

With respectful dedication to the Scientists and Researchers of the world. See Ya all Sires, on !WOW!  -the World Students Society Computers-Internet-Wireless:

"' Bat Signal "'

Good night and God bless!

SAM Daily Times - The Voice of the Voiceless


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