Five Creative Ways to Improve Health Care in the Developing World

global health

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recently announced that it has bestowed 76 grants of $100,000 each to scientists who have come up with unconventional ways to destroy infectious diseases in the developing world. Below are some of our favorites.

1. A Drink to Keep Malaria at Bay

What if immunity to malaria was as simple as downing a chocolate-y drink every day? Steven Maranz of Weill Medical College thinks the key to lifelong malaria immunity might just lie in providing kids with high levels of flavanols--compounds found in chocolate, green tea, and shea nuts--via a beverage.

2. HIV Immunity via a Ring

For many diseases--diarrhea, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and pneumonia among them--mucosal surfaces are the point of entry. That's why Emmanuel Ho of the University of Utah is trying to attack HIV infections where they start. The researcher's intra-vaginal ring is designed to slowly release the HIV peptide gp120 and the cytokine IL-12, creating a sustained immune response against the disease.

3. Exercise-Induced Immunity

Conventional wisdom tells us that regular exercise keeps the immune system in top form, and now Kate Edwards of the University of California, San Diego, wants to test the theory. She believes short spurts of cycling and weight-lifting could strengthen the body's response to a pneumonia vaccine administered directly afterwards.

4. A Mini Microscope for Malaria Detection

Instead of drawing blood to detect malaria, Rebecca Richards-Kortum of Rice University thinks a mini microscope placed on the skin could measure light scattered by malaria-infected blood. It's a painless, quick, and biowaste-free to test for the disease.

5. The TB Breathalyzer Test

Breathalyzers: They're good for more than deciding whether you can drive home from the party. William Royea of Next Dimensions Technology hopes to develop a breath analyzer that uses chemical films to detect changes in electrical conduction that come as a result of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) produced by tuberculosis.

[Via Grand Challenges in Global Health]

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3 Comments

  • Meredith Obendorfer

    I'm always intrigued by issues of health in the developing world, because of the inequities of treatment (currently reading Mountains Beyond Mountains) and because of how easily the "developed" world forgets about the "developing" world...reading about it only in the Sunday paper or when cameras bring news into our homes. Regardless, I can't help but consistently come back to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and think about water... and how it's at the very bottom of that hierarchy. So while I'm not extensively educated in the broader issues of developing countries, I believe clean drinking water that's easily accessible (ie, without a 5-mile walk), should be priority number one.

  • Meredith Obendorfer

    I'm always intrigued by issues of health in the developing world, because of the inequities of treatment (currently reading Mountains Beyond Mountains) and because of how easily the "developed" world forgets about the "developing" world...reading about it only in the Sunday paper or when cameras bring news into our homes. Regardless, I can't help but consistently come back to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and think about water... and how it's at the very bottom of that hierarchy. So while I'm not extensively educated in the broader issues of developing countries, I believe clean drinking water that's easily accessible (ie, without a 5-mile walk), should be priority number one.

  • Jean Chaix

    We also need to improve the millenia-old three-stones-and-a-pot indoor cooking method that two thirds of the world depend on. Considering that the leading killer for children under 5 around the world is acute respiratory illnesses, I think there's a lot that can be done to introduce more fuel efficient ways of cooking and better fuels than wood. (Not to mention the impact on the environment, poverty, and climate change!)
    J. Kim Chaix