The 2010s saw breakthroughs in global public health problems that saved millions of lives. National Public Radio (NPR) spoke with Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health faculty experts on the greatest scientific successes in the last ten years.
Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr director of ICAP at Columbia Mailman School said it was two drugs in the past decade — bedaquiline and delaminid – which emerged to treat drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB). “They’re taken by mouth and are well-tolerated,” she says. “As the simpler, safer treatments become available, they could be game changers for patients in the developing world. Early treatments for the drug-resistant disease had required injections over many months, and the side effects, such as hearing loss, kidney failure, depression or psychosis, could be worse than the disease.”
For Dr. Ian Lipkin, director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia Mailman, big data in the 2010s was shown to have huge potential to save lives. He notes the importance of combining disease information from huge data sets, including Facebook, Twitter and digital news sites, through which researchers and health officials can spot outbreaks of disease, determine vulnerability of different populations and track the spread of disease.
“The earlier you detect an outbreak, the more likely it is that you can prevent its spread,” Dr. Lipkin says.
Dr. Stephen Morse, epidemiology professor, contributed to an Associated Press (AP) article in the Washington Post on U.S. infectious diseases. While some deaths from infectious diseases declined over the last century, new threats emerged. “There may have been a real surge of optimism after the eradication of smallpox in 1980 but then a few years later AIDS came in. Today’s growing resistance to vaccines and other prevention efforts is a very worrisome trend.”Friday Letter Submission, Publish on January 10