The Resurgence of Measles in the U.S.: Causes, Consequences, and Future Directions

By Madeleine Winter

Within the past decade, there has been a significant resurgence of measles outbreaks in the United States. Between January 1 and March 14 of 2019, the CDC reported 268 individual cases of measles in 15 states. In 2018, the CDC reported a total of 372 cases of measles and in 2014, a record number of 667 cases in 27 states. Measles was declared as eliminated from the United States in 2000, which makes these recent statistics particularly concerning.

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Human Trafficking and Healthcare: Using a Public Health Approach to Combat and Prevent Human Trafficking

By Nathnael Mengistie

According to the International Labor Organization, human trafficking is the act of controlling or exploiting a person for sex, labor, or other services through fraud, force, or coercion. This grave human rights violation affected an estimated 20.9 million or more individuals worldwide in 2016. In recent years, however, numerous countries, including the United States, have passed different laws to combat this issue. In fact, on January 9th 2019, President Donald Trump signed into law the reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), a law that aims to prevent human trafficking, protect victims, and punish offenders not only in the US, but also abroad. This legislation was first passed in 2000 and has since been expanded and reauthorized numerous times. This landmark anti-trafficking law formed the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, which publishes a yearly Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP), and it also established the T-visa, which allows trafficking victims who came from outside the US to become permanent residents. Furthermore, the current administration has also authorized $430 million to fight human trafficking and passed additional laws, such as the Abolish Human Trafficking Act, which increases the prosecution of traffickers. Although these efforts are certainly commendable, American law regarding human trafficking still focuses on prosecution and fails to recognize the importance of a victim-centered approach to end this heinous crime. In fact, the Bureau of Justice Statistics stated that there was a 41% increase in the number of prosecutions for human trafficking offenses from 2011 to 2015, which illustrates the government’s focus on the criminal justice aspect of human trafficking. Although it is important to prosecute traffickers, members of the anti-trafficking movement should also focus on identifying human trafficking victims and providing long term support to human trafficking survivors. One of the reasons why this is not the case is because it is challenging to identify trafficking victims due to the obscure nature of the crime.  Nevertheless, framing human trafficking as a public health issue and increasing the involvement of healthcare professionals will not only allow us to identify trafficking victims and empower survivors, but also help us address the socio-economic determinants that facilitate human trafficking by working with policy makers, clinical professionals, law enforcement, and educators because human trafficking is a multifaceted problem. By using a public health approach to combat human trafficking and collaborating with different professionals, we are increasing our scope and our reach because public health is concerned with the well-being of entire populations and not just specific individuals.

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Dealing With the First Genetically-Edited Birth

By Shaffin Siddiqui

On November 25 of 2018, Chinese scientist He Jiankui announced one of most seminal  and controversial moments in the history of genetics: the birth of the first genetically-edited babies. According to an early report by the MIT Technology Review, the two twins, “Lulu and Nana, came crying into the world as healthy as any other babies.” Their birth, not only a biological landmark, has become the center of tremendous ethical debate.

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Are Daffodils the key to beating cancer?

By Nicholas Persaud

Daffodils may be something you plant in your garden or perhaps put in a bouquet of flowers for a loved one. However, research suggests that daffodils have much more to offer than their appearance. Daffodils have been used for multiple medicinal purposes including treating asthma and inducing vomiting. More recently, research has unveiled the prospect of daffodils as anti-cancer agents. The RNA Molecular Biology Laboratory at the Université Libre de Bruxelles Cancer Research Center recently published a paper entitled “The Amaryllidaceae Alkaloid Haemanthamine Binds the Eukaryotic Ribosome to Repress Cancer Cell Growth”, which describes the potential for daffodils to prevent cancer cell proliferation. To be more specific, scientists in this laboratory extracted the compound haemanthamine from daffodils. Haemanthamine is an alkaloid which means that it is a chemical compound produced by a living organism.  The researchers concluded that haemanthamine inhibits both the activity and production of ribosomes. It is this function of haemanthamine that makes it such a strong contender as an anti-cancer agent. To fully understand the value of this function, one must understand the purpose of the ribosome and the nucleolus.

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Report on Research on Displaced Children with Cancer in Lebanon

By Andrew Wu

One of the greatest current humanitarian catastrophes is the worsening refugee crisis caused by the conflict in Syria, which has many unfortunate implications in public health, especially pediatric care. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are around 554,288 displaced Syrians under the age of 18 in Lebanon (this is an underestimate due to a halt on refugee registration). Assuming the annual incidence of pediatric cancer is 17 in 100,000 children; there are 90 new cases each year. Lebanon, which borders Syria on the north and the east, is bearing some of the burdens of an increasing population of displaced peoples. All Lebanese citizens have some form of healthcare coverage, with almost two-thirds of its citizens relying on a national healthcare plan. However, these government plans do not offer optimal treatments to conditions that may require long-term care, such as cancer. Thus, an influx of displaced refugees can further exacerbate the country’s public health system. Besides the limited aid from various nongovernmental organizations, displaced patients with pediatric cancer lack sufficient finances for treatment and can expect little support from the government or other third-party entities. A research article published by Saab et al. explores these issues, analyzing the mounting challenge of untreated pediatric cancer and possible solutions.

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Little Creatures, Big Improvements: The Success Story of a Decreasing Newborn Mortality Rate

By MaryAnn Placheril

According to a recent UNICEF report, the newborn mortality rate in Bangladesh has significantly decreased.

Back in 1990, when the mortality rate was 64.2 for every 1,000 newborns, births were assisted by family members without medical training. In these conditions, asphyxia was the leading cause of newborn mortality. Asphyxia occurs when the body is deprived of oxygen and thus, cannot breathe and regulate its functions. This then leads to death. In newborns, asphyxia frequently occurred during difficult or obstructed labor, yet, the untrained family did not know how to prevent it or treat it. Their lack of medical expertise in these cases proved fatal.

To fight this common trend, the Bagladeshi government made a significant push against the problem in 2010. It opened centers for childbirth, trained personnel, and encouraged families to have births outside the home. Much of this development was funded by other governments, international organizations, and non-governmental aid groups. This technique proved successful for as described by the UNICEF report the rates have decreased and are predicted to continue to fall.

Bangladesh’s success shows that with monetary investment and governmental support, many health problems in developing countries are wholly treatable. Maybe in the future other medical problems will be solved!

Weighing in on Gain-of-Function Research

By Sharon Washio

Viruses are the ultimate parasites—they use the host’s cell processes to carry out their infectious cycles, from replication to dissemination. As barriers between species are crossed and favorable mutations are aptly selected, viruses evolve to propagate among the population, at times, leading to epidemics or pandemics like the Ebola epidemic or the 1918 Spanish Flu. When a virus adversely affects society, one of the main questions researchers try to answer is what makes the virus so potent. This is usually done by comparing mutant versions of the virus with reduced virulence, or potency, to the original, then assessing for the specific mutations that hinders the virus life cycle.

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Review: Effects of Climate Change on Infectious Diseases

By Andrew Wu

Climate change has many implications for public health, particularly on the transmission of infectious diseases. Changes in humidity can lead to an increased risk of illnesses that spread through bodily fluids. Vectors such as mosquitoes can become more abundant and affect larger regions. Natural disasters can destroy healthcare infrastructure, alter the immunity of a population, and increase exposure to water-borne diseases. Although there are many factors that modulate infectious disease dynamics, it is crucial that researchers pinpoint associations between the spread of maladies and environmental changes, as they become more drastic and prominent in our lifetimes. A better understanding can lead to more precise models, which can enhance the accuracy of predictions and lead to more effective healthcare. Recently, Professor Metcalf of the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Public Affairs departments published a review paper that thoroughly analyzes techniques that investigate the links between climate change and infectious diseases.

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