A Scientific Update:

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Here are some quick summaries of technological newsmakers from the past week:

  • New microscope for TB detection – portable and a fraction of the cost: Developing countries that lack the expensive lab equipment needed to detect tuberculosis might soon have a portable, low cost alternative. A study in PLoS One magazine reports, “A new $240 microscope that runs on AA batteries is as effective for diagnosing tuberculosis as $40,000 professional laboratory models.” Coined the “Global Focus microscope,” the new instrument drew the same conclusions as its more expensive counterpart (the Nikon E400) in 98.4 percent of cases evaluated. Future field studies are planned.


  • AIDS vaccine trial in the works: Phase I clinical trials are planned in the U.S. and Africa for two AIDS vaccine candidates, Ad26.ENVA.01 and Ad35-ENV. Healthy adult volunteers who are not infected with HIV will be recruited to participate in the international trial that will evaluate the safety of the two potential vaccines, and “their ability to provoke an immune response when administered in a prime-boost regimen,” according to a press release. Ad26.ENVA.01 is manufactured by the Dutch pharmaceutical company Crucell, while the other is developed by the International AID Vaccine Initiative (IAVI). IAVI is leading the trial, but the Ragon Institute, and Harvard Medical School’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center are also collaborating in the study.


  • Study: Kidneys at risk in injection drug users, especially those with HIV: More attention needs to be paid to monitoring kidney health in injection drug users (IDU), especially those with HIV. That’s the lesson to be gleaned from an advanced release of a study soon to appear in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. Researchers found that of 902 IDU, 273 of whom were HIV-positive, one quarter had proteinuria (excess protein in the urine), which can lead to kidney failure and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The prevalence was nearly three times as high in patients that were HIV-positive (45 percent) versus HIV-negative (16 percent). Unemployment, older age, diabetes, hepatits C and high blood pressure were also linked to higher prevalence of proteinuria among participants. The study was led by Shruti H. Mehta, PhD, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Stay tuned to ScienceSpeaks for regular scientific updates.

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