Evidence suggests that even the tiniest amount of lead is detrimental to our health – and that’s bad news for people in South Africa, who are exposed to large amounts of the metal. Jesse Copelyn explores why lead does so much damage to the brain and heart, and why scientists keep finding it’s worse than we’d previously thought.
As a child growing up in Uganda, Maureen Etuket used a screwdriver to dismantle electronic appliances and toy trucks. Now, a PhD candidate in Industrial Engineering, this curiosity has been driving her quest to find solutions to public healthcare challenges. Last month, she won the Mandela Rhodes Foundation’s award for social impact in Africa for a device that can help save the lives of women who suffer excessive bleeding after child birth. Bienne Huisman chatted with her about the device, medical innovation in Africa, and finding one’s purpose in this challenging field.
For the past 128 years, a hospital tucked away on what was once a rural farm in Johannesburg East has been fighting to turn the tables on a disease that has plagued humankind for millennia. Ufrieda Ho has the latest in Spotlight’s special series of ‘Hospital Histories’.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many committees and organisations were working around the clock to prepare the country for the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. Professor Hannelie Meyer, a pharmacist-turned-academic and later vaccine advocate, served on several of these committees. Elri Voigt spoke to Meyer about the pandemic, the mottos that guide her, and being an unapologetic workaholic.
Tracing the close contacts of people ill with tuberculosis (TB) and offering them TB preventive therapy is part of South Africa’s strategy to fight TB. A recent analysis found that such an approach of tracing household contacts and providing them with TB preventive treatment is cost-effective and would – by 2025 – cut deaths by 35% among household contacts of all ages and people living with HIV. In light of these new findings, Tiyese Jeranji assesses the state of contact tracing in South Africa’s public healthcare system.
A landmark global observational study found that many neonates get life-threatening bloodstream infections, or sepsis, and are dying because the antibiotics used to treat them are not effective. Sepsis affects up to 3 million babies a year globally and the study authors estimate that 214 000 newborns die every year from sepsis that has become antibiotic resistant – mainly in low- to middle-income countries. Adele Baleta reports.
In his Twitter biography, Dr Lebogang Phahladira describes himself as “a rookie clinician-researcher who keeps trying and trying”. This clearly paid off, as Phahladira earlier this month received a major global schizophrenia research award. As part of Spotlight’s coverage on mental health this month, Biénne Huisman spoke to him about growing up in rural Limpopo, his first impressions of city life, and the decision to specialise in schizophrenia.
South Africa has been using HIV Rapid Diagnostic Tests (Finger prick same-day testing) for years. Now, the National Department of Health has decided to align with the World Health Organization’s recommendation of a new three-test algorithm to ensure accuracy of results. René Sparks unpacks why this is important.
For businesses and households that can afford it, solar panels and batteries offer a way to keep the lights on during South Africa’s ongoing bouts of loadshedding. Such technologies may also offer a solution for healthcare facilities, where a reliable energy supply can be a matter of life and death. Nthusang Lefafa spoke to stakeholders and experts in the public and private health sectors about the promise of solar energy to mitigate the impact of loadshedding on health services.
According to the World Health Organization, of the roughly 10 million people who fall ill with TB annually, over 80% survive, in most cases due to a six-month treatment course. Unfortunately, as with long COVID, being cured is not always the last hurdle and many people go on to struggle with post-TB lung disease. Tiyese Jeranji asked local experts about this sometimes-neglected area of TB care.
Diagnosing tuberculosis is difficult in people who struggle to cough up sputum samples – a particular problem in children and people living with HIV. One promising alternative to testing sputum is to test stool. Tiyese Jeranji unpacks the latest developments in this area.
Tuberculosis (TB) can be resistant to treatment with several different drugs. Tests that identify which drugs someone’s TB is resistant to are critical to ensuring that people are not treated with drugs that don’t work for them, especially given the significant side effects associated with some of the drugs. Elri Voigt assesses the state of play in testing for TB drug resistance and the promise of exciting new technologies, such as whole genome sequencing.