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News Article | December 20, 2016
Site: www.eurekalert.org

States that enacted medical marijuana laws, on average, experienced reductions in traffic fatalities, according to a study by researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. Overall, states that passed medical marijuana laws saw an 11 percent reduction in traffic fatalities, on average, after enacting the laws, and had 26 percent lower rates of traffic fatalities compared with states without the laws. The findings are published online in the American Journal of Public Health. Reductions in traffic fatalities greatly impacted those between the ages of 15 and 44 and were especially striking among those aged 25 to 44 years, a group representing a high percentage of those registered patients for medical marijuana use. Specifically, the researchers observed an 11 percent reduction of among those aged 15 to 24 years, 12 percent for ages 25 to 44, and 9 percent for those 45 years and older. Operational dispensaries were also associated with a significant reduction in traffic fatalities in those aged 25 to 44 years at 5 percent. Lacking was strong evidence suggesting reductions among those aged 45 years and older, which is also a group overrepresented in the population of patients registered in state medical marijuana programs. "This finding suggests that the mechanisms by which medical marijuana laws reduce traffic fatalities mostly operate in those younger adults, a group also frequently involved in alcohol-related traffic fatalities," said Julian Santaella-Tenorio, a doctoral student in Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health. In 2004 and 2013, 47 percent of fatally injured drivers with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or greater were 25 to 44 years old. The researchers based their findings on data for 1985-2014 from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, a nationwide census of traffic fatalities information maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The association between medical marijuana laws and traffic fatalities for drivers, passengers, cyclists, and pedestrians was examined for each state enacting the laws. They also evaluated the link between marijuana dispensaries and traffic fatalities. Overall, a total of 1.22 million deaths were attributed to traffic crashes occurring in the 50 states during the study period. Not all states with medical marijuana laws experienced reductions in traffic fatality rates, and a few states actually experienced increases. In California, after an initial immediate reduction of 16 percent in traffic fatalities and in New Mexico, after an immediate post-law reduction of 17.5 percent, the laws were actually associated with gradual increases in fatality rates. "These findings provide evidence of the heterogeneity of medical marijuana laws and indicate the need for further research on the particularities of implementing the laws at the local level. It also indicates an interaction of medical marijuana laws with other aspects, such as stronger police enforcement, that may influence traffic fatality rates," noted Santaella-Tenorio. "It is also possible that states with medical marijuana laws and lower traffic fatality rates may be related to lower levels of alcohol-impaired driving behavior in these states," noted Silvia Martins, MD, PhD, associate professor at the Mailman School and senior author. "We found evidence that states with the marijuana laws in place compared with those which did not, reported, on average, lower rates of drivers endorsing driving after having too many drinks. We can also point to other characteristics such as the strength of public health laws related to driving, infrastructure characteristics, or the quality of health care systems, as a partial explanation for these findings." "The evidence linking medical marijuana laws and traffic fatalities lays the groundwork for future studies on specific mechanisms," said Santaella-Tenorio. "We also expect another area of study will be the association between the laws and nonfatal traffic injuries." Co-authors are Christine M. Mauro, Melanie M. Wall, June H. Kim, Katherine M. Keyes, and Deborah S. Hasin--all of the Mailman School of Public Health; Magdalena Cerdá, University of California, Davis; and Sandro Galea, Boston University. This work was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (grants R01DA037866, R01DA034244, T32 DA031099, K01 DA030449), the New York State Psychiatric Institute; and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (grant K01 AA021511). Dr. Santaella-Tenorio is funded by the J. William Fulbright and the Colciencias doctoral scholarships. Founded in 1922, Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health pursues an agenda of research, education, and service to address the critical and complex public health issues affecting New Yorkers, the nation and the world. The Mailman School is the third largest recipient of NIH grants among schools of public health. Its over 450 multi-disciplinary faculty members work in more than 100 countries around the world, addressing such issues as preventing infectious and chronic diseases, environmental health, maternal and child health, health policy, climate change & health, and public health preparedness. It is a leader in public health education with over 1,300 graduate students from more than 40 nations pursuing a variety of master's and doctoral degree programs. The Mailman School is also home to numerous world-renowned research centers including ICAP (formerly the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs) and the Center for Infection and Immunity. For more information, please visit http://www. .


News Article | March 1, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

March 1, 2017 -- The prevalence of smoking has remained fairly stable over the past decade after declining sharply for many years. To determine whether an increase in certain barriers to successful cessation and sustained abstinence may be contributing to this slowed decline, researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health analyzed changes in the prevalence of depression among current, former and never smokers in the U.S. The team found that depression appeared to have significantly increased in the U.S. from 2005 to 2013 among smokers, as well as among former and never smokers. While the prevalence of depression is consistently highest among smokers, the rate of increase in depression was most prominent among former and never smokers. The full study findings are published online in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence. The research team, led by Renee Goodwin, PhD, in the Department of Epidemiology, analyzed data from the National Household Survey on Drug Use, an annual cross-sectional study of approximately 497, 000 Americans, ages 12 and over. The prevalence of past 12-month depression was examined annually among current (past 12-month), former (not past 12-month), and lifetime non-smokers from 2005 to 2013. The researchers further analyzed the data by age, gender, and household income. "The prevalence of depression increased and remains higher among current smokers overall, but the rate of the increase among former and never smokers was even more prominent," noted Dr. Goodwin. Striking temporal changes emerged by age, gender and income. Specifically, depression increased significantly, from 16 percent to 22 percent, among current smokers aged 12 to17, and the prevalence was consistently more than twice as high as that of never smokers. The increase in depression also rose from 6 percent to 8 percent among male smokers and increased from 6 percent to 9 percent among smokers in the highest income group. Throughout this period, the prevalence of depression among current smokers was consistently twice as high as among former and never smokers. "The very high rates of depression among the youngest smokers, those aged 12-17, is very concerning, as it may impair their ability not only to stop smoking, but also to navigate the important developmental tasks of adolescence that are important for a successful adult life" said Mailman School of Public Health's Dr. Deborah Hasin, a senior member of the research team. "Public health efforts aimed at decreasing the prevalence of smoking must take depression into account, a common and modifiable barrier whose treatment may help to increase successful smoking cessation," said Dr. Goodwin, adjunct associate professor of Epidemiology. "We also need to examine factors that may be leading increases in depression in the U.S. population among both smokers and non-smokers." Co-authors are: Melanie Wall, Mailman School of Public Health; Lorra Garey, University of Houston; Michael Zvolensky, University of Houston; Lisa Dierker, Wesleyan University; Sandro Galea, Boston University School of Public Health; Misato Gbedemah, City University of New York; Andrea Weinberger, Albert Einstein College of Medicine; Jill Williams, Rutgers University-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School; Mei-Chen Hu, New York State Psychiatric Institute; and Deborah Hasin, Mailman School of Public Health. The study was supported by National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Drug Abuse, grant #DA-20892. Founded in 1922, Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health pursues an agenda of research, education, and service to address the critical and complex public health issues affecting New Yorkers, the nation and the world. The Mailman School is the third largest recipient of NIH grants among schools of public health. Its over 450 multi-disciplinary faculty members work in more than 100 countries around the world, addressing such issues as preventing infectious and chronic diseases, environmental health, maternal and child health, health policy, climate change & health, and public health preparedness. It is a leader in public health education with over 1,300 graduate students from more than 40 nations pursuing a variety of master's and doctoral degree programs. The Mailman School is also home to numerous world-renowned research centers including ICAP (formerly the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs) and the Center for Infection and Immunity. For more information, please visit http://www. .


News Article | February 16, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

February 16, 2017-- Newly released findings from national HIV surveys in Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Zambia reveal extraordinary progress in confronting the HIV epidemic. These three countries in Southern Africa have been heavily affected by HIV, and now there are encouraging signs that the epidemics are going in the right direction. The findings, presented today at the 2017 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI), are from the PEPFAR-supported Population-based HIV Impact Assessment (PHIA) Project surveys. The surveys are led by each Ministry of Health, with technical assistance from ICAP at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health in collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Compared with previous estimates, the PHIA data show that the rate of new infections (incidence) is stabilizing or declining. In addition, more than half of all adults living with HIV, regardless of use of antiretroviral medication, have a suppressed viral load and for those on antiretroviral medication, viral suppression is close to 90 percent. "Taken together, these findings tell a coherent and remarkable story of progress," said Dr. Jessica Justman, principal investigator and associate professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health. "We can see that Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia are on track to hit the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets by 2020." Understanding the true status of an HIV epidemic rests on accurate measures of HIV prevalence, HIV incidence, and viral load suppression. These critical estimates provide a "report card" on the control of the epidemic and indicate where resources should be channeled to enable continued progress toward the 90-90-90 targets. The PHIA Project provides such information by directly assessing all of these measures through household surveys. "These results are gratifying evidence that the investment by PEPFAR and other donors, and the efforts of national HIV programs, are paying off. The data from the PHIA surveys provide greater insights on where to focus our collective efforts and resources going forward," said Dr. Shannon Hader, director of the Division of Global HIV and Tuberculosis at CDC. In Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, nationally representative groups of adults and children were recruited in each country in 2015-16. Across the three countries, a total of 76,000 adults and children from 34,000 selected households took part in interviews and provided blood samples for testing. Participants received their HIV test result from a trained counselor during the same visit. Combined HIV prevalence across the three countries was 12.2 percent among adults ages 15-59 years and 1.4 percent among children ages 0-14 years. Combined HIV incidence among adults was 0.51 percent. The combined prevalence of viral suppression (HIV RNA "These results reflect successful HIV care and treatment programs in each country," said Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, Director of ICAP and University Professor of Epidemiology and Dr. Mathilde Krim-amfAR Chair of Global Health at the Mailman School of Public Health. "Now more than ever, we have to keep our foot on the pedal and push even harder. Targeted testing, especially for adolescents and young adults, and continued expansion of HIV treatment programs and other prevention interventions for all will be critical to achieve ultimate epidemic control." For more information, see the PHIA Project website: phia.icap.columbia.edu. The PHIA Project is a five-year, multi-country initiative funded by U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and conducted by ICAP at Columbia University, CDC, and local governmental and nongovernmental partners. The PHIA Project consists of household-based, population surveys that will collect information related to HIV in 13 countries. This project is supported by the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) under the terms of cooperative agreement #U2GGH001226. The contents are the responsibility of ICAP and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United States Government. ICAP was founded in 2003 at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. Now a global leader in HIV and health systems strengthening, ICAP provides technical assistance and implementation support to governments and non-governmental organizations in more than 21 countries. ICAP has supported work at more than 5,300 health facilities around the world. More than 2.3 million people have received HIV care through ICAP-supported programs and over 1.3 million have begun antiretroviral therapy. Online at icap.columbia.edu Founded in 1922, Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health pursues an agenda of research, education, and service to address the critical and complex public health issues affecting New Yorkers, the nation and the world. The Mailman School is the third largest recipient of NIH grants among schools of public health. Its over 450 multi-disciplinary faculty members work in more than 100 countries around the world, addressing such issues as preventing infectious and chronic diseases, environmental health, maternal and child health, health policy, climate change & health, and public health preparedness. It is a leader in public health education with over 1,300 graduate students from more than 40 nations pursuing a variety of master's and doctoral degree programs. The Mailman School is also home to numerous world-renowned research centers including ICAP (formerly the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs) and the Center for Infection and Immunity. For more information, please visit http://www. .


News Article | February 15, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

February 13, 2017 -- A study just released by Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health reports on the health of American women who were deployed to Vietnam for either military or civilian service. The results show that 48 percent of career military women were very happy compared to 38 percent of women in the general population, and of better than average physical and mental health. The study is the first study to describe the experiences of civilian women deployed to a warzone, compare them to those of military women and match the patterns of general health and happiness for women deployed to Vietnam with a representative sample of their peers. Findings are published online in the journal Social Science & Medicine--Population Health. In addition to positive aspects of service, adverse effects were also noted. Women who served less than 10 years in the military were more likely to report their Vietnam experience as "highly stressful" (28 percent) compared to career military women who served more than 20 years (12 percent) and civilian women (13 percent). They cited such stressors as poor living and working conditions, exposure to the consequences of war, physical threat, negative interpersonal experiences (including rape and sexual harassment), and drug and alcohol problems. About 265,000 women served in the U.S. military during the Vietnam Era, with as many as 11,000 deployed to Vietnam but not formally assigned combat roles. Nonetheless, they were deployed to combat zones where they experienced warzone stressors and hostile fire. "Our results suggest that a military career--which by military rules in force during the Vietnam era, precluded a woman from typical wife and mother roles--afforded women a meaningful experience that continued to positively impact their emotional well-being, even decades after the war," said Jeanne Mager Stellman, PhD, professor emerita of Health Policy and Management and senior author. Career military women who never had children also reported being happier than the average American woman. "Women who volunteered and went to Vietnam in the 1960s may have done so as a way of breaking away from the traditional roles assigned to women in the United States during that time, and they seem to have continued on a different trajectory in post-war years," said Dr. Stellman. Collaborating with the Vietnam Women's Memorial Project, Dr. Stellman and colleagues at the VA National Center for PTSD, VA Boston Healthcare System and Boston University School of Medicine also compared civilian women, primarily American Red Cross workers, to military women and studied how warzone experiences, exposure to casualties and sexual harassment, affected their current health. They also compared the deployed women to women of comparable age in the General Social Survey, a widely used representative study of Americans. Both military and civilian women who served in Vietnam, regardless of whether they continued to make the military their career, were less likely to have married or have had children than women from the general population. Deployment to Vietnam for both military and civilian women had other positive aspects. Many women reported satisfaction from their work with the wounded troops and civilians in Vietnam. Those who served as nurses, in particular, commented that they were given much more responsibility in their positions while in Vietnam than they would have had in a similar civilian job in the U. S. An earlier paper by Dr. Stellman and the Boston-VA based group evaluated the psychological well-being of approximately 1,300 female military personnel, Red Cross workers, and others deployed to Vietnam. "Our new study underscores the benefits of a military career for those women who chose it," noted Dr. Stellman. "Entering military service or volunteering for civilian activities in a warzone offered an opportunity for talented women to establish careers, and rise to high ranks and achieve positions that would be impossible in the civilian world. In addition, career military women in general, lived in a supportive community that was knowledgeable and sympathetic to their work. What we learned from this study can help to improve the experiences and well-being of current and future generations of female military personnel," noted Dr. Stellman. Co-authors include Anica Pless Kaiser and Eve H. Davison, Veteran Affairs A National Center for PTSD, Veteran Affairs Boston Healthcare System and Boston University School of Medicine; Avron Spiro III, Massachusetts Veterans Epidemiology Research and Information Center, VA Boston Healthcare System and Boston University Schools of Public Health and Medicine; Daniel H. Kabat, Mailman School of Public Health, now Gold Health Strategies, Inc. The study was supported by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS-VA-5124-98-001), National Institute on Aging (R24-AG039343), and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (IK2 RX001832-01A2. Founded in 1922, Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health pursues an agenda of research, education, and service to address the critical and complex public health issues affecting New Yorkers, the nation and the world. The Mailman School is the third largest recipient of NIH grants among schools of public health. Its over 450 multi-disciplinary faculty members work in more than 100 countries around the world, addressing such issues as preventing infectious and chronic diseases, environmental health, maternal and child health, health policy, climate change & health, and public health preparedness. It is a leader in public health education with over 1,300 graduate students from more than 40 nations pursuing a variety of master's and doctoral degree programs. The Mailman School is also home to numerous world-renowned research centers including ICAP (formerly the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs) and the Center for Infection and Immunity. For more information, please visit http://www. .


News Article | February 22, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Women with signs of active genital herpes had twice the odds of giving birth to offspring with autism spectrum disorder Women actively infected with genital herpes during early pregnancy had twice the odds of giving birth to a child later diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to a study by scientists at the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. The study is the first to provide immunological evidence on the role of gestational infection in autism, reporting an association between maternal anti-herpes simplex virus-2 (HSV-2) antibodies and risk for ASD in offspring. Results appear in mSphere, a journal of the American Society for Microbiology. "We believe the mother's immune response to HSV-2 could be disrupting fetal central nervous system development, raising risk for autism," says lead author Milada Mahic, a post-doctoral research scientist with the Center for Infection and Immunity and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. The authors do not believe that the risk is due to direct infection of the fetus because such infections are typically fatal. Instead, they suggest that neurodevelopmental outcomes are due to primary or reactivation of infection in mothers with inflammation in close proximity to the womb. About one in five American women carries HSV-2, also known as genital herpes, a highly contagious and lifelong infection usually spread through sex. After an initial outbreak, HSV-2 virus lives in nerve cells and is often inactive, with flare-ups occurring with diminishing frequency as the body builds up immunity to the virus. The researchers sought to explore the link between maternal infection and risk for autism, focusing on five pathogens known collectively as ToRCH agents--Toxoplasma gondii, rubella virus, cytomegalovirus, and herpes simplex viruses type 1 and 2--to which exposure during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage and birth defects. They examined blood samples from 412 mothers of children diagnosed with ASD and 463 mothers of children without ASD enrolled in the Autism Birth Cohort (ABC) Study overseen by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. Samples were taken at two time points--at around week 18 of pregnancy and at birth--and analyzed for levels of antibodies to each of the ToRCH agents. They found high levels of antibodies to HSV-2, not any of the other agents, correlated with risk for ASD. This link was only evident in blood samples taken at a time point reflecting exposure during early pregnancy when the fetal nervous system undergoes rapid development, not at birth. The finding mirrors earlier epidemiological data indicating that activation of the maternal immune system during early-to-mid-pregnancy is associated with long-term developmental and behavioral problems in offspring. In all, 13 percent of mothers in the study tested positive for anti-HSV-2 antibodies at mid-pregnancy. Of these, only 12 percent reported having HSV lesions before pregnancy or during the first trimester, a likely indication that most infections were asymptomatic. The effect of anti-HSV-2 antibodies on risk for ASD was only seen in males, not females. But because the number of females with ASD in the ABC Study is small, the researchers say there is not enough evidence to conclude that the effect is sex-specific, although generally, autism is more common in males. According to the authors, further study is needed to determine if screening and suppression of HSV-2 infection during pregnancy is needed. "The cause or causes of most cases of autism are unknown," says senior author W. Ian Lipkin, director of the Center for Infection and Immunity. "But evidence suggests a role for both genetic and environmental factors. Our work suggests that inflammation and immune activation may contribute to risk. Herpes simplex virus-2 could be one of any number of infectious agents involved." Co-authors include Siri Mjaaland at the Center for Infection and Immunity and Norwegian Institute of Public Health; Mady Hornig, Ezra Susser, Michaeline Bresnahan, Bruce Levin, and Xiaoyu Che at Columbia's Mailman School; and Hege Marie Bøvelstad, Nina Gunnes, Anne-Siri Øyen, Ted Reichborn-Kjennerud, Synnve Scholberg, Per Magnus, Christine Roth, Camilla Stoltenberg, and Pål Surén at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health; and Deborah Hirtz at the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. The study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (NS47537, NS086122), the Jane Botsford Johnson Foundation, Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative, Norwegian Ministry of Health and Care Services, Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research, and the Research Council of Norway. The authors report no conflicts of interest.


News Article | November 30, 2016
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Scientists at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health developed a computer model to predict the onset, duration, and magnitude of influenza outbreaks for New York City boroughs and neighborhoods. They found the model effective in a test using data from 2008-2013; results appear in the journal PLOS Computational Biology. The researchers are the first to successfully forecast influenza with this level of geographic granularity. "Much like weather forecasts, flu forecasts are most useful at the local level," says lead author Wan Yang, associate research scientist in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences. "Our goal is to provide information so individuals and public health authorities can take measures to prevent illness." Yang and senior investigator Jeffrey Shaman, associate professor of Environmental Health Sciences, have previously demonstrated success forecasting the flu on the state and city level. In this study, they tested a new method to provide more localized predictions using data on incidence of influenza-like illness from 52 city emergency departments provided by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene combined with lab-verified regional flu levels from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By incorporating information on daily population movement within the city (the paper uses the technical term, "network connectivity"), they report they were able to forecast influenza activity at a much more localized geographic scale. "By adding information on the city's commuter patterns, we were able to boost signal, providing a much clearer picture on when outbreaks would take place, how long they would last, and how severe they might be," says Shaman. Like a weather forecast, flu predictions are made with varying degrees of certainty (for instance, an 80 percent change of a flu outbreak in the Bronx). The model was able to predict a small uptick in flu activity one week in advance 82 percent of the time; it predicted larger spikes with less accuracy. For severe and ongoing outbreaks, it predicted outbreak duration with 77 percent accuracy. It could correctly estimate an outbreak's magnitude up to 54 percent of the time. The researchers observed flu outbreaks occurring simultaneously in all five boroughs, including the 2009 pandemic, which was many times more intense than the other outbreaks during the six-year period. For reasons not understood, outbreaks were slightly more severe in Queens. Outbreaks in Staten Island were less intense; however, according to the researchers, this was an artifact as influenza-like illness in the borough was only recorded when a patient was hospitalized. Among 42 neighborhoods corresponding to local hospital use, the researchers observed greater geographic variation in outbreak intensity and timing -- sometimes weeks apart (video illustrating neighborhood-level outbreaks is available along with the published paper). Adding network connectivity at this level degraded neighborhood forecast accuracy -- something the researchers say reflects the fact that connection between neighborhoods does not match with commuter flows. Ongoing work is exploring alternate data sources to refine neighborhood-level forecasts. As of now, the researchers are not providing borough and neighborhood-level forecasts in real time. For real-time forecasts on the city level, visit the Columbia Prediction of Infectious Disease website, which reports weekly forecasts during the active flu season (as of November 30, 2016, activity remained low). Donald R. Olson at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is a co-author on the paper. This work was supported by U.S. National Institutes of Health grants GM100467, GM110748, and ES009089, and Defense Threat Reduction Agency contract HDTRA1-15-C-0018. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. Founded in 1922, Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health pursues an agenda of research, education, and service to address the critical and complex public health issues affecting New Yorkers, the nation and the world. The Mailman School is the third largest recipient of NIH grants among schools of public health. Its over 450 multi-disciplinary faculty members work in more than 100 countries around the world, addressing such issues as preventing infectious and chronic diseases, environmental health, maternal and child health, health policy, climate change & health, and public health preparedness. It is a leader in public health education with over 1,300 graduate students from more than 40 nations pursuing a variety of master's and doctoral degree programs. The Mailman School is also home to numerous world-renowned research centers including ICAP (formerly the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs) and the Center for Infection and Immunity. For more information, please visit http://www. .


News Article | November 15, 2016
Site: www.eurekalert.org

November 15, 2016 - New York, NY - Linda P. Fried, Dean and DeLamar Professor at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, will receive the 2016 Inserm International Prize, a scientific honor presented annually by the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research [Inserm], France's equivalent of the U.S. National Institutes of Health. The Prize will be presented along with five other Inserm awards at a December 8 ceremony held at Collège de France in Paris. "Throughout my career, my interest in the science of healthy aging has been guided by a belief that science and society, working in concert, can optimize our innate capacity for good health," Fried said. "I am grateful to Inserm for this honor and for the light it will shine on this body of scientific breakthroughs. My collaborators and I believe that such science can be the basis for the opportunities of our now-longer lives. Science offers enormous potential to build health for older people around the world and create the foundations to benefit all of us. Worldwide, the number of people aged 65 or older will almost triple by 2050, climbing from about 524 million in 2010 to nearly 1.5 billion. Fried, who has actively collaborated with global leaders to help realize the potential of large older populations, recently led an international summit on aging and health in Shanghai. The most populous nation on earth will be home to as many as 330 million people over age 60 by 2050. In designing the summit, Fried included representation from global academia, government, and private industry, all of which will be called upon to meet the demands of this demographic transformation. . John W. Rowe, Julius B. Richmond Professor of Health Policy and Aging Health Policy and Management at Columbia, suggested Inserm's selection marks a milestone for those within public health who study aging. "The importance of the Inserm Prize relates to its truly international scope and its focus not on a particular discovery but on a scholar's systematic body of work in an important area," he said. "Recognition of Linda Fried's research has special significance as it shows that research on aging, long neglected, has come of age." A highly regarded figure in international public health, Fried has dedicated her career to interventions that equip societies to transition to a world in which greater longevity benefits people of all ages. Her research creating the science of frailty, defining frailty as a clinical syndrome and illuminating its causes, consequences and the potential for preventing it has had great impact. Fried's scientific discoveries have transformed science as well as medical care and public health globally, and catalyzed greater interest in helping older populations thrive. Fried was cited by publisher Thompson Reuters in 2014 as among the top one percent of influential scientific minds of the prior decade. She is also the designer and co-founder of Experience Corps, a program that places senior volunteers in public schools in cities in the United States and around the world. Serving in both tutoring and mentoring roles, Experience Corps' older volunteers help enrich students' academic achievements while bolstering their own health through continued activity and community interaction. In a randomized, controlled trial, Fried successfully demonstrated Experience Corps' success preventing physical disability and cognitive decline among older adults, while raising child literacy. Before coming to Columbia in 2008 Fried founded the Johns Hopkins Center on Aging and Health, directed the Division of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology, and held joint appointments at Hopkins' schools of medicine, nursing, and public health. Prior winners of the International Prize include Chen Zhu, China's former Minister of Health, Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institutes of Drug Abuse, and Harvey Alter, whose work led to the discovery of hepatitis-C. Last year, the Prize was awarded to Peter Piot, who is currently Director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The 2008 winner, Tomas Lindahl, former Director of Clare Hall Laboratories at Cancer Research in the United Kingdom, went on to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2015. Founded in 1922, Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health pursues an agenda of research, education, and service to address the critical and complex public health issues affecting New Yorkers, the nation and the world. The Mailman School is the third largest recipient of NIH grants among schools of public health. Its over 450 multi-disciplinary faculty members work in more than 100 countries around the world, addressing such issues as preventing infectious and chronic diseases, environmental health, maternal and child health, health policy, climate change & health, and public health preparedness. It is a leader in public health education with over 1,300 graduate students from more than 40 nations pursuing a variety of master's and doctoral degree programs. The Mailman School is also home to numerous world-renowned research centers including ICAP (formerly the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs) and the Center for Infection and Immunity. For more information, please visit http://www. .


News Article | February 22, 2017
Site: www.chromatographytechniques.com

Women actively infected with genital herpes during early pregnancy had twice the odds of giving birth to a child later diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to a study by scientists at the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. The study is the first to provide immunological evidence on the role of gestational infection in autism, reporting an association between maternal anti-herpes simplex virus-2 (HSV-2) antibodies and risk for ASD in offspring. Results appear in mSphere, a journal of the American Society for Microbiology. "We believe the mother's immune response to HSV-2 could be disrupting fetal central nervous system development, raising risk for autism," says lead author Milada Mahic, a post-doctoral research scientist with the Center for Infection and Immunity and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. The authors do not believe that the risk is due to direct infection of the fetus because such infections are typically fatal. Instead, they suggest that neurodevelopmental outcomes are due to primary or reactivation of infection in mothers with inflammation in close proximity to the womb. About one in five American women carries HSV-2, also known as genital herpes, a highly contagious and lifelong infection usually spread through sex. After an initial outbreak, HSV-2 virus lives in nerve cells and is often inactive, with flare-ups occurring with diminishing frequency as the body builds up immunity to the virus. The researchers sought to explore the link between maternal infection and risk for autism, focusing on five pathogens known collectively as ToRCH agents—Toxoplasma gondii, rubella virus, cytomegalovirus, and herpes simplex viruses type 1 and 2—to which exposure during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage and birth defects. They examined blood samples from 412 mothers of children diagnosed with ASD and 463 mothers of children without ASD enrolled in the Autism Birth Cohort (ABC) Study overseen by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. Samples were taken at two time points—at around week 18 of pregnancy and at birth—and analyzed for levels of antibodies to each of the ToRCH agents. They found high levels of antibodies to HSV-2, not any of the other agents, correlated with risk for ASD. This link was only evident in blood samples taken at a time point reflecting exposure during early pregnancy when the fetal nervous system undergoes rapid development, not at birth. The finding mirrors earlier epidemiological data indicating that activation of the maternal immune system during early-to-mid-pregnancy is associated with long-term developmental and behavioral problems in offspring. In all, 13 percent of mothers in the study tested positive for anti-HSV-2 antibodies at mid-pregnancy. Of these, only 12 percent reported having HSV lesions before pregnancy or during the first trimester, a likely indication that most infections were asymptomatic. The effect of anti-HSV-2 antibodies on risk for ASD was only seen in males, not females. But because the number of females with ASD in the ABC Study is small, the researchers say there is not enough evidence to conclude that the effect is sex-specific, although generally, autism is more common in males. According to the authors, further study is needed to determine if screening and suppression of HSV-2 infection during pregnancy is needed. "The cause or causes of most cases of autism are unknown," says senior author W. Ian Lipkin, director of the Center for Infection and Immunity. "But evidence suggests a role for both genetic and environmental factors. Our work suggests that inflammation and immune activation may contribute to risk. Herpes simplex virus-2 could be one of any number of infectious agents involved."


News Article | December 19, 2016
Site: www.eurekalert.org

December 19, 2016 -- A new study by researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health found that the prevalence of past-month marijuana use among reproductive-aged women rose from 2.4 percent in 2002 to 3.9 percent in 2014, an increase of 62 percent. Past-month marijuana use was highest among those ages 18 to 25 years, reaching 7.5 percent in 2014, and significantly higher among those ages 26 to 44 years (2 percent). Findings are published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The researchers used data from the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health for the years 2002 through 2014. "Our results offer an important first step towards understanding trends in marijuana use among women of reproductive age," said Dr. Qiana Brown, postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Epidemiology, and the study's first author. Of the 200,510 women studied, 29.5 percent were ages 18 through 25 years and 70.5 percent were ages 26 through 44 years; 5 percent were pregnant. Increases over time did not differ by age. Past-year use was higher overall, reaching 12 percent in 2014, with similar trends over time. In nonpregnant women, prevalences of past-month use and past-year use were higher overall, with similar trends over time. Increases over time in past-month marijuana use did not differ by pregnancy status. Between 2001 and 2013, marijuana use among U.S. adults more than doubled, many states legalized marijuana use, and attitudes toward marijuana became more permissive. Aggregated data for 2007 to 2012 showed that 4 percent of pregnant women and 8 percent of nonpregnant reproductive-aged women reported past-month marijuana use. Earlier studies suggest that prenatal marijuana exposure may be associated with poor offspring outcomes including low birth weight and impaired neurodevelopment. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant women and women contemplating pregnancy be screened for and discouraged from using marijuana and other substances. "Although the prevalence of past-month use among pregnant women is not high, the increases over time and potential adverse consequences of prenatal marijuana exposure suggest further monitoring and research are warranted," said co-author Deborah Hasin, PhD, professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health and in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center. "To ensure optimal maternal and child health, practitioners should screen and counsel pregnant women and women contemplating pregnancy about prenatal marijuana use," noted Dr. Brown. Co-authors are Aaron Sarvet, Silvia Martins, and Melanie Wall, Mailman School of Public Health; and Dvora Shmulewitz, Columbia University Medical Center. The research was supported by grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, grants T32DA031099, R01DA037866, R01DA034244. The authors report no financial conflicts of interest. Founded in 1922, Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health pursues an agenda of research, education, and service to address the critical and complex public health issues affecting New Yorkers, the nation and the world. The Mailman School is the third largest recipient of NIH grants among schools of public health. Its over 450 multi-disciplinary faculty members work in more than 100 countries around the world, addressing such issues as preventing infectious and chronic diseases, environmental health, maternal and child health, health policy, climate change & health, and public health preparedness. It is a leader in public health education with over 1,300 graduate students from more than 40 nations pursuing a variety of master's and doctoral degree programs. The Mailman School is also home to numerous world-renowned research centers including ICAP (formerly the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs) and the Center for Infection and Immunity. For more information, please visit http://www. .


News Article | February 15, 2017
Site: www.prweb.com

Akonni Biosystems, a molecular diagnostics (MDx) company that develops, manufactures, and intends to market integrated MDx systems, announced today the appointments of key members to its leadership team. Michael Murphy, M.Sc. joined as Vice President, Regulatory Affairs; Sandra Foster, Ph.D. as Director of Quality Assurance and Michael Reinemann, MPH as Director of Business Development. The new additions to Akonni’s leadership team fill critical gaps needed to ensure Akonni’s successful commercialization of its robust product lines. These experienced individuals further strengthen Akonni’s leadership team as the company prepares for its first FDA submission for a pharmacogenomic test on the Akonni TruDiagnosis® system. Michael Murphy is an industry pioneer and thought-leader in the field of Pharmacogenomics, with more than 33 years of scientific and business experience. He is a serial entrepreneur in the personalized medicine space and in 1997 was founder of Intek Labs, the first international Pharmacogenomics company. Following the acquisition of Intek Labs by PPD, Inc., Mr. Murphy was the co-founder, President and CEO of Gentris Corporation. Gentris was acquired by Cancer Genetics Inc. in 2015 while Mr. Murphy served on the Board of Directors at Gentris. In 2007, Gentris spun off its diagnostic group and Mr. Murphy served as the President and CEO of ParagonDx, one of the first companies to win FDA clearance of a Rapid Genotyping Kit for patients taking the anticoagulant, Warfarin. He has also held Executive Vice President management positions with PPGx and Clingenix. Prior to joining Akonni, Mr. Murphy served for 7 years as President of Conatus Consulting, a regulatory consulting practice based in Raleigh, NC. Mr. Murphy is a frequent lecturer and author on Pharmacogenomic topics, and currently sits on the editorial review board of the journal, Pharmacogenomics. He has been responsible for over 15 successful 510(k) submissions, FDA audits and inspections. He brings the expertise in FDA regulations and Quality Management Systems for medical devices that Akonni needs to advance its commercialization and registration efforts. Sandra Foster brings a unique blend of scientific knowledge and quality experience. She began her scientific career as a Medical Technologist (MT, ASCP), working in hospital laboratories. From the clinical lab she transitioned to research before going to graduate school. She earned a Ph.D. in Immunology from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, followed by a post-doctoral fellowship at Duke University. Dr. Foster spent 12 years in clinical-phase biotechnology companies in roles of increasing responsibility from pre-clinical research and product design and development, to directing the manufacture of clinical trial materials and leading Quality Assurance and Regulatory Compliance. She designed ISO 14644-compliant clean room facilities for the manufacture of cellular therapy products for clinical trials, and implemented quality systems to support those activities. She designed, wrote and implemented process validations, operator qualifications, aseptic process simulations, comparability protocols, and authored multiple CMC sections for INDs. Immediately prior to joining Akonni, Dr. Foster owned her own consulting company, Triangle GxP Solutions, LLC as well as worked collaboratively with Mr. Murphy at Conatus. Client projects included translating R&D protocols into cGMP compliant SOPs, implementing quality systems, conducting client staff training, BLA, and pre-approval inspection (PAI) readiness. In her role as Director of Quality Assurance for Akonni, she leads design control efforts for product development, manages Device History Files, and prepares Akonni’s first audit for ISO 13485 Certification and FDA submission. Michael Reinemann has an exceptional track record of developing and implementing strategic, data-driven marketing and sales initiatives for diagnostic products resulting in strong double-digit growth and increased market share. Mr. Reinemann brings a diverse background, with experience in both technical and business roles. While earning his Master’s in Public Health at Columbia University in New York and working at the Mailman School of Public Health’s Center for Infection and Immunity, Mr. Reinemann worked on pioneering research projects in immunotherapy and pathogen discovery, and implemented cutting-edge technologies for highly multiplexed analysis and next-generation sequencing. Prior to joining Akonni in June of 2016, Mr. Reinemann served in various Commercial Operations roles at Qiagen. During his time at Qiagen, Mr. Reinemann led marketing and sales efforts that accelerated the growth of what has become the company’s single biggest revenue-contributing product. As Regional Marketing Manager of North America, Mr. Reinemann’s achievements included year-over-year growth of 55%, and the introduction of innovative co-marketing initiatives with strategic accounts, resulting in customer-specific growth of 75%. As Senior Global Product Manager, Mr. Reinemann managed a $150M product line with an annual growth rate of 25%, leading cross-functional project teams on commercial efforts as well as product development and product launches. His international business experience positions Akonni for success as the company navigates late-stage product development, registration, and commercialization of its technologies. “We are very excited to announce these essential additions to Akonni’s leadership team,” said Charles Daitch, Ph.D., President and CEO of Akonni Biosystems. “Each of these talented individuals bring valuable experience, demonstrated core competencies and dynamic industry insights from successful careers in clinical diagnostics. Our ability to hire people of this caliber speaks to the competitiveness of our product lines and their readiness to move expeditiously through the regulatory process. We are confident that we have the expertise needed to achieve our first FDA clearance and successful commercial launch of our TruDiagnosis platform.” Akonni is aggressively pursuing regulatory clearance of two product platforms – the TruDx®2000 platform and the TruTip® Automated Workstation. TruDx2000 is Akonni’s modular version of the TruDiagnosis® system, consisting of TruArray® three-dimensional (3D) gel-drop microarray diagnostic test devices and the TruDx Imager, complete with custom software for data analysis and reporting; the TruDx2000 can be bundled with or without the TruTip sample prep workstation depending on the needs of each clinical lab. The TruArray microfluidic device incorporates new, proprietary on-chip PCR technology, resulting in a much more user-friendly workflow, multiplexed detection, and a closed-amplicon system that virtually eliminates the risk of PCR contamination. The proprietary 3D gel-drop microarray nano-test-tubes can be tailored to detect genetic, protein or metabolite markers, providing the potential for access to a much broader range of diagnostic information from a single platform. The TruTip Automated Workstation is a small, affordable, fully-automated benchtop instrument. TruTip is a revolutionary technology that simplifies sample preparation by combining the complex protocols of DNA or RNA purification into just a few easy steps. The TruTip Automated Workstation is Akonni’s new nucleic acid purification instrument, which, in addition to blood and saliva, can homogenize and purify difficult samples such as sputum, stool and tissue. For more information visit: http://www.akonni.com About Akonni Biosystems Akonni Biosystems was founded in 2003 and has been issued 17 US and 24 International patents primarily covering sample preparation, microfluidic devices, bioinstrumentation, and integrated systems.    Product development has been supported by a series of government grants and contracts from NIH, CDC, DOE, DOD, NIJ, and NSF. The company significantly advanced the original technology by improving the system’s capabilities from sample preparation to test result. Commercial products in Akonni’s near-term pipeline include rapid sample preparation technologies for nucleic acid extraction and multiplex panel assays for detecting clinically relevant genotypes for pharmacogenomics, human chronic diseases, and genotypes for infectious diseases such as multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB), extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB), upper respiratory infections, viral encephalitis, and hospital-acquired infections (MRSA).

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