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News Article | May 22, 2017
Site: en.prnasia.com

BEIJING, May 22, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- As we get older, we are not only increasingly eager to maintain our young look, but we also hope that our brain response and memory remain good as well. Fortunately, with the development of science and technology, the scientific research products dealing with brain health of the middle-aged and elderly might make it possible to "keep the brain spry". During the 13th China Nutrition Science Congress held by the Chinese Nutrition Society, Nestle launched "Nestle YIYANG Fuel for brainTM senior milk powder" a new innovative product in the Chinese market. The product is specially designed to help people over 50 years old "refuel their brains and start a new smart life". Developing a healthy lifestyle and protecting your brain as you age China is facing a very grim aging trend. As shown by 2010 demographic census data, the population over the age of 50 accounted for 28.3% of the total population; as of 2016, there were 350 million people over 50 years old, accounting for 25% of the total population; by 2050, this proportion may reach 50%. According to Wenhua ZHAO, deputy director of National Institute for Nutrition and Health, Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the aging of the population, or extended average life expectancy, is the inevitable result of societal progress and development. Middle-aged people and the elderly should pay attention to a balanced intake of nutrients and development of a healthy lifestyle. According to scientific research, the human brain does not produce its energy, it needs to take in glucose, which is the main energy source, continuously from blood as fuel. When people get older, they tend to have slower reaction times, decreased memory and sometimes they feel their brain cannot fully function. This may be partially associated with the fact that as we age, glucose intake ability and use decreases so that the brain cannot get enough fuel to function optimally. Another alternative source of brain energy comes from ketone, i.e., when there is lack of energy, ketone as the metabolite of fat, can be taken as alternative energy directly for brain. Guowei HUANG, brain health expert and dean of School of Public Health, Tianjin Medical University said, "Compared with healthy young people, the brain of the elderly utilizes glucose at only 85-90% the rate of young people while patients with Alzheimer's disease utilize only around 75%. Studies have shown that medium chain triglyceride (MCT) can be converted into ketone bodies and serve as an alternative source of energy for the minds of the elderly." Experts believe that reasonable nutritional supplements for the brain help to delay aging and prevent and control various geriatric diseases, so as to achieve the goal of good health and longevity and improved quality of life. Compared with long chain triglyceride, MCT (medium chain triglyceride) is easier for intake and metabolism. It can rapidly release energy to quickly provide the brain with energy and nutrients. In the case of under-utilization of glucose, MCT can directly supply energy to the brain in lieu of glucose, supporting the brain's normal energy needs without being stored as fat in the body. MCT naturally exists in lauric oils such as coconut oil, which is a natural plant source ingredient. MCT has been early applied in medical care products with special needs, like milk powder for premature babies, sports energy products etc. Additionally, MCT has shown potential in research in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease. "Nestle YIYANG Fuel for brainTM senior milk powder" contains MCT which can be efficiently converted into ketone, the energy required by brain, to 'feed' the brain. This is why the milk powder is named "Fuel for Brain," said Marianne Tsanis, vice president of Dairy Business Unit, Nestle Greater China. At present, Chinese people tend to place great emphasis on treatment while placing little emphasis on prevention; however, prevention is more important than treatment for chronic disease management. As a world leader in "Nutrition, Health and Wellness", Nestle is deeply aware that with an increase of age, people need to pay more attention to their daily nutrition intake. Dr. Fabrizio Arigoni, head of Nestle Research Center Asia, will deliver a speech on the challenges of aging from a nutrition and health viewpoint at Aging Nutrition and Successful Aging Session of China Nutrition Science Congress and will emphasize the role that diet can play in preventing the onset of age related diseases.  After 50 years old of age, people particularly need nutritious food that meets their age characteristics so as to maintain good health and quality of life. To care for the elderly, in addition to encouraging them to actively participate in physical fitness activities, it is equally important to help them supplement nutritions and build a scientific nutrition structure. The launch of "Nestle YIYANG Fuel for brainTM senior milk powder" is another move to express deep concern for the elderly. Nestle has specially put forward a new concept of "happy aging" for people above 50 years old. Under this concept, the middle-aged and the elderly are encouraged to actively pursue quality of life and merrily enjoy their life. "As an old Chinese saying goes, 'Diet cures more than the doctors'. Nestle YIYANG has always been committed to providing healthy ideas and nutrition programs for people above 50 years old. We advocate the middle-aged and the elderly to be more proactive in managing their own health, and we also call on everyone no matter what age to pay more attention to their nutrition and health," said Marianne Tsanis, vice president of Dairy Business Unit, Nestle Greater China. As the largest food company and a leading company committed to "Nutrition, Health and Wellness", Nestle has been providing nutritious and healthy food for consumers for more than 150 years. Relying on its industry leading research and development capabilities, the network that comprises of 40 centers, Nestle tailors nutrient formula of dairy products for population groups of various ages. Nestle YIYANG is tailored for Chinese consumers above 50 years old according to their physical characteristics with an aim to provide them with better health and more vitality and enable more possibilities. Nestle YIYANG has launched three milk powder products for middle-aged and elderly in China, i.e., Nestle YIYANG Jianxin Gold 2-in-1 Formula Senior milk powder, Nestle YIYANG Omega 3:6 Jianxin Senior milk powder and Nestle YIYANG Protects(Yi Hu Yin Zi)Senior milk powder Plus the newly launched " Nestle YIYANG Fuel for brainTM senior milk powder", Nestle YIYANG brand has had four milk powder for middle-aged and the elderly for bones, heart, digestive health and cognitive ability, all of which are the health problems most concerned about by people above 50 years old. Nestle YIYANG cherishes the demand of middle-aged and elderly people to pursue "happy aging" and helps these people above 50 years old to have a longer and younger state through reasonable dietary nutrition and a healthy lifestyle.

BEIJING, April 21, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, 2017 Tsinghua Aging Industry Forum was convened at Tsinghua University. Centering on the topic of "Layout & Positioning", the Forum discussed the layout of and opportunities in China's aging industry and the specific practical experiences of social organizations, enterprises and individuals. As a leading company of Nutrition, Health and Wellness, Nestle delivered a keynote speech on Nutrition as Part of Solution for Healthy Aging: It also Takes a Village for Healthy Aging in China. Tsinghua Aging Industry Forum has been successfully held for 9 years and has become one of the most influential forum platforms in China's aging care industry. As the first food company invited by the forum, Nestle has always treated nutrition and wellness of the elderly as a focus and one of its research topics. Dr. Kai Yu from Nestle Research Center introduced Nestle's experiences and highlighted the important role of nutrition for healthy aging in China. According to the 6th Census data in 2010, population over 50 years old constituted 28.3% of the total population in China. By 2050, the ratio could reach 1/2. China faces severe aging problem. During the Forum, officials from the Family Development Division of the National Health and Family Planning Commission of the PRC (NHFPC) introduced the main message and background of the Planning of Development of the Aging Industry and the Elderly Care System in the 13th Five-Year Period. The Planning points out that compared to other countries, China faces more complex aging problems. The most severe ones include a large absolute number of old people and a rapidly increasing number of vulnerable elderly who live alone and who are disabled or partially disabled. The demand for elderly care industry is huge. China State Assessment Report on Aging and Health jointly published by WHO and NHFPC validated the situation. The Report mentioned that average life expectancy in China was 76.3 years in 2015. However, average healthy life expectancy was only 66 years old. "In the ten year gap, physical function and quality of life are affected by chronic diseases and other risk factors. Narrowing the 10 year health gap is the main challenge for realizing nationwide healthy aging." Dr. Kai Yu said, "Nestle's research on healthy aging is dedicated to explore nutrition solution for helping to address this challenge. Nestle is committed to improving life quality of the middle aged and the old people and contributing to extending the average healthy life expectancy of the Chinese people by providing healthy nutrition for prevention of nutrition related chronic diseases." During the keynote speech, Kai Yu introduced the concept of "biological age" which is based on measurements of biomarkers and functional indicators. "We usually say that an old person doesn't look like they are in their 70s and they look much younger. There is scientific foundation for why we say that. Published study have shown that biological age can vary up to 20 years depending on health conditions even for people of the same age."  Promotion of a healthy life style including improving dietary quality and having sufficient nutrient intake is an important way for prevention of nutrition-relevant non-communicable chronic diseases, which is part of the explanation for the mismatch between biological age and chronological age. Enhancing the quality of life through support of healthy diet and optimal nutrition is the focus for Nestle's R&D in the elderly related area. Increase diet's nutrition and realize the targets of average life expectancy According to Global Burden of Disease Study, the leading factor influencing the Chinese healthy life expectancy was not the environmental factor as is a hot topic for the country, but dietary risk factor. Kai Yu said that evidences from epidemiological studies have shown that the association between dietary quality and healthy aging. A large scale meta-analysis involving cohort data of 396,000 people above 60 years old in Europe and the US sponsored by EU demonstrated that an increase of 10 Healthy Diet Indicator points was significantly associated with a decrease risk of all-cause mortality, equivalent to a two year increase in life expectancy." In laymen's word, the finding of the research suggested that it was never too old to eat healthy. In October 2016, the national Healthy China 2030 Plan proposed that by the year 2030, there is a goal to increase average life expectancy in China to 79 years old, 3 years increase from 76 years in 2015. Kai Yu believed that the improvement of dietary quality and nutrition status would be an important contributor to reach this goal. "Considering the fact that dietary risk as the no.1 risk factor of suboptimal health condition, improving dietary quality could be an important approach to modify risk factors and helping to reach the national goal of increasing life expectancy of the population." China elderly dietary nutrition research carried out by Nestle Research Center and the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that among the 11 food categories in residents' dietary pagoda, intake of dairy products and fruits were the two categories that most insufficient compared to the dietary recommendation guideline for population over 60 years old. The daily intake of the two was just around 30 grams, only 10% of the recommended intake level. Enhancing dietary quality is the advice and practice consistently implemented by Nestle in elderly care. Apart from encouraging the elderly to take more dairy products and fruits, Nestle has also innovated dairy products for the cardiovascular benefits of the middle aged and the elderly people with its R&D excellence. Based on expertise from its global food and health R&D network, Nestle launched Yiyang milk powder in China, which was supplemented with phytosterol ester, an ingredient with cardiovascular health benefit. Through clinical trials, Nestle proved for the first time the clinical efficacy of phytosterol ester added milk powder on lowering total cholesterol and LDL-C in a Chinese population and the research was received and published by the leading journal in the field -Chinese Journal of Cardiology. One of the topics of the forum was how government, social organizations, enterprises and individuals could establish synergy in constructing elderly care service system. Nestle proposed to establish healthy aging industry partnership. In his speech, Dr. Kai Yu from Nestle R&D cited Finland as an example to show the importance of cross-function collaboration in helping a country to achieve healthy aging: "the success of Finland is a thrilling case to show if people from different walks of life join together, they can change the world." To reduce its world leading CVD incidence, Finland initiated a pilot community intervention in early 1970s and later upgraded to a nationwide program. Promoted by the government, supported by the Finnish people including industry and lay people, and strengthened by scientific innovation, the national dietary habit was changed. During 35 years' time, mortality of CVD was reduced by 75% (mortality of cancer was reduced by 53% in the same period), making Finland the example of prevention of non-communicable chronic disease recommended by WHO. "The cooperation proposed by Nestle is also a kind of partnership that serves the elderly with more suitable products and services in different aspects in life," said Kai Yu. A while ago, Nestle Yiyang and iQIYI video created "Yiyang 50+ Channel". It is the first video service platform for the elderly in China, providing the elderly with health and wellness information and programs that they are interested in. Nestle Yiyang also collaborated with Xiaomi Mobile on introducing a Yiyang theme pack tailored for the middle aged and the elderly. In the future, Nestle will continue to expand partnership and implement its motto of Creating Shared Value in the healthy aging industry. Nestle R&D used to carry out cultural anthropology studies to compare cross-cultural understanding of aging, with countries studied including China, France, Germany and Russia. The research found out that one common theme of people from different countries when they talked about aging was that instead of talking about age in absolute number, they would take a comparative perspective that make them younger. Marriane Tsanis, Head of Dairy Unit, Nestle Greater China said: "People will not always be young. However through appropriate nutritional diet, and a healthy life style, people can maintain a young condition for longer time. Nestle pays great attention to the genuine request of the middle aged and the elderly. This also reflects Nestle's purpose "Enhancing quality of life and contributing to a healthier future".

MacDonald N.E.,Dalhousie University | MacDonald N.E.,Dal housie University | Eskola J.,Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare | Liang X.,Chinese Center for Disease Control | And 12 more authors.
Vaccine | Year: 2015

The SAGE Working Group on Vaccine Hesitancy concluded that vaccine hesitancy refers to delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccination despite availability of vaccination services. Vaccine hesitancy is complex and context specific, varying across time, place and vaccines. It is influenced by factors such as complacency, convenience and confidence. The Working Group retained the term 'vaccine' rather than 'vaccination' hesitancy, although the latter more correctly implies the broader range of immunization concerns, as vaccine hesitancy is the more commonly used term. While high levels of hesitancy lead to low vaccine demand, low levels of hesitancy do not necessarily mean high vaccine demand. The Vaccine Hesitancy Determinants Matrix displays the factors influencing the behavioral decision to accept, delay or reject some or all vaccines under three categories: contextual, individual and group, and vaccine/vaccination-specific influences. © 2015.

Dube E.,Institute National Of Sante Publique Du Quebec | Gagnon D.,Institute National Of Sante Publique Du Quebec | MacDonald N.E.,Dalhousie University | MacDonald N.E.,Dal housie University | And 13 more authors.
Vaccine | Year: 2015

When faced with vaccine hesitancy, public health authorities are looking for effective strategies to address this issue. In this paper, the findings of 15 published literature reviews or meta-analysis that have examined the effectiveness of different interventions to reduce vaccine hesitancy and/or to enhance vaccine acceptance are presented and discussed. From the literature, there is no strong evidence to recommend any specific intervention to address vaccine hesitancy/refusal. The reviewed studies included interventions with diverse content and approaches that were implemented in different settings and targeted various populations. Few interventions were directly targeted to vaccine hesitant individuals. Given the paucity of information on effective strategies to address vaccine hesitancy, when interventions are implemented, planning a rigorous evaluation of their impact on vaccine hesitancy/vaccine acceptance will be essential. © 2015.

Butler R.,Health Security and Environment | MacDonald N.E.,Dalhousie University | MacDonald N.E.,Dal housie University | Eskola J.,Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare | And 13 more authors.
Vaccine | Year: 2015

Despite relatively high vaccination coverage rates in the European Region, vaccine hesitancy is undermining individual and community protection from vaccine preventable diseases. At the request of its European Technical Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (ETAGE), the Vaccine-preventable Diseases and Immunization Programme of the WHO Regional Office for Europe (WHO/EURO) developed tools to help countries address hesitancy more effectively. The Guide to Tailoring Immunization Programmes (TIP), an evidence and theory based behavioral insight framework, issued in 2013, provides tools to (1) identify vaccine hesitant population subgroups, (2) diagnose their demand- and supply-side immunization barriers and enablers and (3) design evidence-informed responses to hesitancy appropriate to the subgroup setting, context and vaccine. The Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) through its Working Group on Vaccine Hesitancy has closely followed the development, implementation, use and evolution of TIP concluding that TIP, with local adaptation, could be a valuable tool for use in all WHO regions, to help address countries' vaccine hesitancy problems. The TIP principles are applicable to communicable, noncommunicable and emergency planning where behavioral decisions influence outcomes. © 2015.

Jarrett C.,London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine | Wilson R.,London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine | O'Leary M.,London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine | Eckersberger E.,London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine | And 17 more authors.
Vaccine | Year: 2015

The purpose of this systematic review is to identify, describe and assess the potential effectiveness of strategies to respond to issues of vaccine hesitancy that have been implemented and evaluated across diverse global contexts. Methods: A systematic review of peer reviewed (January 2007-October 2013) and grey literature (up to October 2013) was conducted using a broad search strategy, built to capture multiple dimensions of public trust, confidence and hesitancy concerning vaccines. This search strategy was applied and adapted across several databases and organizational websites. Descriptive analyses were undertaken for 166 (peer reviewed) and 15 (grey literature) evaluation studies. In addition, the quality of evidence relating to a series of PICO (population, intervention, comparison/control, outcomes) questions defined by the SAGE Working Group on Vaccine Hesitancy (WG) was assessed using Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) criteria; data were analyzed using Review Manager. Results: Across the literature, few strategies to address vaccine hesitancy were found to have been evaluated for impact on either vaccination uptake and/or changes in knowledge, awareness or attitude (only 14% of peer reviewed and 25% of grey literature). The majority of evaluation studies were based in the Americas and primarily focused on influenza, human papillomavirus (HPV) and childhood vaccines. In low- and middle-income regions, the focus was on diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, and polio. Across all regions, most interventions were multi-component and the majority of strategies focused on raising knowledge and awareness. Thirteen relevant studies were used for the GRADE assessment that indicated evidence of moderate quality for the use of social mobilization, mass media, communication tool-based training for health-care workers, non-financial incentives and reminder/recall-based interventions.Overall, our results showed that multicomponent and dialogue-based interventions were most effective. However, given the complexity of vaccine hesitancy and the limited evidence available on how it can be addressed, identified strategies should be carefully tailored according to the target population, their reasons for hesitancy, and the specific context. © 2015.

News Article | February 16, 2017
Site: phys.org

The National Health and Family Planning Commission said on Wednesday that by the end of January a total of 100 people had died in the current bird flu season, which commonly emerges in winter and continues into the spring. The 79 deaths in China last month compared to just five in January 2016, according to the commission. The surge in fatalities has raised concerns that a severe outbreak looms, though health officials have said the worst has likely passed. H7N9, a subtype of influenza that affects both birds and humans, was first discovered in China in 2013. Most infected patients become severely ill, and nearly one in three cases are fatal. The government is urging people to avoid live poultry markets, where poor sanitation conditions can raise the risk of contamination. Ni Daxin, a top official with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, was quoted Thursday by the state-run China Daily as saying the common Chinese preference for live or freshly-slaughtered chickens was contributing to the disease's spread. "If the public buys only frozen poultry, control of the epidemic will be much easier," Ni said. The live poultry trade has been temporarily halted in the cities of Guangzhou in the south, Changsha in central China, and the entire eastern province of Zhejiang, among other areas. Zhejiang alone reported 35 infections in January, state-run Xinhua news agency quoted officials saying. The majority of infections occur through contact with diseased poultry and bird waste at markets and in rural areas. But at least two possible cases of human-to-human transmission have been reported since September. On the popular Chinese social-networking platform Weibo, many users expressed concern over the virus and paranoia over common-cold symptoms, while others said they were swearing off chicken.

Liu N.,Chinese National Institute for Viral Disease Control and Prevention | Yen C.,Centers for Disease Control and Prevention | Fang Z.-Y.,Chinese National Institute for Viral Disease Control and Prevention | Tate J.E.,Centers for Disease Control and Prevention | And 4 more authors.
Vaccine | Year: 2012

Introduction: Two rotavirus vaccines have been licensed globally since 2006. In China, only a lamb rotavirus vaccine is licensed and several new rotavirus vaccines are in development. Data regarding the projected health impact and cost-effectiveness of vaccination of children in China against rotavirus will assist policy makers in developing recommendations for vaccination. Methods: Using a Microsoft Excel model, we compared the national health and economic burden of rotavirus disease in China with and without a vaccination program. Model inputs included 2007 data on burden and cost of rotavirus outcomes (deaths, hospitalizations, outpatient visits), projected vaccine efficacy, coverage, and cost. Cost-effectiveness was measured in US dollars per disability-adjusted life-year (DALY) and US dollars per life saved. Results: A 2-dose rotavirus vaccination program could annually avert 3013 (62%) deaths, 194,794 (59%) hospitalizations and 1,333,356 (51%) outpatient visits associated with rotavirus disease in China. The medical break-even price of the vaccine is $1.19 per dose. From a societal perspective, a vaccination program would be highly cost-effective in China at the vaccine price of $2.50 to $5 per dose, and be cost-effective at the price of $10 to $20 per dose. Conclusions: A national rotavirus vaccination program could be a cost-effective measure to effectively reduce deaths, hospitalizations, and outpatient visits due to rotavirus disease in China. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.

PubMed | Chinese Center for Disease Control, University of Washington, Institute National Of Sante Publique Du Quebec, World Health Organization and 2 more.
Type: Journal Article | Journal: Vaccine | Year: 2015

In March 2012, the SAGE Working Group on Vaccine Hesitancy was convened to define the term vaccine hesitancy, as well as to map the determinants of vaccine hesitancy and develop tools to measure and address the nature and scale of hesitancy in settings where it is becoming more evident. The definition of vaccine hesitancy and a matrix of determinants guided the development of a survey tool to assess the nature and scale of hesitancy issues. Additionally, vaccine hesitancy questions were piloted in the annual WHO-UNICEF joint reporting form, completed by National Immunization Managers globally. The objective of characterizing the nature and scale of vaccine hesitancy issues is to better inform the development of appropriate strategies and policies to address the concerns expressed, and to sustain confidence in vaccination. The Working Group developed a matrix of the determinants of vaccine hesitancy informed by a systematic review of peer reviewed and grey literature, and by the expertise of the working group. The matrix mapped the key factors influencing the decision to accept, delay or reject some or all vaccines under three categories: contextual, individual and group, and vaccine-specific. These categories framed the menu of survey questions presented in this paper to help diagnose and address vaccine hesitancy.

News Article | October 26, 2016
Site: www.newscientist.com

A DOCTOR in Mumbai, India, puts a spit sample into a handheld device. It whirs away briefly, then a few minutes later a nearby laptop pings. The doctor checks the results to see exactly what kind of drug-resistant tuberculosis the person has, and the precise combination of drugs needed to treat it. “If you can identify drug-resistant TB in less than a day, you will massively improve treatment“ This is the goal of CRyPTIC, a global project run by a team at the University of Oxford. It aims to speed up the diagnosis and treatment of drug-resistant TB, cutting the wait from months to days, or even minutes. The idea is that the software will prescribe the right medication for TB just by looking at its genome. “It’s rapid,” says Sarah Hoosdally at the University of Oxford, who is managing the project. Handheld DNA sequencers will make it even quicker – though it may be a few years before such devices hit clinics around the world. “We’re hoping to extract the DNA directly from the sample,” she says. Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection that kills by attacking the lungs, until the patient dies of respiratory failure. It ranks alongside HIV as the leading cause of death from infectious disease. In 2014, 9.6 million people became ill with TB and 1.5 million died, according to the World Health Organization. The WHO wants to end the epidemic by 2030 but that will mean tackling drug resistance. The last 10 years have seen a dramatic rise in drug-resistant bacteria, which spread easily through densely populated cities in poorer parts of the world. A few years ago there might have been 20 cases of drug-resistant TB a year in Mumbai, says Nerges Mistry, director of the Foundation for Medical Research in the city. That number has shot up. “We now have 3000 to 4000 cases of drug-resistant TB a year – and those are the ones we’re able to catch.” Resistant bacteria can be defeated with the right cocktail of drugs. But finding out what kind of TB someone has – and thus what drugs they need – can take months. Identifying the bacteria by culturing them in the lab and using dyes can take 3 to 5 weeks, says Marco Schito at the Critical Path Institute in Tucson, Arizona. Then you need to test combinations of drugs to see which ones are going to be effective, and that can take another month. In the meantime, a person will be given the standard catch-all medication, which may or may not help them. “The way that TB is diagnosed is the same way we were doing it when the disease was identified over 130 years ago,” says Schito. “Often individuals pass away while they’re waiting for their result.” We need a quicker and smarter way to work out exactly what drugs are required – which is where CRyPTIC comes in. “If you can diagnose someone and know their drug resistance profile in less than a day, you’re going to massively improve treatment,” says Hoosdally. Teams at TB hotspots around the world – including the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Beijing, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in Johannesburg and the Foundation for Medical Research in Mumbai – are collecting data on the TB genomes out there and the specific drugs each mutation responds to. Mistry and her colleagues at Mumbai’s Hinduja Hospital have started sending TB genomes to a lab in Bangalore for sequencing in addition to running their standard culture analyses. The results from this and several other clinics around the world are then fed into a machine learning system at Oxford that is being taught what drugs work for particular strains of TB – to cut out the slow process of testing cultures in a lab. Machine learning helps the team untangle the complexity of TB resistance. For example, two bacterial samples with slight differences in their genomes might resist the same drugs without it being clear which genes are involved. We only know the resistance-conferring gene for a handful of drugs. For example, a gene called katG makes the TB bacterium sensitive to isoniazid, one of the most common drugs used for treatment. With a mutation in katG, TB becomes resistant to the drug. But in most cases, it’s guesswork – something machine learning is good at. The approach works in much the same way as image recognition software. Just as Google has taught its AI to recognise images of dogs, say, by feeding it huge numbers of images that humans have labelled “dog”, CRyPTIC is teaching its AI to recognise drug resistance by feeding it huge numbers of genomes labelled as resistant to a specific drug. When finished, CRyPTIC’s software will be able to recognise different TB genomes and recommend appropriate drugs automatically. CRyPTIC’s primary goal is speeding up diagnosis, but the project will also serve as an early warning system for new strains of tuberculosis – and potentially other infectious diseases. By tracking mutations all over the world, CRyPTIC will provide a bird’s-eye view of the battle between TB and the drugs we throw at it. “The key is getting that catalogue,” says Zamin Iqbal, who works on CRyPTIC’s database in Oxford. “The cherry on top is observation.” It won’t be easy since getting hold of samples and results from drug tests is expensive. Google needed millions of images to recognise dogs, says Iqbal. The more data, the better. With funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust they hope to succeed. Still, we must not expect AI alone to eradicate tuberculosis, says Mistry. That will require radical social change to address the socio-economic conditions driving infection. “It’s a firefighting tech at the moment,” says Mistry. “But we may bring it down, and I think that’s the right thing to do.” This article appeared in print under the headline “AI enlists to stop TB”

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