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How to Improve on a Good Year for Global Health

Summary:
The discovery of new viruses, vaccines, and treatments in 2019 was the result of investments in global surveillance, cross-sector partnerships, and scientific advances. At a time when misinformation is calling into question the validity of facts, the world needs to support science more than ever. ZURICH – Measles went “viral” in 2018, infecting nearly ten million people worldwide and claiming 142,000 lives. Poor vaccination coverage and large pockets of unvaccinated children resulted in devastating outbreaks in many parts of the world, including in countries that had high vaccination rates or had previously eliminated the disease. Last year, the United States reported its highest number of cases in a quarter-century, while four

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The discovery of new viruses, vaccines, and treatments in 2019 was the result of investments in global surveillance, cross-sector partnerships, and scientific advances. At a time when misinformation is calling into question the validity of facts, the world needs to support science more than ever.

ZURICH – Measles went “viral” in 2018, infecting nearly ten million people worldwide and claiming 142,000 lives. Poor vaccination coverage and large pockets of unvaccinated children resulted in devastating outbreaks in many parts of the world, including in countries that had high vaccination rates or had previously eliminated the disease. Last year, the United States reported its highest number of cases in a quarter-century, while four European countries – Albania, the Czech Republic, Greece, and the United Kingdom – lost their measles-free status following protracted outbreaks.

Moreover, two studies demonstrated how a measles infection reduces the levels of pre-existing antibodies against other pathogens like flu or pneumonia. So, children who recover from measles become more vulnerable to other infectious diseases.

Fortunately, measles was not the only big global health story of 2019. The year also was full of exciting discoveries of new viruses, vaccines, and treatments that again proved the value of science.

Virus research made significant strides last year. For starters, scientists in Japan discovered the Medusavirus, so named because it can turn amoebae into stone-like cysts. Its genome is among the largest and most complex viral genomes ever found. Separately, researchers identified a new tick-borne illness – the Alongshan virus – in a group of patients in Inner Mongolia. For the first time, an insect RNA (ribonucleic acid) virus, the Providence virus, was found to have the ability to infect plants and mammalian cells – suggesting that plants could act as reservoirs of human viruses. Meanwhile, the...

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