TAG: "Global health"

Research targets three neglected tropical diseases

UC, partner researchers receive $6M to target Chagas’ disease, dengue, onchocerciasis.

Researchers at UC San Francisco, UC Berkeley and partner institutions are receiving $6 million to speed development of new tools and technologies that will address three neglected tropical diseases that place a huge health and economic burden on people in Central and South America: Chagas’ disease, dengue and onchocerciasis.

Led by scientists at UCSF Global Health Sciences and funded jointly by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Instituto Carlos Slim de la Salud (the Carlos Slim Health Institute), the two-year project is titled FIRST (Fighting Infections through Research, Science, and Technology). The research, which is already under way, will focus on Mesoamerica, which comprises the Southern states of Mexico and Central America from Guatemala to Panama. A significant number of people, mainly of indigenous descent, live in poverty in these countries, making them vulnerable to illness and death.

FIRST promises to address three diseases that collectively affect billions of people worldwide, and have significant health and economic effects, by helping to find better treatments, more effective vaccines and other ways to prevent them.

“We are selecting projects that will give us quick wins, allowing us to make a huge impact immediately, as well as game-changing, high-risk research that will make a significant impact in the long term,” said Jaime Sepulveda, M.D., M.P.H., M.Sc., Dr.Sc., the executive director of UCSF Global Health Sciences.

“Although transmission of onchocerciasis has been interrupted in Mesoamerica, many indigenous communities are still at high-risk because current treatments do not kill the adult worms,” said Jim McKerrow, the principal investigator on the onchocerciasis project and a UCSF professor of pathology. “We will carry out a clinical trial with collaborators in Cameroon and the UK to determine whether Auranofin, an FDA approved drug, can be repurposed as a macrofilaricide to kill adult worms.”

The aims of the other projects in the FIRST portfolio include developing:

  • Low-cost diagnostic tools for early detection of dengue
  • Information systems that will provide early warnings of dengue outbreaks
  • New tests to guide dengue vaccine development
  • A cell phone app for crowdsourcing mosquito control
  • New, less toxic drugs for Chagas’ disease
  • Better biomarkers to monitor treatment of Chagas’ disease.

In addition to UCSF, researchers whose work will be funded by this project are affiliated with Blood Systems Research Institute, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Sustainable Sciences Institute in San Francisco and Nicaragua, UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, UC Santa Cruz, University of North Carolina, and University of Sao Paulo.

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UC Davis, Orbis partner in telemedicine initiative

Alliance will work to treat, prevent blindness in the developing world.

Today, UC Davis Health System and Orbis International, a leading global non-governmental organization (NGO) that works to eliminate avoidable blindness, signed an agreement of cooperation that will expand the use of telemedicine technology to help treat and prevent blindness in the developing world.

The new alliance, which features the expertise of the UC Davis Center for Health and Technology and the UC Davis Eye Center, paves the way for developing new research, education and telehealth collaborations to advance vision science and eye care on a global scale.

The World Health Organization estimates that 285 million people are visually impaired worldwide. This includes 39 million individuals who are blind and 246 million who have low vision. About 90 percent of the world’s visually impaired live in developing countries, and 80 percent of all cases of visual impairment can be avoided or cured. These include refractive errors, cataracts and glaucoma, the leading causes of visual impairment worldwide.

Through the agreement, UC Davis specialists in telemedicine, information technology, ophthalmology, anesthesiology and nursing will work with Orbis on initiatives such as  staff development, fellowships and programs on the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital — a fully equipped mobile teaching hospital on board a DC-10 jet. Trainees will have opportunities for hands-on training in the UC Davis Center for Health and Technology simulation center and Orbis’s telehealth program for real-time surgical demonstrations.

“Orbis is honored to join in this agreement with the UC Davis Eye Center,” said Jenny Hourihan, president and chief executive officer of Orbis. “UC Davis is such an impressive partner and dedicated in helping to make quality eye health accessible while advancing programs and technology used in eye health worldwide. We are excited to collaborate and share tools and resources to expand the reach and influence that telehealth has in preventing and treating avoidable blindness.”

The project includes establishing telehealth links that will transmit live broadcasts of eye surgeries at UC Davis to virtual classrooms in remote regions in the developing world with the opportunity for trainees thousands of miles away to ask questions of surgeons in real time. It also will explore live e-consultations with partners around the world and further Orbis’s ongoing efforts to establish an open-source ophthalmic electronic medical record system, which will help develop a more robust e-health infrastructure, provide access to increased decision-making support and offer researchers a wealth of global data.

“Advances in telecommunications technologies and broadband capacity in developing countries has created new opportunities to improve training for physicians, nurses and other members of the health care team and expanded access to health care services among the world’s most vulnerable populations,” said Thomas Nesbitt, associate vice chancellor for strategic technologies and alliances at UC Davis. “By partnering with Orbis, a recognized pioneer in establishing sustainable, quality eye health care worldwide, we are leveraging UC Davis’ expertise in telehealth and distance learning to have a profound impact on global health.”

Orbis works to bring quality eye care to communities by building capacity with local partners to develop infrastructure, trained staff and, ultimately, sustainable eye care services. Since 1982, Orbis has carried out programs in 92 countries, enhanced the skills of more than 325,000 eye care professionals, and provided medical and optical treatments to more than 23.3 million adults and children. Since 2006, nearly 20 UC Davis faculty and staff have participated in 14 medical missions, traveling to China, Vietnam, Peru, Indonesia, India, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Zambia and Panama.

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Why dengue fever prevention efforts often fail

Twelve-year study provides insights.

Studies on dengue fever infections took UC Davis researcher Robert Reiner (foreground) to Iquitos, Peru.

Newly published research involving a 12-year study of dengue infections in Iquitos, Peru, helps explain why interventions to prevent the mosquito-borne disease are frequently unsuccessful.

The research, headed by professor Thomas Scott of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is published today (May 19) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Defining variation in the risk of dengue transmission has been a roadblock to understanding disease dynamics and designing more realistic and effective disease prevention programs,” said Scott, a noted dengue researcher and a senior author of the paper, “Time-Varying, Serotype-Specific Force of Infection of Dengue Virus.”

“This study is an important step toward overcoming that obstacle,” Scott said. “We hope our results will help reduce the burden of this increasingly devastating disease.”

Dengue, a mosquito-borne virus infecting nearly 400 million people a year, is difficult to model not only because the majority of all infections are hidden, but also because there are four distinct serotypes, or versions, of dengue, each having unique characteristics, said lead author Robert Reiner, a Research and Policy for Infectious Disease Dynamics (RAPIDD) postdoctoral fellow in Scott’s Mosquito Research Laboratory.

“Typically, most infections go unnoticed and as such, measuring and modeling transmission intensity is problematic,” Reiner said.

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Harvey Fineberg named UCSF Presidential Chair

Departing Institute of Medicine chief will focus on global health during yearlong appointment.

Harvey Fineberg

Harvey V. Fineberg, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.P., the president of the Institute of Medicine (IOM), will come to UC San Francisco for a yearlong appointment as a Presidential Chair beginning in September.

Fineberg is a public health expert with a particular interest in health policy and medical decision making. He has been head of the IOM, which is the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, for two full terms, and will step down at the end of June. Before that, Fineberg spent many years at Harvard University; first as a college and medical student, and later as a faculty member, dean of the School of Public Health and provost of the University.

At UCSF, Fineberg will write and lecture about global health policy and analysis. He will be the keynote speaker at the UCSF Science of Global Health symposium on Oct. 2, which coincides with GHS’s 10-year anniversary and the opening of Mission Hall, the new building at UCSF Mission Bay where global health, clinical and other faculty will have offices.

“UCSF is an extraordinary place, and I am very pleased to come and join its global health faculty,” Fineberg said. “It is one of the nation’s premier biomedical centers, and it has become a first-class center for global health as well.”

Fineberg was invited to UCSF by Jaime Sepulveda, executive director of UCSF Global Health Sciences (GHS), as well as Sam Hawgood, M.B.B.S., dean of the School of Medicine and interim chancellor, and David Vlahov, R.N., Ph.D., dean of the School of Nursing. Sepulveda and Fineberg have known each other since the 1980s, when Sepulveda was a graduate student at the Harvard School of Public Health. They later edited a book together about HIV prevention.

“Harvey is one of the most respected and influential leaders in academic medicine, and we at UCSF are extremely fortunate to have him as a visiting professor,” Sepulveda said. “I owe him a lot. He has been my mentor for decades, and he’s also a mentor to many others.”

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Blum Center conference examines health inequities, solutions in Latin America

Despite improvements, childhood malnutrition, anemia, vaccine delivery problems persist.

Dr. Michael Rodriguez directs the UCLA Blum Center on Poverty and Health in Latin America.

Health has improved for Latin Americans in recent decades but Ferdinando Regalia, chief of the Inter-American Development Bank’s Social Protection and Health Division, reminded attendees at the second annual UCLA Blum Center Conference why there’s still more work to be done.

He spoke about an indigenous 16-year-old woman in rural Panama who just last year gave birth to a stillborn child, an outcome that could have been prevented if she had received treatment at a health clinic.

Regalia said it was “one of the thousands of deaths that happen every day in silence without witnesses, but with the same pain and affliction as (if we’re talking) about our daughters, wives and friends.”

“Let’s not forget about their babies,” he told the audience gathered to hear opening remarks at the conference organized by the UCLA Blum Center for Health and Poverty in Latin America.

The conference drew approximately 150 attendees, including health ministry and other government and community officials from 10 Latin American nations, on Tuesday and Wednesday to hear about health issues in the region as well as solutions.

Cindy Fan, UCLA vice provost for international studies, also spoke during the conference’s opening remarks, noting that the university has at least 150 faculty members in 28 academic fields that work on Latin American research. Units such as the Latin American Institute and the Blum Center are also focused on the region.

“The (Blum) Center seeks to anticipate policy changes and devise strategies to improve health and reduce poverty and address and combat inequities among disadvantaged populations and these are really important missions that a campus like UCLA is embracing,” she added.

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UCSF joins research partnership to eliminate malaria in Namibia

University’s work already has contributed to 98 percent drop in malaria cases in Namibia.

As we mark World Malaria Day this year, UC San Francisco’s Global Health Group is celebrating the success of Namibia, where malaria case have dropped 98 percent over the past decade.

In 2003, Namibia saw 450,000 cases of malaria; in 2013, that number fell to 2,500. The country is now on track to becoming malaria-free by 2020.

The deadly disease, caused by parasites that are transmitted from person to person by mosquitoes, is now found mostly in the northern regions of Namibia.

The National Vector-borne Disease Control Program (NVDCP) at the Namibia Ministry of Health and Social Services effectively controls the spread of malaria with interventions such as spraying dwellings with insecticides, distributing mosquito nets treated with insecticides, using malaria tests that can give accurate results within 15 minutes, and distributing medicines that kill the parasite.

To further this success, the UCSF Global Health Group’s Malaria Elimination Initiative is teaming up with the Multidisciplinary Research Centre at the University of Namibia, the Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the Clinton Health Access Initiative, and others to research new strategies and interventions that the NVDCP can use to get rid of the remaining pockets of transmission and eliminate malaria by 2020. Members of this research partnership will be working together to strengthen the national malaria surveillance system, learn more about how to eliminate the remaining reservoirs of infection in the Zambezi region and understand the risk factors that are associated with malaria transmission.

Worldwide, an estimated 3.3 million lives have been saved since 2000 through stepped up malaria control and elimination efforts, according to the World Health Organization. Mortality rates have been cut almost in half.

UCSF’s Global Health Group received a $15 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in December to help nearly three dozen countries eliminate malaria within their borders.

In 2012, an estimated 207 million people got sick from malaria, and 627,000 of them died, mostly children under five in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2013, 97 countries had ongoing malaria transmission.

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Grad students to present research on STDs, parasites in Latin America

UCLA Blum Center conference to feature latest research on health, poverty in Latin America.

UCLA graduate student Claire Bristow conducted research at a Peruvian university.

In Peru, HIV and syphilis are more widespread among transgender women and men who have sex with men, and so ensuring that these groups get tested and treated is crucial.

A research project supported by UCLA’s Blum Center for Poverty and Health in Latin America is contributing to efforts in Peru to make this happen.

Claire Bristow, a UCLA Ph.D. student in public health who conducted research in Peru, and Rebecca Foelber, a master’s student in public health who worked in Brazil on another project, will present their research on behalf of the center at its Second Annual Spring Conference May 6-7 at UCLA’s De Neve Auditorium. Bristow and Foelber were selected for the Blum Center’s inaugural Summer Scholars Program.

Conference participants, who include UCLA students, faculty and staff as well as policy and health professionals from 10 Latin American countries, will discuss the latest research on health and poverty in Latin America. The conference will also highlight solutions and projects such as Bristow’s.

“The Summer Scholars Program was developed for students to examine how poverty, government practices and policies, and other factors impact poor health in Latin America,” said Dr. Michael Rodriguez, Blum Center director. “More importantly, the scholars’ research can lead to better health practices and solutions in a region that is so desperately in need of them.”

Bristow spent last summer in Lima, Peru, where she developed a study that asked people in these high-risk groups what type of HIV and syphilis testing they would prefer.

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Experts ponder how to achieve global access to quality health care

UCLA Center for World Health celebrates launch with panel discussion.

Thomas Coates, UCLA

A young man at a drug rehabilitation center in Anantapur, India, lies chained to his bed, ostensibly to prevent the spread of HIV. With ankles blackened by gangrene, another afflicted with the virus accepts clean needles from a health worker on the streets of Puerto Rico. A third patient endures a 14-hour ambulance trip from his home in Laredo, Mexico, so he can die at an AIDS hospice in Tijuana.

In a darkened auditorium at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, an audience watched somberly as slide after slide, provided by science writer Jon Cohen, illustrated the human toll of HIV and the varied, sometimes inhumane responses to it — in South Africa, Haiti, Russia, the Ukraine and the United States.

But there was also a strong sense of optimism at this event that, with the right investments in health policy, people in rich and poor countries around the world can enjoy long lives and equal access to quality health care by the next generation. That’s the message that approximately 175 attendees packed into Tamkin Auditorium heard on April 15 at a panel discussion held to celebrate the inauguration of the UCLA Center for World Health.

Experts in global health came together to discuss the goal of achieving equal lifespans and global access to quality health care by 2035, a concept called “grand convergence,” coined by the Lancet Commission on Investing in Health. Moderator Thomas J. Coates, director of the new UCLA Center for World Health, invited them to define “what we need to do to take the science and really make a difference.”

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UC Global Health Day to be April 26

UC Davis hosting annual event.

UC Davis and the University of California Global Health Institute will host global health leaders from California and beyond on Saturday, April 26, during the fourth annual UC Global Health Day.

Topics ranging from global health diplomacy, maternal and child health, animal health, emerging infectious diseases, economics, migrant health, and more will be presented by faculty and students from across the 10-campus University of California system.

Keynote speakers will include UC President Janet Napolitano, former U.S. secretary of Homeland Security and governor of Arizona.

“When we talk about global health, we are speaking about the health of people not only in developing countries, but also throughout the United States,” Napolitano said. “With five medical centers, world-class health research initiatives and top-ranked educational programs, the University of California is making an enormous impact on the health of populations across the world, including people in need right here in California.”

The annual event, being hosted by UC Davis, rotates among the UC campuses. Past events have taken place at Irvine, Berkeley and Riverside.

“Global health is an increasingly popular field of study at UC Davis and we are thrilled to be hosting UC Global Health Day this year,” said UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi, who will give welcoming remarks at the event. “Because of our particular strengths in agriculture, medicine, veterinary medicine and engineering, UC Davis is uniquely positioned to address the biggest challenges of health worldwide.”

Registration for UC Global Health Day is open until April 22: $50 general admission; $25 for students. For more information, visit the UCGHI website at: www.ucghi.universityofcalifornia.edu/index.aspx.

Two UC Davis professors — Andrew Hargadon, the Charles J. Soderquist chair in entrepreneurship at the Graduate School of Management, and Jonna Mazet, director of the One Health Institute in the School of Veterinary Medicine —  will jointly present a talk on “How Breakthroughs Happen.” Jonathan Samet, director of the Institute of Global Health at the University of Southern California, will speak about “Moving beyond Global Tobacco Control to Global Noncommunicable Disease Control.”

Students and faculty from every UC campus will be in attendance at the all-day event, which will also feature 60 poster presentations and 16 breakout sessions, covering a broad range of global health topics, including:

  • Migration and Human Trafficking in the Pacific Rim;
  • Innovation and Infrastructure for Slum Health: Advancing Technology to Work in Low-Resource Settings;
  • 21st Century Global Health Diplomacy;
  • Working Globally at the Human-Animal Interface to Improve Health for All; and
  • Measuring Women’s Empowerment through Participatory Action.

See a video about the 2013 UC Global Health Day at http://youtu.be/3s5KbWfPU9E.

The UC Global Health Institute was established in November 2009 in response to the growing demand from students and faculty interested in global health research and education. The UCGHI convenes people from across the UC system to collaborate on research projects, and provides education and training opportunities through workshops, courses, lectures and other events. The UCGHI is composed of three multi-campus Centers of Expertise — Migration & Health; One Health; and Women’s Health & Empowerment. These centers lead education and training programs to produce leaders and practitioners of global health, conduct innovative research, and develop international partnerships to improve the health of vulnerable people and communities in California and worldwide.

Patricia Conrad, a professor in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, is co-director of the One Health Center of Expertise and led the planning for 2014 UC Global Health Day.

“It’s exciting to see the enthusiasm for global health at UC Davis and across the UC campuses,” Conrad said. “The diversity of presentations at this year’s event, and the cross-section of disciplines of the faculty and student participants, is quite remarkable.”

The UC Global Health Institute is jointly led by director Haile Debas, former chancellor and dean of the School of Medicine at UC San Francisco, and Thomas Coates, the Michael and Sue Steinberg professor of global AIDS research at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine and director of the UCLA Center for World Health. The institute has received $4 million in funding from the Chan Soon-Shiong Family Foundation and $4 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in addition to funds from the UC Office of the President.

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Community-based HIV prevention can boost testing

Prevention efforts also can help reduce new infections, study shows.

Thomas Coates, UCLA

Communities in Africa and Thailand that worked together on HIV-prevention efforts saw not only a rise in HIV screening but a drop in new infections, according to a new study in the peer-reviewed journal The Lancet Global Health.

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health’s Project Accept — a trial conducted by the HIV Prevention Trials Network to test a combination of social, behavioral and structural HIV-prevention interventions — demonstrated that a series of community efforts boosted the number of people tested for HIV and resulted in a 14 percent reduction in new HIV infections, compared with control communities.

Much of the research was conducted in sub-Saharan Africa, which has particularly high rates of HIV. The researchers were interested not just in how the clinical trial participants’ behavior changed, but also in how these efforts affected the community as a whole, said Thomas Coates, Project Accept’s overall principal investigator and director of UCLA’s Center for World Health.

“The study clearly demonstrates that high rates of testing can be achieved by going into communities and that this strategy can result in increased HIV detection, which makes referral to care possible,” said Coates, who also is an associate director of the UCLA AIDS Institute. “This has major public health benefit implications — not only suggesting how to link infected individuals to care, but also encouraging testing in entire communities and therefore also reducing further HIV transmission.”

These findings were previously presented at the 2013 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Atlanta.

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UCLA launches joint venture with Chinese firm to open lab in Shanghai

Clinical laboratory will provide more accurate diagnoses of cancer and other diseases.

Scott Binder, UCLA

The University of California and UCLA Department of Pathology have signed an agreement with Centre Testing International Corp., a Chinese firm, to create a company that will operate a clinical laboratory in Shanghai. The new lab will support clinical trials and enhance medical care for Chinese patients with cancer and other diseases.

The new company, CTI-Pathology/UCLA Health, is jointly owned by CTI and the University of California. The 25,000-square-foot facility — the first of its kind in China — will offer genetic and molecular diagnostics and other sophisticated tests that exceed the scope of the average lab in China, and UCLA pathologists will train Chinese lab specialists to accurately interpret the tests. The lab is expected to open in September.

The partnership is the first between a Chinese company and a U.S. academic medical center to create a specialized laboratory in China. The agreement was signed today at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in a ceremony that was videocast to China.

“This joint venture is founded on UCLA’s desire to build strong global relationships that, through education, research and service, improve the health of people and communities throughout the world,” said Dr. Tom Rosenthal, chief medical officer for UCLA Health System and co-director of UCLA’s Center for World Health. “UCLA has a genuine interest in elevating the level of medicine around the world. This is one way we can really make a difference in the quality of the Chinese people’s health care and lives.”

UCLA will oversee management of the laboratory to ensure that its operations meet international standards for quality, and CTI will provide capital funding and marketing expertise. The University of California Regents approved the joint venture on Jan. 22.

“We are extremely pleased that the UCLA Health System, UCLA Department of Pathology and the UC Regents agreed to partner with CTI to establish and manage our joint venture laboratory in Shanghai,” said Sangem Hsu, president of CTI. “Our collaboration will offer the people of China oncology, pathology and laboratory medicine services they can trust. Many of these services are not largely available in China and are needed by physicians and health care providers to accurately diagnose and treat their patients.”

The Shanghai laboratory will be electronically and digitally linked with UCLA — enabling physicians and patients to consult with UCLA pathologists — and with hospitals, clinics and other laboratories throughout China.

“CTI will be an outstanding partner in our effort to significantly improve patient care in China,” said Dr. Scott Binder, senior vice chair of pathology and laboratory medicine at the Geffen School of Medicine, and director of pathology laboratory services for UCLA Health System, which performs more than 7 million tests and diagnose more than 90,000 tissue specimens a year.

Jianyu Rao, UCLA

Binder conceived the idea for a UCLA lab in China and made the first of several visits there in 2005. Dr. Jianyu Rao, a UCLA colleague who speaks Mandarin, helped move the plan forward.

“In the past, Chinese medicine focused more on treatment than diagnosis,” said Rao, a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the Geffen School of Medicine and director of cytopathology at UCLA Health System. “Due to the rise of a more-informed middle class, the Chinese people are recognizing the importance of accurate diagnoses for their conditions.”

The partnership also has led to teaching exchanges between UCLA and China. UCLA has already hosted Chinese pathologists and technologists for training on specialized diagnostics for skin, blood and brain tissue and other areas. In turn, UCLA pathologists will travel to China to learn about diseases that are common there but rare in the U.S.

“Because pathology has a history of being undervalued in China, the country has a shortage of pathologists trained to diagnose and interpret complex test results in specialized fields of medicine,” Binder said. “Our partnership gives CTI and UCLA the opportunity to save lives by changing that.”

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Saving diabetics from blindness in Libya

UC Berkeley grad student, professor, alum join forces in international public service project.

UC Berkeley optometry student Fatima Elkabti and professor Jorge Cuadros discuss a magnified digital image of a healthy retina.

A UC Berkeley graduate student in optometry, one of her professors and a Berkeley alumnus have joined forces to build a long-distance diagnostic project that has the potential to keep a large number of people in crisis-torn Libya from going blind.

The public service project involves training Libyan doctors to take detailed digital photographs inside patients’ eyes, of their retinas, as part of routine health care and put the images online for remote diagnosis of damage caused by diabetes before it’s too late. Too often, diabetes-related retinopathy isn’t caught until it causes symptoms, when treatment can no longer save vision.

The first 11 Libyan doctors underwent training for three days in February in Istanbul, in a seminar organized by the Avicenna Group and taught by Berkeley optometry professor Jorge Cuadros. Turkey was chosen as the training site for security reasons and because it is easily accessible from Libya.

If all goes according to plan, many more doctors will be trained over the next year, both in Libya and out — all because of a project that developed rapidly from a seed planted in a Diabetic Health Clinic class in Berkeley’s School of Optometry.

In the class, Cuadros taught students how to analyze photos of diabetic retinopathy as part of EyePACS, the California-based online initiative he co-founded to train people working in diabetes care to screen patients’ vision for remote diagnosis by certified eye doctors.

In his class was third-year optometry student Fatima Elkabti, who knows firsthand the toll that diabetes is taking in Libya, where the disease is rampant but greatly underdiagnosed. Elkabti’s father, a Libyan, has diabetes, as do about half of her many aunts and uncles.

“I walked out of the class and asked Dr. Cuadros, ‘Can we do this in Libya?’ “ Elkabti relates. Do some research, the professor told her.

Elkabti got to work and within an hour found Ethan Chorin, who earned his Ph.D. at Berkeley in 2000, served in the U.S. diplomatic corps in Libya from 2004 to 2006 and has published a book about the recent Libyan revolution. He founded the not-for-profit Avicenna Group in 2011 with a Libyan-American colleague to catalyze health-related partnerships between Libyan organizations and U.S. universities. Traveling back and forth between Benghazi and Berkeley, he looked for ways to involve Berkeley in Libya’s reconstruction efforts.

“I shot Ethan an email, and within hours we were talking about how to make this happen,” Elkabti says. The Berkeley-Libya retinopathy project was off and running.

Diabetes-related retinopathy is one of the leading causes of blindness in Libya — as well as in the United States and in much of the world. EyePACS has brought retinal screenings to poor and medically underserved areas from California’s Central Valley to Peru, and the Libyan retinopathy project extends the concept to politically unstable and dangerous regions.

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