Global health news round-up: Self-vaccination patches in Japan, HIV research in Finland

This week we’ve reported on increased funding for research into COVID-19 genetic risk factors, as well as new rapid mental health support for young adults with eating disorders.

But away from the UK-centric stories, there’s much more going on in the world of healthcare. Here are some of the international health headlines that have grabbed our attention, from 26 February to 5 March 2021…

First, in Finland, the University of Helsinki reports that a study by its researchers has discovered why current drug therapies may be ineffective for some HIV patients. The work indicates that protein kinases, which ‘initiate the process that erodes the body’s immunity’, can significantly contribute to immunodeficiency. It goes on to state that ‘drugs that block these protein kinases may offer a solution to treating HIV patients whose immunity is not restored by antiretroviral therapy’. (University of Helsinki)

New research from Japan could hold the key to future self-vaccination. The Japan Times reports that a team from Tohoku University has developed a ‘biobattery-powered microneedle patch’ that allows vaccines to be absorbed through the skin and into the body quicker than current commercially available options. This could allow people to apply patches and self-administer vaccines, thereby potentially speeding up the process and scale, and requiring less staff. (The Japan Times / Nature Communications)

Meanwhile, over in Argentina, the nation’s new Health Minister has had an eventful first week in the job. Newly appointed Carla Vizzotti has been quarantining after announcing she tested positive for COVID-19. The news comes after Vizzotti’s predecessor Ginés González García stepped down following reports that VIPs and family members of some politicians were jumping the COVID vaccination queue to get shots early. We wish the Health Minister a speedy recovery. (Reuters)

Staying in South America, but with more positive news, The Economist takes a look at the apparent success of Chile, which remains on track to meet its target of vaccinating 80 per cent of its adult population by the end of June. With almost 20 per cent of the country currently covered, Chile is estimated to be the sixth-best ‘performer’ in the world. As well as vaccinating health workers and teachers, the nation is said to be jabbing a different birth year each day. (The Economist)

According to Australia’s Department of Health, listings of new or extensions of existing medications on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) means positive news for sufferers of conditions such as multiple sclerosis, asthma and diabetes. It’s said that at least thousands with these conditions will benefit from the PBS subsidies, which mean medicines are made more affordable for citizens.

Some Australians with eczema will now also have access to a ‘life-changing medicine’ through this same scheme, with the government said to be investing over $270 million in the new listing of Dupixent® (dupilumab). (Australian Department of Health)