According to the World Health Organization, so-called Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) affect more than one billion people and cost developing economies billions of dollars every year.
Populations living in poverty, without adequate sanitation and in close contact with infectious vectors such as livestock are most affected by these communicable illnesses, which prevail in tropical conditions. To complicate matters, diseases like measles and tuberculosis, which were nearly eradicated a century ago, are again on the rise. And more common, eminently treatable infectious diseases – norovirus and flu, for example – are responsible for thousands of preventable deaths each year.
Fortunately, new medical technology has vast potential to control infection, contain outbreak, even deliver life-saving supplies to remote regions affected by these diseases. From antimicrobial paint to powdered vaccines to drone-delivered organs, these innovations are fast becoming a clinical reality.
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In the short-term, such tools can improve survival rate for patients affected by a host of maladies; long-term, they may help us understand pathogen epidemiology, essential to the development of global disease control programs.
Certain medicines can only be delivered by injection. The constant pinprick of needles is painful for patients and cumbersome for healthcare providers, while a shortage of sterile hypodermic needles in some areas can lead to infection. Now, researchers from MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and Harvard’s Brigham and Women's Hospital have engineered a coating that they claim can safely carry insulin beyond the obstacles of the digestive system and into the bloodstream – a kind of edible Swiss Army knife that can deliver life-saving medicine without the pain of needle injection.