Novartis collaboration aims to eliminate rheumatic heart disease (RHD) in Zambia, Africa

NovartisNovartis today announced that it has launched an effort to eliminate rheumatic heart disease in Zambia in collaboration with the Lusaka University Teaching Hospital (UTH), the Ministry of Health in Zambia, the Pan-African Cardiology Society and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).

RHD is a complication of untreated streptococcal infections in which the valves of the heart are scarred and eventually degenerate, leading to heart failure. Eliminated by antibiotic treatment in most developed nations, in the developing world an estimated 15 million children suffer from this debilitating and often fatal disease.

"The toll of heart failure in young children with RHD in Zambia is immense, for the patient, their families, and the nation," said Mark C. Fishman, Cardiologist and President of the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR). "It is entirely preventable. For the past several years Novartis has been working with colleagues in Lusaka to help understand and treat asthma in young children. We are expanding the collaboration to raise awareness, educate, and provide antibiotic therapy to prevent RHD."

To measure RHD prevalence and identify those in need of secondary prophylaxis, teams of health care professionals from Lusaka UTH, the MGH, and Novartis will use portable echocardiography machines to evaluate 3,000 children, ages 9-10, in Lusaka-area public schools. Echocardiography screening is estimated to detect more than 10 times as many cases as clinical screening.

Images from the echocardiography screens will be analyzed in Zambia and at the MGH using a cloud-based electronic registry developed by Dimagi Inc, a Cambridge, MA-based company that designs open-source electronic healthcare systems for low resource environments.

Children identified as having RHD will be treated with monthly penicillin injections (termed "secondary prophylaxis") to prevent recurrent streptococcal infections and additional valve damage.

Primary prevention, the treatment of children with streptococcal infection to prevent RHD, is key to elimination of the disease. To this end, all children diagnosed with strep throat will be treated with injectable penicillin in the community-based study sites. Prevalence of RHD and adherence to secondary prophylaxis will be determined via the mobile electronic registry.

"We have assembled an experienced team from MGH who are excited to bring the mobile heart imaging technology to Zambia," stated Michael H. Picard, MD, Director of Echocardiography at the Massachusetts General Hospital and a Past President of the American Society of Echocardiography. "We are creating a model for country-wide screening through schools that will not only raise awareness of the magnitude of this disease but also offer a simple method to identify those who will benefit from a very simple and safe treatment. The MGH Cardiology Division and its Cardiac Ultrasound Laboratory are delighted to be a partner in this initiative."

The Pan-African Cardiology Society will assist with the development of the study protocol and ethics approval. Based on the experience of the initial Lusaka-based effort, Novartis plans to support the rollout of the RHD training and treatment effort to Provinces across Zambia, with the ultimate goal of eliminating RHD in Zambia.

"Rheumatic heart disease is the most common acquired heart ailment in Zambian children, but statistics are spotty and the disease is certainly diagnosed late when damage to the heart valves has already reached advanced stage," said John Musuku, Principal Investigator and UTH pediatrician. "Our hope is that the collaboration with Novartis will lay the foundation to detect the disease early so preventative measures are instituted. This is an effort to eradicate the disease across Zambia in our life time."

About Novartis
The Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR) is the global pharmaceutical research organization for Novartis. NIBR's research network is comprised of more than 6,000 scientists, physicians and business professionals working together across more than ten locations to discover innovative medicines to treat diseases with high unmet medical need.

Headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, NIBR is an affiliate of Novartis AG, which provides innovative healthcare solutions that address the evolving needs of patients and societies. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Novartis offers a diversified portfolio to best meet these needs: innovative medicines, eye care, cost-saving generic pharmaceuticals, preventive vaccines and diagnostic tools, over-the-counter and animal health products. Novartis is the only global company with leading positions in these areas. In 2012, the Group achieved net sales of USD 56.7 billion, while R&D throughout the Group amounted to approximately USD 9.3 billion (USD 9.1 billion excluding impairment and amortization charges). Novartis Group companies employ approximately 128,000 full-time-equivalent associates and operate in more than 140 countries around the world.

Most Popular Now

Pfizer begins a Phase 1/2 study to evaluate respir…

Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) today announced that it has started a Phase 1/2 trial of its respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccine candidate in healthy adult volunteers. RSV i...

Eczema drug effective against severe asthma

Two new studies of patients with difficult-to-control asthma show that the eczema drug dupilumab alleviates asthma symptoms and improves patients' ability to breathe bett...

Most popular vitamin and mineral supplements provi…

The most commonly consumed vitamin and mineral supplements provide no consistent health benefit or harm, suggests a new study led by researchers at St. Michael's Hospital...

AstraZeneca heads to 2018 ASCO Annual Meeting with…

AstraZeneca and MedImmune, its global biologics research and development arm, head to the 2018 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting in Chicago, US...

Tiny particles could help fight brain cancer

Glioblastoma multiforme, a type of brain tumor, is one of the most difficult-to-treat cancers. Only a handful of drugs are approved to treat glioblastoma, and the median ...

Novartis data at ASCO and EHA reinforce company's …

Novartis will present data from across its oncology portfolio at the upcoming 54th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) to be held June 1-5 ...

Spiolto® Respimat® enables greater physical activi…

Boehringer Ingelheim announced data which add to the growing body of evidence that show Spiolto® (tiotropium/olodaterol) Respimat® enables greater physical activity in pa...

Amgen Foundation and Harvard team up to offer free…

The Amgen Foundation and Harvard University today announced plans to launch a free online science education platform uniquely designed to level the playing field for aspi...

New approach to immunotherapy leads to complete re…

A novel approach to immunotherapy developed by researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has led to the complete regression of breast cancer in a patient who was...

Study demonstrates new treatment for severe asthma

Researchers from McMaster University and the Firestone Institute for Respiratory Health at St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton, together with colleagues at other partnering ...

The Pfizer Foundation announces $5 million in gran…

The Pfizer Foundation announced a new $5 million grant commitment to initiatives in low- and middle-income countries that provide family planning access and education for...

Study finds antioxidant-enriched vitamin reduces r…

Researchers at Children's Hospital Colorado (Children's Colorado) and the University of Colorado School of Medicine have found that taking a specially formulated antioxid...