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Pig-to-human heart transplant, Marburg virus in Ghana… major health issues of 2022

Pig-to-human heart transplant, Marburg virus in Ghana… major health issues of 2022
December 23
11:00 2022

From the world’s first-ever pig-to-human heart transplant, to Ghana beating its first Marburg virus outbreak, and the Langya virus surfacing in China, 2022 has seen its fair share of health-related incidents.

Below is a recap of some health issues that made waves in 2022.

WORLD’S FIRST-EVER PIG-TO-HUMAN HEART TRANSPLANT

David Bennett, a 57-year-old patient with terminal heart disease, was the beneficiary of the first-ever transplant of a genetically-modified pig’s heart. The surgery was conducted in January at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

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Bennet, however, died two months after as his condition deteriorated.

EBOLA RESURFACES IN CONGO

Although Ebola is not exactly a new occurrence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), in April and August, the country announced outbreaks following the confirmation of cases in Mbandaka and Wangata health zones, as well as its eastern province of North Kivu, respectively. 

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The August outbreak, the 15th the country has experienced since 1976, involved a 46-year-old woman who died in Beni, a town located in North Kivu.

However, six weeks after, the country declared an end to the outbreak after recording no other case.

MPOX IN NON-ENDEMIC COUNTRIES

In May, several European countries, where mpox is non-endemic, began reporting cases. Prior to this, whenever mpox was discovered in a non-endemic country, it was found to have been imported from mpox endemic countries.

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But it was different this time. In July, the World Health Organisation WHO) declared the outbreak a public health emergency of global concern — WHO’s highest alert level.

Between January and November, there have been over 80,000 laboratory-confirmed cases of mpox and more than 50 deaths across 110 countries.

GHANA’S FIRST-EVER MARBURG VIRUS OUTBREAK 

The Ghana Health Service (GHS), in July, announced the country’s first-ever outbreak of the Marburg virus disease, after two deaths linked to the virus.

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The Marburg virus is a highly infectious hemorrhagic fever in the same family as Ebola. It is spread to people by fruit bats and transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids of infected people and surfaces.

Ghana, however, declared an end to the outbreak after two months — a total of three cases and two deaths were recorded. The country’s outbreak was the second-ever incident in West Africa within the past one year.

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OLDEST PATIENT ‘CURED’ OF HIV

A 66-year-old man was reportedly cured of HIV after undergoing a stem cell transplant. The City of Hope Medical Center, US, where the procedure took place, said the man was in remission from the virus for over 17 months after stopping antiretroviral therapy (ART).

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The centre said he is the fourth in the world and the oldest to go into long-term HIV remission after receiving stem cells from a donor. The patient, diagnosed with HIV in 1988, reportedly developed acute myelogenous leukemia in 2018, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. 

To treat the cancer and HIV, doctors performed a blood stem cell transplant with cells from a donor who carried a rare genetic mutation that makes people resistant to most strains of HIV infection — the homozygous CCR5 delta 32 mutation.

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LANGYA VIRUS DISCOVERED IN CHINA

In August came the announcement of scientists discovering a new virus named Langya henipavirus (LayV) in China. Researchers from China, Singapore and Australia, described Langya virus as a type of henipavirus, a category of zoonotic viruses which can be transmitted from animals to humans.

A total of 35 patients in the Shandong and Henan provinces of China, among whom 26 were infected with LayV only (no other pathogens were present), were identified. The patients were thought to have contracted the virus from animals. The 26 patients showed symptoms like fever, fatigue, cough, anorexia, and nausea.

The researchers, however, said there is no evidence so far that Langya virus can transmit from human to human.

EBOLA IN UGANDA

On September 20, the ministry of health in Uganda declared an Ebola outbreak after a 24-year-old male exhibited symptoms, tested positive, and died.

The patient was said to have been infected with the Ebola-Sudan strain, with the WHO noting that it was the first time in more than a decade that Uganda would record an outbreak of Sudan ebolavirus.

The outbreak is yet to end, and so far, 142 confirmed cases and 55 deaths have been recorded.

MALAWI STARTS LARGE-SCALE MALARIA VACCINATION

Malawi began a large-scale vaccination of children against malaria in November, signaling the beginning of vaccinations in other countries in the future. This is the first large-scale malaria vaccination campaign since the World Health Organisation (WHO) endorsed the widespread use of the RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) malaria vaccine in October 2021.

The first phase of the vaccination is expected to cover 11 of the country’s 28 districts.

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