News Scan for Dec 03, 2013

Funds to fight global disease
Flu prediction tool

US commits $5 billion for AIDS, TB, and malaria programs

The United States has committed up to $5 billion for global efforts to fight AIDS, tuberculosis (TB), and malaria over the next 3 years, representing a $1 billion increase over the last 3-year pledge, said a PR Newswire release yesterday.

President Obama made the announcement in recognition of the Dec 1 World AIDS Day. The United States has been the world leader in monetary pledges to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria since its establishment in 2002. The new US contribution will be $1 for every $2 provided through 2016 by other donors, up to a maximum of $5 billion.

The Global Fund, the largest public health financier in the world, provides most of the international funding for TB treatment, prevention, and care programs, more than half of funding for malaria, and a fifth of AIDS funding, according to the news release. Its work helps save 100,000 lives each month.

Among other country's pledges so far are the United Kingdom with $1.6 billion, several Nordic countries at a combined $750 million, Canada at $650 million, and the Republic of Korea, which is both a grantee and a donor, at $6 million. In addition, private foundations have committed to funding the effort, including Indonesia's Tahir Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, each giving $65 million over 5 years, and Chevron giving $5 million over 2 years.

Said Deb Derrick, president of Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, "Together, not only can we control these diseases, we can extend better health for all members of our human family."
Dec 2 PR Newswire release
Friends of the Global Fight Web site


Study: Accuracy of flu prediction tool varied over season

A modeling tool's accuracy in predicting the peak of flu activity within 1 week was low early in the 2012-13 season but climbed to 63% in the weeks immediately preceding peak activity, according to a study today in Nature Communications.

US researchers developed the tool using data from the 2003-04 season through the 2011-12 season for 115 US cities, excluding pandemic years. They then used the model to make weekly forecasts in real time for 108 cities during last year's flu season. They then looked retrospectively to compare the predictions to actual peaks of virus activity in each city.

Early in the season, in late November, the tool was accurate for only 18.5% of cities. The rate climbed to 47.3% on Dec 21 and 63.1% on Jan 4—week 52. Of course, by that week, some municipalities had already seen their seasonal peak, guaranteeing accuracy for those cities. Most cities experienced peak flu activity from week 1 to 4 of 2013.

The tool accurately predicted peak flu activity for some cities, such as Birmingham, Ala.; Kansas City, Mo.; and Buffalo, N.Y., throughout the season. But it never predicted well for some cities, such as Chicago and New Orleans.

The authors write that their technique more accurately predicts seasonal influenza peaks for US cities compared with previous models.
Dec 3 Nat Commun abstract

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