Children

Dr. Sarah Benki-Nugent awarded UW Global Innovation Fund to launch environmental health research collaborative to reduce childhood neurotoxic exposures

Every year, the UW Office of Global Affairs’ Global Innovation Fund receives dozens of proposals from UW researchers and offers seed funding to the most outstanding projects that spark cross-continental and multi-disciplinary research collaborations, innovative study abroad programming, and more.  We are so pleased that Dr. Sarah Benki-Nugent (Clinical Assistant Professor, Global Health) and her team (listed below) is one of 20 awardees this year!

Study to make HIV testing informational videos and use saliva-based HIV testing in children launched in Kenya

Most people assume HIV testing involves blood.  While blood is the most commonly used, saliva is an alternative specimen to test and diagnose HIV in adults and adolescents.  Benefits of saliva-based testing include the ease of collecting samples and increased acceptability of HIV testing.  One example of a saliva-based test is OraQuick, a device used to collect and rapidly test saliva.

The OraQuick test strip collects saliva from patients’ upper and lower gums, then is inserted into a tube to test for HIV.  The saliva reacts to liquid in the tube and travels up the stick.  If only the upper line appears, the test is negative. If both lines appear, the test is positive.

Saliva-based testing has produced very good results in adults; however, very few studies have evaluated this method among children Considering the ease of collecting saliva compared to drawing blood using a finger prick (ouch!), saliva-based testing is a good alternative for this population in need of early HIV testing, diagnosis, and care.

Last week, Global WACh and the University of Nairobi launched a new study to address this need.  Led by Post-Doctoral Fellows, Drs. Anjuli Wagner and Irene Njuguna, the Saliva Testing and Video Information to Expand Uptake of Pediatric Testing (STEP-UP) project aims to validate the OraQuick test in children ages 18 months to 12 years old.  The project will also develop and evaluate the effectiveness of video pre-test information session prior to HIV testing.  Both strategies aim to increase pediatric HIV testing in outpatient clinics in Kenya, where high patient volumes make it difficult for healthcare staff to offer adequate HIV counseling to every client.

The STEP-UP study team completed a training to learn about OraQuick and how to perform the test.  The team had a great time participating in team building exercises, practicing collecting saliva from one another, and ending the training with a team dinner.  Check out photos below!

The STEP-UP study team from UW and the University of Nairobi

Lukio fills in questionnaire answers to a mobile data collection tool called Open Data Kit (ODK), while the OraQuick reaction is taking place in the background.

Tamasha practices using the OraQuick test kit, placing the test strip in the reaction fluid.

Tamasha practices using the OraQuick test kit, placing the test strip in the reaction fluid.

The study team will start recruiting participants this month in multiple clinics in Kisumu, Siaya, and Homa Bay counties in Kenya.  They hope to test 1,050 children for HIV and the HIV video consultation in 150 participants.  The team will also include a series of focus group discussion about patient and health care workers’ perceptions about using the OraQuick test and video consultation.  The STEP-UP project is anticipated to end in August 2019.

Global WACh Seed Grant Recipient Publishes in New Journals

Linnet MaseseEarlier this year, we featured Dr. Linnet Masese, then a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Washington’s Department of Medicine, as well as a 2011 Global WACh Integrated Health Seed Grant recipient.  Dr. Masese has conducted meaningful research collaborations around the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among adolescents and young women in Kenya and the barriers they face to STIs prevention, care, and support.  The first of three papers (“Barriers and Facilitators of Screening for Sexually Transmitted Infections in Adolescent Girls and Young Women in Mombasa, Kenya”) from her study supported by seed funding was published in PLOS One in January 2017.  We are thrilled to announce the remaining two papers were recently published in scientific journals.

In the paper titled, “Parents’ and teachers’ views on sexual health education and screening for sexually transmitted infections among in-school adolescent girls in Kenya: a qualitative study,” Dr. Masese and her study team focus on the acceptability of STI screening in schools for adolescent girls.  Parents and teachers can play crucial roles to influence adolescents’ reproductive health choices, thus, the study team felt it was important to understand parents’ and teachers’ attitudes towards sexual health education.  Through focus group discussions and in-depth interviews, the team discovered a great need to improve parent-adolescent communication around sexual health, to lessen the taboo nature of discussing sex.  Based on findings from this qualitative study, parents and teachers’ views on the acceptability of school-based STI screening suggest that expanded interventions are possible in this community. Data from this study may assist the work of other researchers and program planners with an interest in STI screening and adolescent sexual health.  This paper is published in Reproductive Health.

Based on findings from the first two papers, Dr. Masese and her team developed a screening intervention.  In the third paper, published in Sexually Transmitted Diseases,  (“Screening for Sexually Transmitted Infections in Adolescent Girls and Young Women in Mombasa, Kenya: Feasibility, Prevalence, and Correlates”), they recruited adolescent girls and young women from high schools and universities to pilot a clinic-based STI screening.  After attending information sessions, a substantial number of interested young women were willing to undergo the screening, many of whom were university students and did not need parental consent.  The study results highlight the strength of using school-based sensitization as a way to encourage adolescents and young women to seek STI diagnosis and care at health clinics.  While the clinic-based STI screening intervention suggested an effective school-based approach to decrease barriers for STI screenings among young women, younger adolescents continue to face the barrier of parental consent for screenings.

Both studies highlight the need to tailor or design reproductive health services to meet the needs of adolescents and young women.  Dr. Masese and her study team’s research achievements conclude school-based STI screening is feasible and acceptable when conducted in collaboration with students, parents, and teachers.  We congratulate Dr. Masese and her team for their excellent work, and look forward to learning how their work informs new approaches to improve sexual health education and STI screenings.

Dr. Tahmeed Ahmed Speaks at Global WACh on Acute Malnutrition

icddrbLast week, over 25 students and faculty gathered to hear UW Affiliate Professor Dr. Tahmeed Ahmed speak on the subject of acute malnutrition in children, from basics to delivery. Dr. Ahmed is the head of the Nutrition and Food Security program at International Centre for Diarrheal Disease Research, Bangladesh. Under his leadership over the last 25 years, there has been a 50 percent reduction in the fatalities of children admitted with severe acute malnutrition to the icddr,b facilities in Dhaka. Global WACh has recently established a partnership with icddr,b to research new ways to prevent stunted growth in children. You can learn more about Dr. Ahmed and the great team at icddr,b here.

Dr. Tahmeed Ahmed