Health and Healthcare Systems

Kidney disease ‘should be global health priority’, plus other top health stories

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Adam Abernathy is prepared for surgery to receive a donated kidney as part of a five-way organ transplant swap in New York.

“Kidney dysfunction is now the seventh leading risk factor for death", according to a paper published in the journal Nature Reviews Nephrology. Image: REUTERS/Keith Bedford

Shyam Bishen
Head, Centre for Health and Healthcare; Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum
  • This global round-up brings you health stories from the past month.
  • Top health news: Call to make kidney disease a global health priority; first successful transplant of genetically modified pig kidney; US on bird flu alert.

1. Report: Make chronic kidney disease a global health priority

The paper, published in the journal Nature Reviews Nephrology, says the non-communicable disease (NCD) has a “global prevalence that surpasses any of the other NCDs currently prioritized by the World Health Organization”.

This prevalence and associated rates of the disease and deaths it causes continue to rise – and the authors say this, and the associated financial burden on health systems, can’t be tackled unless it is raised up public health agendas to increase awareness of the disease.

“The proportion of deaths due to kidney disease has increased steadily over the past two decades,” the report says. “Kidney dysfunction is now the seventh leading risk factor for death; however, further increases are anticipated in coming years, which necessitates a greater focus on this NCD as a driver of premature mortality.”

The report concludes that doing so could improve and save millions of lives a year.

NCDs – which are diseases not caused by infection and alongside kidney disease include heart disease, cancer and diabetes – are the leading cause of death worldwide.

Graphic showing data on chronic kidney disease
The prevalence of chronic kidney disease has risen sharply since 1990, a new report says. Image: Nature

2. First successful transplant of genetically modified pig kidney

Doctors in the US, meanwhile, have announced the world’s first successful transplant of a genetically edited pig kidney into a human patient – a 62-year-old man living with end-stage kidney disease who has been discharged from hospital after the four-hour-long surgery.

The pig kidney was genetically edited to remove genes that could be harmful and to add others to improve its compatibility to humans. The procedure is considered to be a significant step in the emerging field of xenotransplantation – the transplantation of organs or tissues from one species to another.

It is hoped xenotransplantation could provide a solution to a worldwide organ donor shortage – and contribute to the goal of health equity – with the Massachusetts General Hospital calling the procedure “a major milestone in the quest to provide more readily available organs to patients”.


What is the World Economic Forum doing to improve healthcare systems?

3. News in brief: Health stories from around the world

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a health alert for bird flu infection in the country. The report of infection in a farm worker was just the second case of the H5N1 strain of avian influenza identified in a person in the US and the CDC said risk to the public remained low. But the body asked state health officials to be prepared to test quickly and plan to provide treatment to anyone potentially infected.

Thousands of people in England with type 1 diabetes will be offered an “artificial pancreas” that uses a glucose sensor under the skin to automatically calculate the amount of insulin that is delivered via a pump. In trials, the technology improved quality of life and reduced the risk of long-term health complications, the BBC reports.

People with long COVID show evidence of continuing inflammation in their blood, according to a new UK study. The Imperial College London study followed 650 patients with the condition and found evidence of inflammatory proteins in their blood – which is unusual so long after an initial infection. It is hoped the findings could help inform future trials to help understand the condition.

A new smartphone app could help spot early-onset dementia. US scientists tested the app with 360 adults that had a high genetic risk of developing the condition, including some who had not yet developed obvious symptoms. They found the app could accurately detect dementia in such individuals and hope that – with no current plans to make the technology available to the public – it will help inform future research into the condition.

Researchers in the UK, meanwhile, are to carry out clinical trials across the country to identify blood tests that could boost diagnosis of dementia. According to NHS England, fewer than two-thirds of people in England with dementia have a formal diagnosis.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has made a global call for plans that consider the health impacts of extreme heat. In order to help plan for and protect against the issue, the WHO is asking governments around the world to submit documents explaining how they are responding to issues including the impact of heat on occupational health, maternal and child health, and mental health.

4. More on health from Agenda

The global care economy needs more investment to make it sustainable and resilient, according to a new World Economic Forum report. Here are four examples from around the world of how cities and communities are reshaping the care landscape.

CRISPR is a gene editing technique that can help prevent disease, make crops more resilient and tackle the climate crisis. This article looks at the technique and some of the ways it could shape the future of food and health.

The number of deaths of children under five has reached its lowest recorded rate according to UNICEF – but the world is still off-target to reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). What needs to be done to stop progress stalling?

Related topics:
Health and Healthcare SystemsHealth and Healthcare Systems
1. Report: Make chronic kidney disease a global health priority2. First successful transplant of genetically modified pig kidney3. News in brief: Health stories from around the world4. More on health from Agenda

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