This basic food could fight pediatric pneumonia and malnutrition at the same time.
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Johnson & Johnson

You know what's never fun? Having to take bad-tasting medication — especially if you're a kid.

When I was little, I had to eat these tiny bitter pellets for my asthma because I wasn't old enough to use an inhaler. My parents called them sprinkles and put them on ice cream to try and trick me into thinking they weren't disgusting, but that only seemed to enhance their nasty taste. To this day, I have trouble even looking at vanilla ice cream without feeling nauseated.

That said, while it definitely wasn't a pleasant experience, these pellets kept my asthma under control throughout my early childhood.


Now imagine you're a child in a developing country with life-threatening pneumonia, and you're not old enough to take an antibiotic like amoxicillin in pill form, which is all your local medical facility has available. Suddenly, ingestible meds — no matter how bad they taste — sound pretty good, right?

Unfortunately such child-friendly treatments are not always accessible, especially in low-income countries. It's a big part of why pneumonia is the leading cause of child death by infection worldwide even though it's totally preventable.

Photo via iStock.

Enter researcher Sangwei Lu and her brilliant idea.

She created a peanut butter-based amoxicillin that not only treats pneumonia in children but also gives them a much needed boost of nutrition.

Lu is an adjunct professor at the University of California at Berkeley in its School of Public Health. Since her areas of expertise are vaccinology and infectious diseases, when a Gates Foundation Global Challenge for a child-friendly formulation of amoxicillin came around, she was primed to participate.

Amoxicillin for kids often comes in the form of a powder that has to be mixed with clean water and, once reconstituted, has to stay refrigerated until used — two difficult things to come by in developing countries. Meanwhile her peanut butter-based amoxicillin (appropriately named NutMox) is "ready to use, stable at room temperature, and can be given to children who cannot swallow [a pill] or [have trouble] chewing," Lu writes in an email.

But it's not just a treatment for kids with pneumonia. Because NutMox has a protein-rich base, it can be combined with other ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) to treat severe malnutrition, which also happens to be one of the main risk factors for pediatric pneumonia.

A child receives a peanut-butter based nutrition packet to help fight malnutrition. Photo via USAID Africa Bureau/Wikimedia Commons.

So it's a life-saving medicine and a viable preventative measure all in one.

Peanut butter also masks the taste of medicine, which means no kid suffering from pneumonia will have to endure the bitter grossness I had to.

It's no surprise that when PATH — a nonprofit that's leading the way in global health innovation — got wind of NutMox, they approached Lu to collaborate.

"I think it is a great opportunity given PATH's commitment to global health and their experiences working to develop medicines for people in need," Lu explains.

The partnership will no doubt help push NutMox's progress forward. And now, thanks to the grant they've received as a Gen H finalist, distribution of a final product to countries in need is a much clearer reality.

So far, pre-clinical testings of NutMox have been completed. The next step involves performing a trial using human volunteers to demonstrate that the amoxicillin formula is equivalent to a current formula that's been approved by the FDA. If the trial is successful, they'll work with pharmaceutical partners to obtain regulatory approval for NutMox as a new formulation of amoxicillin.

Photo via iStock.

A lot still needs to be done before it's ready for public use, but NutMox is in a great position to have a huge effect on children's health in the near future.

And such a useful treatment can't come soon enough.

As of right now, pneumonia accounts for 16% of all child deaths under age 5. Malnutrition is an underlying contributing factor, not just for pneumonia but all the other infectious diseases that are most life-threatening to children. So an antibiotic that both treats these diseases and curtails malnutrition could save countless lives.

We're living in an age where truly revolutionary medical advancements and innovations are being realized. It's about time we get them in the hands of the people who desperately need them.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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It's one thing to see a little kid skateboarding. It's another to see a stereotype-defying little girl skateboarding. And it's entirely another to see Paige Tobin.

Paige is a 6-year-old skateboarding wonder from Australia. A recent video of her dropping into a 12-foot bowl on her has gone viral, both for the feat itself and for the style with which she does it. Decked out in a pink party dress, a leopard-print helmet, and rainbow socks, she looks nothing like you'd expect a skater dropping into a 12-foot bowl to look. And yet, here she is, blowing people's minds all over the place.

For those who may not fully appreciate the impressiveness of this feat, here's some perspective. My adrenaline junkie brother, who has been skateboarding since childhood and who races down rugged mountain faces on a bike for fun, shared this video and commented, "If I dropped in to a bowl twice as deep as my age it would be my first and last time doing so...this fearless kid has a bright future!"

It's scarier than it looks, and it looks pretty darn scary.

Paige doesn't always dress like a princess when she skates, not that it matters. Her talent and skill with the board are what gets people's attention. (The rainbow socks are kind of her signature, however.)

Her Instagram feed is filled with photos and videos of her skateboarding and surfing, and the body coordination she's gained at such a young age is truly something.

Here she was at three years old:

And here she is at age four:


So, if she dropped into a 6-foot bowl at age three and a 12-foot bowl at age six—is there such a thing as an 18-foot bowl for her to tackle when she's nine?

Paige clearly enjoys skating and has high ambitions in the skating world. "I want to go to the Olympics, and I want to be a pro skater," she told Power of Positivity when she was five. She already seems to be well on her way toward that goal.

How did she get so good? Well, Paige's mom gave her a skateboard when she wasn't even preschool age yet, and she loved it. Her mom got her lessons, and she's spent the past three years skating almost daily. She practices at local skate parks and competes in local competitions.

She also naturally has her fair share of spills, some of which you can see on her Instagram channel. Falling is part of the sport—you can't learn if you don't fall. Conquering the fear of falling is the key, and the thing that's hardest for most people to get over.

Perhaps Paige started too young to let fear override her desire to skate. Perhaps she's been taught to manage her fears, or maybe she's just naturally less afraid than other people. Or maybe there's something magical about the rainbow socks. Whatever it is, it's clear that this girl doesn't let fear get in the way of her doing what she wants to do. An admirable quality in anyone, but particularly striking to see in someone so young.

Way to go, Paige. Your perseverance and courage are inspiring, as is your unique fashion sense. Can't wait to see what you do next.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less