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2009 Health Highlights: Swine flu, cancer, AIDS

Dec 29, 2009 11:09 PM IST India India

New Delhi: The big health story of 2009 was swine flu. The H1N1 virus claimed thousands of lives. Also making headlines was a much-hyped AIDS vaccine that failed. Meanwhile, the cracking of the cancer code was perhaps the only silver lining on 2009. Take a look at the health highlights of the year gone by.

April 2009: This was the month the new H1N1 virus was detected in Mexico. It rapidly spread across the world and the World Health Organisation declared a pandemic within months. By the end of the year, more than 16,000 people had died and 1.5 million people had caught the flu. A vaccine has proved effective and over 65 million doses of vaccine have been administered in more than 20 countries, though India will only see a vaccine by spring 2010.

September 2009: 2009 offered false hope. In September, it seemed like a vaccine against HIV/AIDS was a real possibility. Researchers from the US military and the Thai government said a new combination of vaccines could cut the risk of infection by almost a third. But the second and third analysis of the trial showed disappointing results. The vaccine appears only 26 per cent effective, below the threshold of statistical significance, given a modestly successful trial in Thailand.

December 2009: The best health news came in December. Scientists in the UK have cracked the cancer code - the entire genetic code of two of the most common cancers, skin and lung cancer. For the first time scientists can see every single mutation, which could could soon herald blood tests that detect tumours far earlier. Work is now beginning to map at least 50 more cancer genomes and India is one of 10 countries involved in studying cancer of the mouth.