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Tag Archives: vaccine
Getting an annual flu shot seriously reduces your risk of getting the flu, but now it turns out that it could also help prevent a heart attack: We included 78,706 patients, of whom 16,012 were cases and 62,694 were matched … Continue reading
The apparent success of an HIV vaccine trial last year, after years of failures in the field, was a huge surprise to most virologists (including me). Now it looks like the vaccine regimen’s effect may have been only temporary: An … Continue reading
If vaccine development continues apace, human papilloma virus, and with it cervical cancer, could go the way of smallpox: Professor Jack Cuzick told Europe’s largest cancer congress, ECCO 15 – ESMO 34 in Berlin … that while the current HPV … Continue reading
The BBC is reporting another depressing development in the World Health Organization (WHO) campaign to eradicate polio:
Nigeria is fighting a rare outbreak of a vaccine-derived form of polio, says the UN’s World Health Organization. It says 69 children in the north have caught the paralysing disease from others who had already been immunised. The WHO says such rare outbreaks have occurred where immunisation campaigns did not reach enough of the population.
If you’re just tuning in, Nigeria is the same country that had a disastrous polio vaccine boycott in 2003, spurred by extremists who claimed the vaccine was part of a Western plot to eradicate Muslims. The rumor managed to shut down vaccination campaigns across wide swaths of territory, causing a predictable spike in polio infection rates shortly therafter. Now that there’s an outbreak of vaccine-derived polio, we can be sure the same scare-mongers will be claiming vindication. Would this be happening if we took a more integrated approach to poor countries’ public health problems, rather than focusing our energy and money on ego-driven eradication campaigns against individual diseases? Continue reading
The G7 nations are apparently setting up another effort to entice drug companies to work on unprofitable diseases:
The UK and other leading industrialised nations are setting up a £750m ($1.5bn) fund to speed up the development of new vaccines for use in poorer countries.
The plan is to subsidise the future purchase of vaccines in the hope this will galvanise drug firms into action.
A vaccine for pneumococcal disease is the first target.
A jab already exists, but developing countries need a tailored version which firms have been slow to invest in as there is no guaranteed market.
This is an example of a “pull” incentive, guaranteeing a market for the putative vaccine by committing rich countries to buy a certain amount once it’s developed. This contrasts with “push” efforts, which fund the research up front. The idea of “pull” systems is that drug companies will invest their own money in development if they perceive that there’s going to be a market for the final product. By guaranteeing an artificial market in the future, we can reap the benefits of corporate research without having to put taxpayers’ cash on the table until the products are ready.
It’s a neat idea, and drug company executives publicly laud it. Privately, however, they consistently admit that their own company probably won’t do it. Developing a new vaccine can take a decade or more, and there’s a tremendous risk that politicians yet to be elected will balk at honoring the expensive promises of their predecessors. Also, the governments involved have to be willing to pay the companies a suitable profit margin beyond their basic development costs, which would inevitably become a political lightning rod.
On the other hand, as the ongoing problems with “push” efforts like the Bioshield project show, there’s clearly a need for some alternative. It’s just not clear that pulling will be any more successful. Continue reading
Catching up on some old but still under-discussed news, here’s an interesting article published on the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Web site a couple of months ago. The researchers’ strategy was to conjugate an antigen from the malaria parasite to a larger protein, then use that as a vaccine. Here’s the twist: the antigen is only expressed in the mosquito stage of the malaria life cycle, so people who get such a vaccine wouldn’t actually be immune from malaria.
So what’s the point? Well, if a vaccinee got malaria, then got bitten by a mosquito, the insect would drink antibodies as well as the parasite. When the parasite tried to continue its life cycle in the mosquito to get to the next host, the antibodies would take it out. In other words, vaccinees could still get the disease, but they wouldn’t pass it on to others. If it works as well in humans as it appears to in monkeys, this could be a very clever way to control one of the world’s deadliest diseases. But are people really altruistic enough to accept a vaccine like that? Continue reading
Just as Nigeria is starting to recover from a disastrous bout of paranoia about polio vaccination, they now have news outlets trumpeting the use of – I couldn’t make this stuff up – crocodile excrement as a treatment for measles. While dispensing this appallingly bad advice, the article even manages to butcher elementary-school biology:
Going down memory lane, Chief Taiwo said the late traditional ruler in the town, Oba Ogundele who brought the amphibian creature to the village nurtured it well before he died.
Apena of Ijaleland, disclosed that Oba Ogundele got the crocodile in a river and started nurturing it adding that the reptile gives healing.
“A measles afflicted person is sure of cure once he gets to this village and draws water from the abode of the crocodile and rub on his or her entire body. I’m not kidding. He or she must receive healing. It sounds strange, but the crocodile has helped many people, both near and far”, Taiwo said.
Got that, kids? Crocodiles are amphibians, and their poop can cure measles. I’m speechless. Continue reading
For the first half of the 20th century, every summer was polio season. Poliovirus, which spreads by the infamous “fecal-oral route,” thrives in sewage systems and contaminated waterways all year, but summer offers many more chances for exposure. Anyone swimming at a local beach or public pool routinely contracted it.
Most people who catch poliovirus develop nothing more serious than a mild diarrhea, but about one to two percent of them progress to the neurological disease that made polio one of the most feared infectious agents in the world. One or two percent doesn’t sound like much, but once the virus reaches a watershed, it can infect nearly everyone in the area, so that tiny percentage translates to a huge number of permanently paralyzed children, some of whom even die of the disease. Continue reading