Information and news about disease category

The international HOOKVAC consortium, led by the Academic Medical Center at the University of Amsterdam and including partners from the United States, European Union and Africa, has been awarded a grant of six million Euros to expand the Sabin Vaccine Institute Product Development Partnership’s work to develop and assess a vaccine for human hookworm. This disease currently affects 600-700 million of the world’s poorest people, and under this grant, clinical testing for the vaccine in the West African nation of Gabon will begin.

A hookworm vaccine has the potential to dramatically improve the health, economic and social conditions in countries that are highly burdened by the disease. Despite the amount of people that it affects, hookworm has been a consistently neglected disease, disregarded by people in developed Western nations.

The Sabin Vaccine Institute PDP works with worldwide partners to develop new, low-cost vaccines that have essentially no commercial market for diseases that predominantly affect the developing world. Established in 2000, with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, it is the only product development partnership in the world that targets and devotes resources toward targeting the human hookworm vaccination.

A successful vaccine would ease the suffering of over half a billion affected people. The hookworm disease primarily infects people who live below the global poverty line, specifically children and pregnant mothers in Southeast Asia, Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa. If left untreated, the disease causes internal blood loss, leading to iron-deficiency anemia, malnutrition, physical and cognitive impairment and low birth rates.

“The European Commission is proud to support the critical work of the consortium for the development of a human hookworm vaccine,” Ruxandra Draghia-Akli, MD, PhD, Director of the Health Directorate at the Research DG of the European Commission, said. “Ultimately, we hope that the knowledge, innovations and research expertise resulting from this global collaboration will accelerate the development of the world’s first, effective hookworm vaccine and encourage additional European SME partnerships to explore vaccines for NTDs (Neglected Tropical Diseases).”

The progress being made toward the hookworm vaccine represents a battle won for many poorer countries that come face to face with diseases that are often neglected and overlooked by the developed world. There is a bright future for further developments towards the aid for other neglected diseases, giving poverty-stricken countries and our world a chance at global health.

– Sonia Aviv 

Sources: BIO NEWS Texas, Sabin Vaccine Institute, NEWS Kenya
Photo: Africa Time

 Chad– Chad has a life expectancy of 49.09 years. The number one cause of death in Chad is Influenza and Pneumonia. These are two diseases that are easily combatted in developed nations. Lack of health care is clearly a huge issue in Chad.

2.  South Africa– Although SA is a more developed nation on the African continent, it still only has a life expectancy of 49.48, according to the CIA. HIV/AIDS has been a major issue in SA, as well as the huge economic gap between impoverished citizens and their wealthier counterparts. This also means lack of health care.

3.  Guinea-Bissau– The life expectancy in Guinea-Bissau is 49.50. Most deaths are caused by Influenza and Pneumonia, and HIV infections. Once again, this demonstrates the problems of lack of health care.

4.  Swaziland– The life expectancy here is 50.01. HIV/AIDS is the number one cause of death in Swaziland.

5.  Afghanistan– Afghanistan’s life expectancy is 50.11. Influenza, Pneumonia, and war are amongst the highest causes of death. Not only is there a poor health care system, but there is also a lack of order, which continues to cause fatalities.

6.  Central African Republic– HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death here producing a life expectancy of 50.90.

7.  Somalia– There is no access to health care, and a lot of civil strife giving this nation a life expectancy of 51.19.

It is important to note that all of these nations are either in Africa or in the Middle East. More importantly, there is a common theme amongst them–lack of health care, civil order, and education (in regards to HIV) is extremely problematic, and many sources provide various estimates for life expectancies in these areas.

– Zachary Patterson

Sources: CIA, World Life Expectancy
Photo: National Geographic

One way to save millions of lives from preventable parasitic diseases that strike unprotected feet could be the ingeniously simple and inexpensive Unifold shoes, designed by Horatio Yuxin Han and Kevin Crowley of Pratt Institute.

Aside from being elegantly fashionable, these shoes were designed to be affordable for everyone. This was accomplished by the creation of a shoe that is easy and inexpensive to manufacture and ship.

The process behind the production of most shoes on the market today involves molding and many small parts put together, a complicated process that results in bulky shoes, which take up a lot of space in shipping containers. The solution that Han and Crowley developed was inspired by the age-old art of origami. The team at Pratt designed a pair of foldable shoes made of foam rubber cut into a one-dimensional pattern, making the shoes highly efficient to ship because they come totally flat. In fact, they may not require shipping at all since the pattern could be downloaded and printed out on foam rubber at a local shop–the definition of thinking outside of the box.

Unifold shoes ultimately take shape after a quick and easy do-it-yourself step: you simply fold each shoe around your feet, making for the perfect fit. This step requires no molding, gluing, sewing or lacing.

While the Unifold project is still in its early conceptual stages, the students from Pratt are working towards making these shoes accessible to the 300 million people who walk around day by day without shoes on their feet to protect them from deadly infections and parasites.

– Jennifer Bills

Sources: FastCoDesign, 
Photo: ConceptKicks

Polio is a disease that not too many people in the first world often worry about. In between bird flu scares and worrying whether vaccinations are good for you, no one really pays attention to Polio. Why would they? Polio is a dead disease, it’s like Latin. It just does not matter because it just does not happen, right?

Wrong. There is a misconception that Polio somehow was eradicated in the 1900s, as if we fought a war on disease and Polio was one of the causalities. Polio is very much real, and many Americans have probably come into contact with Polio in their lifetimes.

Polio is not dead, it is tamed. Vaccinations are what have laid this beast to rest. The Polio vaccine was discovered in the mid-1900s. Since then, the vaccine has been recommended universally (The History of Vaccines).

According to the Polio Eradication Initiative, there are three countries that still have epidemics. One of these countries are in proximity to West Africa and the Horn of Africa where Polio vaccines are not very common (Global Eradication Initiative) If nothing is done about the Polio epidemics in these three nations, it has the potential to spread further and become a global epidemic anywhere that Polio vaccinations are not sufficient.

Currently, the cost to immunize a child against Polio is anywhere from $1-$6 (Simeon Binette). Although that number is much larger when multiplied by the number of children in need of vaccination, it is still a relatively low cost to prevent a worldwide outbreak. Furthermore, it is a luxury most countries have. It is not the norm for a nation to not be able to afford Polio vaccinations, and if they cannot, it is not difficult for organizations such as the WHO or UNICEF to support.

That would be the simple analysis, however there is more to the cost of solving this problem. Many of the children that are not vaccinated in Afghanistan, are not vaccinated because of conflict (Global Eradication Initiative). It is either very difficult or impossible for health officials to get to certain areas of the country and provide these immunizations. The price that needs to be paid here is the end of a war that has been raging for a decade.

Pakistan is having difficulties managing their vaccinations because of a failing government that cannot properly provide a program to vaccinate children nationwide (Global Eradication Initiative). The price that must be paid here is a new government.

Finally, Nigeria. According to the Global Eradication initiative, social problems in the northern half of Nigeria pose a significant block in their efforts to vaccinate children. The price to be paid in Nigeria, is liberal social change.

Basically, even if the funds are there, we have to pay with peace, governmental accountability, and social change; among other things. However the real cost of Polio, is the child in Afghanistan, who will not be able to walk past his fifth birthday, because the adults wanted to fight a war.

– Zachary Patterson

Sources: Global Eradication Initiative: Infected Countries, The History of Vaccines: Polio, Bloomberg, Poliomyelitis