Inflammation and stories on vaccines

A new hookworm vaccine is the hope of millions of infected people in Africa. Although it is experimental and will be the first African clinical trial for this parasite, it is already scheduled for 2014 because hookworm infestations are rampant among the African poor. Over 102 trial participants, ages 18 to 45 will be given the vaccine over a four month period and be rechecked after a year. Once the adult participants remain safe and have positive immune responses, children will be given the vaccines. These trials will begin in Gabon, Africa.

Hookworms are easily transmitted to children who walk around barefoot. Most children who also suffer from malnutrition are attacked by the parasite and become extremely weak, which leads to learning problems and stunted growth. These parasites drain the blood of any individual and eventually cause anemia. Hookworms also infest adults and cause financial strains on the family as men and women gradually weaken from loss of blood. Even pregnant women are not free from danger since their fetus is also affected from the blood loss. These worms enter the body through the feet. Once they are inside the bloodstream they travel towards the lungs. From the lungs they reach the intestines where they grip the interior walls with their two sets of teeth. Here they are able to remain attached, suck any quantity of blood and grow to half an inch long.The aim of the hookworm vaccine is to create antibodies which will slowly kill the worms. As the antibodies are formed, it will work against two enzymes present in the hookworm’s gut. One enzyme processes iron in its blood diet and the other enzyme allows for digestion of blood proteins. As the antibodies fight against these enzymes, the hookworm’s energy source weakens and will eventually die.

Clinical trials are set for a minimum of five years regardless of whether there is   success with treatments. This vaccine could potentially be the answer to hookworm elimination which is the leading cause of iron deficient anemia among millions of the world’s poor.  Dr. Hotez, the director of the Sabin Vaccine Institute has been working on this vaccine for over 30 years. His effort and commitment over this lapse of time will surely be a victory to be seen.

–  Maybelline Martez

Sources: NIH, Medical News Today, New York Times

Philanthropist and Microsoft Co-Founder Bill Gates has been focusing much of his attention on developing and delivering a cure for malaria in impoverished areas of the world. Other tech-gurus have also recently turned their eyes into using their abilities to fight a greater cause – delivering Internet connectivity to these remote and poverty-stricken regions. While Gates obviously believes that it is important to help these disconnected nations engage with the developed world, he told the Financial Times that he finds this priority to be, in fact, a “joke.”

“I certainly love the (information technology) thing,” said Gates, “but when we want to improve lives, you’ve got to deal with more basic things like child survival, child nutrition.” And of course, Gates indeed has a good point. Perhaps connecting the world through technology is important, but is it as important as ridding the world of malaria and other diseases? Should the talents of others be wasted on connectivity and not on health and wellness?

Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, is one of those who is looking to make the internet available to billions from all corners of the world. He believes that the next wave of connectivity will be driven by mobile broadband networks sending densely compressed data delivered by extremely efficient servers. Furthermore, Google’s Project Loon seeks to bring broadband to developing countries by floating transmitters on balloons.

“Take this malaria vaccine, (this) weird thing that I’m thinking of. Hmm, which is more important, connectivity or malaria vaccine? If you think connectivity is the key thing, that’s great. I don’t,” said Gates.

Gates has not been shy about his disapproval for the priority being placed on such programs. Moreover, he continues to try to help the world in his own way, the way he believes to be truly important. Founded in 1997, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation works to alleviate extreme poverty and health crises in developing countries. It seems that Bill is indeed taking this goal to heart.

– Sonia Aviv

  Sources: RedOrbit, The Huffington Post, Business Insider

In an interview with CBS’ Charlie Rose, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates discussed the importance of innovation in agriculture. At first, Rose and Gates discussed Gates’ annual letter, including a call to the United States and other developed countries to further agricultural research. However, the conversation took an unexpected turn to a related topic that Gates finds fascinating: fertilizer.

Developing nations continue to face food shortages due to many causes, including climate change. Demand for food is constantly rising and the price of food is increasing as a result. Gates believes that the problems surrounding food-production goals can be alleviated if more investment is made in agricultural research, which includes research in fertilizer.

Fertilizers improve the growth of plants, and are made up of substances consisting of chemical elements such as manure. Fertilizers provide crops with the essential nutrients they need to fight off pests, disease, and the elements. However, insects and disease are only one issue that affects crops. Another major concern for crop sustainability is soil condition, which is drastically affected by changing weather. Fertilizers enhance the soil by allowing the soil to hold more water and nutrients, where forces like rain and wind would usually create unstable soil not suitable for sustained growth.

It appears that Gates’ fascination with fertilizer has developed since his interview with Charlie Rose. On November 12, 2013, Gates wrote an essay that appeared on saying, “I am a little obsessed with fertilizer. I mean I’m fascinated with its role, not with using it.” Fertilizer plays an important role in the lives of people all over the world. Specifically, 40% of the world benefits from crop output that fertilizer has made possible. Gates compares the innovative development of fertilizer to the creation of synthetic ammonia and polio vaccines.

One of the ways that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has advanced research in fertilizer is through supporting a joint project by the Swiss Aquatic Research Institute and the South African Water Utility. The project involves developing urine from conventional sewer-based sanitation and central wastewater treatment systems as a commercial fertilizer and is set to be complete by 2014.

– Daren Gottlieb
Sources: EAWAG, Wired, Southwest Farm Press, The Green Book
Photo: BBC

Rotavirus is a virus that inflames the stomach and intestines. Its main side effects are diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and abdominal pain. In children, it can lead to severe dehydration, and if left untreated, death. Before a vaccine was regularly administered to children starting in 2006, rotavirus was the cause of many hospital and emergency room visits.

Globally, rotavirus is responsible for about half a million deaths in children under the age of five. In areas without good sanitation, healthcare, and health education, the spread of such diseases and the lack of treatment are likely the reason the virus is still claiming so many young lives.

In India, rotavirus claims 100,000 lives every year. India’s Department of Biotechnology and the company Bharat Biotech have developed a new vaccine called RotaVac that effectively prevents the diarrhea, one of the strongest symptoms of rotavirus. If administered to children all over India, especially to those from low-to no-income families, it would prevent a viral infection that would otherwise have devastating results.

The group of researchers who developed the vaccine consisted of scientists from all over the world. Phase III of the clinical trial took place in three different locations in India. Not only did it prove effective, but Bharat Biotech has priced the vaccine at $1 USD, which is relatively affordable.

Along with the usual vaccines, it would be administered at 6, 10, and 14 weeks of age. Awareness and taking preventive steps are two very effective ways to combat diseases such as this, especially in areas with lackluster healthcare.

– Aalekhya Malladi

Sources: Defeat DD, CDV
Photo: GAVI Alliance

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

In a given year, USAID immunization programs have been able to save over 3 million lives. The potency of a single injection in preventing life threatening diseases like measles, malaria, hepatitis, and others has been proven time and time again. Yet, with such benefits come some seemingly unavoidable costs, particularly the spread of infection caused by reusing syringes.

That is where Uniject comes to the fore. The product of a 20-year-long effort, Uniject has already been widely embraced as a mechanism of safeguarding the lives of this and coming generations. With funding from the United Agency for International Aid and Development (USAID), PATH, a Seattle based non-profit organization working to better global health through innovation, has developed the innovative “Uniject autodisable injection system.” From contraceptives to vaccines, Uniject has made medicine safer and more accessible to millions. It takes the medicines that save lives and then apportions them into individual sized packages, each carrying the medicine that could save one life.

The genius of this model lies in its one-time use. Indeed, reusing syringes has posed a serious threat in the global fight against preventable disease. In 2009, 20 million immunizations were given using syringes contaminated with the blood of HIV-infected patients. In the developing world, the average person receives an unsafe injection such as this about once a year—with grave consequences. Research has shown that reusing a syringe, even indirectly, can spread HIV from one patient to four others.

Autodisable systems, like Uniject, have done a great deal in alleviating this dilemma. In 2010, the use of autodisable syringes brought down the average hospital stay in Tanzania from seven days to three days. Similar results have been achieved across the developing world where Uniject has been distributed. Learn more at

– Lina Saud

Sources: PATH, Safe Point Trust, The Borgen Project

A team of international researchers has recently developed a new vaccine that demonstrates great progress made in the fight against malaria. The vaccine effectively protects against multiple strains of the deadly disease, creating better protection for the immunized.

The investigators have not yet started trials of the newly developed vaccine in humans, but research on how the vaccine works in the red blood cells of mice is promising. Vaccinated mice that were exposed to malaria showed low levels of parasites in their blood. Researchers even say that the vaccine was so effective that “some of the mice had so few parasites that we were unable to see them when we looked at the blood under a microscope.”

The investigators also found that their vaccine was effective in protecting against malaria regardless of the specific strain of the disease that the mice were exposed to. They stated that, “even though mice were immunized with only one strain of malaria and infected with a different strain, they were also protected by our vaccine. That means that our vaccine protects against all strains of malaria.”

The new vaccine was developed after researchers considered modifying the way that previous malaria vaccines were made. In previous research, investigators used low doses of the dead parasite in vaccines, which proved effective in protecting against malaria. In development of the new vaccine, researchers decided to use whole parasites to immunize against the disease. To produce the vaccine, the malaria parasite is treated with a drug that “binds to the parasite’s DNA and prevents it from multiplying.” After immunization, the vaccine works by turning on an immune response in white blood cells, which can recognize proteins hidden in the malaria parasite. Researchers believe that immune recognition of hidden proteins in the various strains of malaria may be what is making the vaccine effective across all strains of the disease.

Each year, malaria infects nearly 250 million people across the globe and is responsible for one million deaths. The developers of the new vaccine hope that their new findings will help reduce the suffering that is caused by the disease in the future. In the next few months, the team will begin trial testing of their vaccine in humans. If the vaccine proves to be as effective as anticipated, use of the vaccine will be expanded to areas where malaria is present.

– Jordan Kline

Sources: The Conversation, Journal of Clinical Investigation

Global Vaccine Summit in Abu Dhabi
Last week in Abu Dhabi, the Gates Foundation drew together a diverse group of partners and world leaders to highlight the investment case for immunization and recommit to the fight for polio eradication at the Global Vaccine Summit. At the Summit, Rotary International’s President Sakuji Tanaka stated that the eradication of polio requires “the commitment of national and local leaders where polio still exists, the continued support of donor countries, and the steadfast commitment of heroic vaccinators.”

At the Summit, global leaders made statements in support of efforts to immunize children around the world and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative formally launched its bold new 6-year endgame strategy. In response, public and private donors announced $4 billion in financial commitments towards the $5.5 billion global need for polio, including $1.8 billion forms the Gates Foundation, $457 million from the U.K., $250 million from Canada, $240 million from Norway, $120 million from Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan, $227 million from the Islamic Development Bank, and $130 million from Germany.

Even though there was much focus on the eradication of polio at this Summit, there were many other important issues that were addressed.

As the funding for immunization efforts was being pledged in Abu Dhabi, new child vaccines were being distributed on two other continents. Thanks to the previously-committed donor support to the GAVI Alliance, GAVI and its partners on the ground were about to distribute three vaccines in three new countries: pentavalent in Somalia, rotavirus in Haiti, and pneumococcal in Uganda.

– Matthew Jackoski

Source: ONE, SABIN
Photo: Breitbart

Neglected tropical diseases are poorly understood, lack appropriate control tools, receive smaller investments in research and development, and affect people living in remote rural areas with limited access to treatment. Innovative and Intensified Disease Management (IDN) focuses on overcoming these hurdles to control, and hopefully eradicate NTDs.

These are seven diseases that the World Health Organization classifies as neglected.

1. Buruli Ulcer
Buruli Ulcer is characterized by a swelling in the skin called a nodule, which eventually spreads to become large ulcers typically appearing on arms and legs. Infection is caused by a germ from the same family as leprosy and tuberculosis. Cases have been reported in over 30 countries, but primarily in poor rural communities. Progress is being made toward a vaccine able to treat Buruli Ulcer, but in the meantime the Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine offers some protection.

2. Dengue
Dengue is a viral infection spread through mosquito bites. The infection causes severe flu-like symptoms, and can sometimes lead to a deadly condition called severe dengue. The disease thrives in urban poor areas in tropical and subtropical communities. Severe dengue has become a leading cause of death among children and adults in Asian and Latin American countries.

3. Leishmaniasis
Leishmaniasis is a disease that can be directly linked to poverty. It is associated with malnutrition, displacement, poor housing, weakened immune systems and lack of resources. The interaction of Visceral Leishmaniasis (VL) with HIV has devastating consequences; a simultaneous HIV infection increases the risk of developing active VL by up to 2320 times. 90% of all VL cases occur in Bangladesh, Brazil, India, Nepal and Sudan.

4. Leprosy
Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease that exists in extremely impoverished communities. It affects the skin, nerves, upper respiratory tract and eyes. Most countries have achieved elimination at the national level, and are intensifying their efforts at regional and district levels. It is estimated that up to two million people are visibly disabled due to leprosy. Education, early diagnosis and adequate medicinal interventions are key elements for eradicating the disease.

5. Rabies
Rabies is a vaccine-preventable disease transmitted from animals to humans by a virus present in the saliva of infected carriers. Bites or scratches from infected animals are the most common form of transmission to humans. The disease infects both domestic and wild animals. If left untreated, Rabies is almost always fatal.

6. Trachoma
Trachoma is caused by a microorganism which spreads through contact with eye discharge from an infected person. A single episode is not considered sight-threatening, but prolonged, repeated infection can lead to scarring inside the eyelid, which in turn causes scarring of the cornea. If left untreated, Trachoma leads to permanent blindness. Trachoma affects 21.4 million people, often striking women and children. Factors such as water shortage, poor hygiene conditions and crowded households have caused the infection to be extremely common in many of the poorest regions of the world.

7. Yaws
Yaws is a chronic bacterial infection that occurs mostly in poor communities in the humid tropical regions as a result of overcrowding, poor sanitation and other poverty-related issues. Skin-to-skin contact with an infected person leads to development of a single lesion; if left untreated, lesions will spread to the entire body. Nearly 75% of people affected are children under 15 years, and although rarely fatal, yaws can lead to chronic disfigurement and disability. Experts are confident that the disease can be controlled and possibly eradicated. India for example, has seen no new yaws cases since 2004.

– Dana Johnson

Source: WHO, WHO Resolution

What Disney and Vaccinations Have in Common
Cryopreservation, the same technology that is rumored to have preserved the late Walt Disney, is being used to save lives in impoverished nations.

Roughly 50% of the vaccines intended for distribution in impoverished communities and other areas are discarded because of exposure to high temperatures. Getting medicine to communities such as these is difficult enough without the high cost of replacing compromised vaccinations. This is where Asymptote comes in.

Based in Cambridge, UK, Asymptote specializes in cryopreservation; that is to say, they specialize in keeping substances very cold to preserve them. Asymptote has recently been awarded a grant to begin developing extremely low-temperature storage equipment able to transfer live vaccines. The equipment is not only intended to aid in transferring vaccinations but also to increase the shelf life of vaccinations which require a temperature of minus 130 degrees Celsius for weeks at a time.

If successful, this would have a large impact on the distribution of vaccines in countries where electricity is unstable and access to liquid nitrogen is scarce. Needless to say, this applies to many developing countries that tend to have a large rural population such as those located in Africa and Southeast Asia.

In many countries where basic needs are not met, the community is forced to focus on these pressing issues just to stay alive. Providing impoverished counties with basic amenities such as vaccinations allows the people of the community to focus on economic and cultural stability. The effect of this type of stability is a reduction in poverty and the strengthening of the global economy.

– Pete Grapentien

Sources: Cambridge Network, Asymtote
Photo: Infosurhoy