Malaria Vaccine Trial
Malaria is one of the deadliest diseases afflicting developing countries across the world. In 2015 alone, it took the lives of 429,000 people, with a majority being African children. The most developed malaria vaccine trial is currently scheduled to be used in parts of Africa beginning next year, where the disease is still rampant.

Miguel Prudêncio and his team at iMM Lisboa, a biomedical research nonprofit institution, have been researching solutions to end malaria in the area. They decided to approach malaria as scientist Edward Jenner approached smallpox, by using a less harmful version of it as a shield against deadlier versions. In a similar fashion to how Jenner used cowpox to fight smallpox, Prudêncio and fellow researchers at iMM Lisboa wanted to conduct a malaria vaccine trial using a rodent version of the malaria-causing parasite. iMM Lisboa is going to carry out the trial with the help of the Radbound University Medical Center, based in the Netherlands, and PATH in Seattle.

The new malaria vaccine trial will take place at Radbounumc in the Netherlands. The first half of the trial will involve three groups of six volunteers, with each team enduring a different number of bites from mosquitos exposed to the parasite. Each volunteer will be thoroughly examined after the process because of the risk that comes from exposure. This examination will continue until the researchers can decide that it is safe to begin the second half of their malaria vaccine trial. The goal is that “the modified rodent parasite will help induce a protective response in healthy human volunteers.”

This will be the first time that humans will be purposely introduced to the rodent version of the parasite. The volunteers’ reaction to the first part of this malaria vaccine trial will be a deciding factor as to the effectiveness of this approach. With luck, the second phase will prove that smallpox is not the only disease that can be fought off by genetically modified versions of itself.

The success of this malaria vaccine trial could mean saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in the future. Ultimately, the goal is to see malaria eradicated just like smallpox, but in upcoming years it will be a breakthrough if a vaccine is developed with a protective efficacy of at least 75 percent against malaria. Prudêncio and his fellow researchers are hoping to achieve the elimination of malaria once their vaccine trial is complete.

Mackenzie Fielder

Photo: Flickr

UN Appeals for Funds in Khmer Rouge Tribunal
On November 7, Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson appealed to the international community, urging for donor support to fund the United Nations (U.N.)-sponsored tribunal currently in the process of trying Khmer Rouge leaders accused of the mass murder in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge regime of 1975 to 1979. It resulted in the deaths of more than one-fourth of the Cambodian population, approximately 2 million people.

“We all agree that there can be no impunity for crimes which tear at the very fabric of our common humanity. But we have to do more than agree—and more than speak out. We have to match our words with actions,” Eliasson was quoted saying in a recent article published by the U.N. News Centre.

The U.N.-backed tribunal that Eliasson was advocating for is the Extraordinary Chambers in the courts of Cambodia (ECCC), a court created in 2003 to specifically try the senior officials and individuals most responsible for the atrocious crimes committed under the Khmer Rouge. Staffed by both Cambodian and foreign employees and judges alike, the cases are watched by more than 100,000 people, many of whom are survivors of the regime who traveled long distances to follow the proceedings.

The ECCC is made possible through voluntary donations; however, recent funding has decreased significantly to levels under the court’s necessary spending amounts. Therefore, the judicial staff has had to work unsalaried, which resulted in an employee strike in September, headed by more than 100 unpaid workers. The U.N. then acquired a loan, which was able to meet the salaries of the national staff working in Cambodia, in order for them to halt the strike and return to work.

In his appeal to the international community, Eliasson made clear that financial issues result in an uncertain judicial institution, which pose devastating consequences on current court proceedings. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had already alluded to this threatened security of the court on August 28 at the Hague, warning that “the very survival of the Court is now in question.”

Nevertheless, the government of Cambodia has promised to stand by its $1.8 million pledge to help cover the costs of the national staff through the end of this year. Additionally, UN Special Expert on UN Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials has stated that he is confident of the funding commitments from the Governments of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore for Cambodia’s 2014 national budget, adding that efficient and speedier court proceedings using the ECCC go hand in hand with the necessary funding.

– Elisha-Kim Desmangles
Feature Writer 

Sources: UN News Centre, UN News Centre, UN News Centre, The Economist
Photo: The Epoch Times