A new vaccine has the potential to save thousands of children in Japan. Chinese scientists developed a vaccine for Japanese encephalitis that is inexpensive and easily accessible. Encephalitis is a neurological disease spread via mosquitos that kills tens of thousands of people every year. This vaccine will be China’s first vaccine the World Health Organization pre-qualified for distribution.

The vaccine is unique in that it will cost significantly less than other Japanese encephalitis vaccines on the market, can be administered to infants, and is effective with just one dose. As a result, it will be available for thousands of children in the Russian Federation’s southeast as well as South and Southeast Asia. Japanese encephalitis cannot be treated once the disease has begun; however, with the vaccine, it is completely preventable.

The World Health Organization announced that the success of the vaccine comes as a result of a long and productive relationship with Chinese vaccine manufacturers. WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan explained the importance of the vaccine: “This is a welcome development both in the fight to protect children in developing countries from JE and in the future availability of vaccines more generally, as China is now producing vaccines up to WHO standards. There is a huge potential for vaccine manufacture in China and we hope to see more and more Chinese vaccines become WHO pre-qualified. The whole world will benefit.”

As Dr. Chan explained, the implications of Chinese drug manufacturers seeking pre-qualification of their drugs could mean a significant increase in life-saving vaccines for developing countries. Over 9 million children were vaccinated in India during the first year a Japanese encephalitis vaccine became available. Since then, millions more have been vaccinated and the introduction of this new vaccine has the potential to reach millions of children.

– Mary Penn

Sources: Times of India, World Health Organization
Photo: IBN Live

Today, scientists have new hope of controlling and ending tuberculosis. McAster University Researchers have recently come across a vaccine against tuberculosis. According to Dr. Fiona Smalil, professor and chair of the Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine at McAster University, the research team is “the first to develop such a vaccine for tuberculosis.”

The McAster University researchers have also explained that the new tuberculosis vaccine would “stop the spread of this highly contagious illness.”

Moreover, the vaccine would provide a more positive response in developing nations. The vaccine could save millions of lives. According to, tuberculosis is out of control in developing countries. It is killing millions of people every year.

Researchers have emphasized that “In these areas, the present vaccine–Mycobacterium bovis bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG)–is failing.” As a result, the McAster University team hopes to create a better quality vaccine in order to reduce the number of deaths caused by tuberculosis each year.

The new vaccine was developed to act as a booster to BCG. BCG is the only TB vaccine available. Developed in the 1920s BCG has been used worldwide. Currently, the BCG vaccine is part of the World Health Organization’s immunization program in Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, South America, and Nunavut. In order to create a better vaccine, McAster researchers decided to hold a 10 year test program.

According to Dr. Smalil, McMaster researchers began the first human clinical trial in 2009, which included 24 healthy human volunteers and 12 who were previously BCG-immunized. Researchers have found that the trials have been widely successful.

By 2012 they established that the vaccine was safe, and observed a strong immune response in most trial participants. As a result, Tuberculosis could be controlled and eliminated by 2020.

– Stephanie Olaya

Sources: Science Daily, Inquisitr
Photo: The Guardian

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

Meningitis is an infectious disease that causes the swelling of the protective membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. The symptoms involve severe headache, stiffness of the neck and a sensitivity to light. In 2009, 88,000 people in Sub-Saharan African were infected with meningitis and more than 5,000 died. To alleviate this problem, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have helped develop MenAfriVac.

Paired with the Meningitis Vaccine Project, a nonprofit organization, the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation have assisted in developing this new vaccine which costs less than 50 cents per dose. The vaccine is manufactured by the Serum Institute of India and has dramatically reduced deaths from the disease in many countries in the “meningitis belt” – a region of Sub-Saharan African where cases of meningitis are very high.

The most significant development in the MenAfriVac vaccine is the ability to store the drug. MenAfriVac can be stored at a temperature of 40 degrees Celsius for up to four days before use. This, paired with its low cost, has made the vaccine extremely effective in treating meningitis in the parts of the world that suffer the most from the disease.

In addition, the vaccine can be used to immunize infants. Immunizing children with MenAfriVac represents a huge development against the spread and contraction of meningitis in Sub-Saharan Africa.

– Pete Grapentien

Sources: News24,   WHO
Photo: Meningitis Vaccine Project


A leading proponent of vaccines warned there is a real danger that mistrust of vaccines in wealthy nations, created by “irrational fears” of the lifesaving preventive medicine, could endanger citizens who are already vulnerable if it trickled down into the developing world.

In an article written for the BBC, Dr. Seth Berkley, chief executive officer of the GAVI Alliance, an organization which provides vaccines to children in developing countries, said that while vaccination fears have been around as long as vaccines, it is worrying “when such fears begin to trickle into countries like India, where lives are more vulnerable and the stakes are far higher.”

Measles, a disease that has been largely eradicated in wealthy countries, continues to be a killer in many parts of the world. Berkley said measles kills 164,000 children under five every year, or approximately 450 children every day. Most global health organizations, including the World Health Organization, recommend the MMR vaccine as the best way to protect children against measles.

Berkley wrote in response to recent news reports from the United Kingdom about a measles outbreak that prompted a “catch-up program” to target children ages 10 to 18 whose parents had chosen not to immunize them with the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination because of fears about links to autism. A large outbreak in Wales and smaller outbreaks in other parts of the UK recently brought international attention back to vaccines. Fears of links between immunizations for young children and autism created a scare in some wealthy nations like the US and UK about 20 years ago following research that has since been completely discredited.

-Liza Casabona

Source: BBC,   Guardian

Jay Keasling a professor of chemical engineering at UC Berkeley will finally see his breakthrough mass-produced.  On April 10 the pharmaceutical company Sanofi will produce a partially synthetic version of artemisinin, a chemical critical to making today’s front-line antimalarial drug based on the scientist’s discovery. This new synthetic artemisinin is the first of its kind and could potentially save the lives of the hundreds of millions of people in developing countries who contract malaria each year. Already, 650,000 people, most of them children, die of the disease annually.

Over the centuries, sweet wormwood can be traced back to Ancient Chinese time as a treatment for malaria. The active ingredient in sweet wormwood, artemisinin, was rediscovered in the 1970’s and used commercially to treat malaria. Since then, a combination of chemicals and drugs have been used to treat malaria called ACT (Artemisinin Combination Therapy). In 2005 the World Health Organization declared ACT as the most effective malaria treatment available. Consequentially, demand for artemisinin has increased dramatically.

Today sweet wormwood is grown in Southeast Asia, China and Africa, and the quality, supply and cost of the extract varies greatly. By synthetically creating the chemical, Keasling hopes to reduce the use of such a resource as well as stabilize the quality and quantities of artemisinin in anti-malaria drugs in circulation today. Keasling also hopes that synthetic artemisinin will result in lowering costs to help get the life saving medicine to the people that need it the most.

-Kira Maixner

SourceUC Berkeley News Center


Since the World Health Organization identified artemisinin, the key ingredient of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs), global demand for ACTs has increased. The World Health Organization noted that ACTs are the most effective malaria treatment available. ACTs allow for  a more consistent supply than the existing botanical supply of artemisinin which is derived from the sweet wormwood plant that is harvested in just a few regions of the world. Its volatile cost and unpredictable supply has put antimalarial treatment out of reach for many people who are the most at risk. Multiple sources of high-quality artemisinin will strengthen the artemisinin supply chain, contribute to a more stable price, and ultimately ensure greater availability of treatment to people suffering from malaria.

The global pharmaceutical company, Sanofi, is now producing semisynthetic artemisinin in its factory in Italy that will be able to bolster the existing botanical supply and meet approximately one-third of the global demand for antimalarial treatment.

Reaching this point is important because promoting a steady and affordable supply of the drug is a critical part of our efforts to ultimately eradicate malaria and advance health equity.

– Essee Oruma

Sources: PATH, allAfrica

Doctors Without Borders and Measles in the Democratic Republic of Congo
There has been a threat from measles in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since 2010. Three months ago, the disease reached epidemic levels. Although much is being done to combat the spread of measles, tens of thousands of people are still affected.

Over the past year, Doctors Without Borders has inoculated nearly half a million children against measles, having to treat nearly 20,000 for the disease itself. Mortality rates can vary from 15 to 25 percent; the manager of a medical team “counted 35 dead in one village…traveling from village to village, we hear just one word: measles.”

Perhaps the most awful thing about measles outbreaks is that the disease itself is extremely treatable. Vaccines can be purchased for a pittance, but the problem in the Democratic Republic of Congo lies in getting the medicine to those who need it. Without modern infrastructure extending navigable roads to many villages, the vaccine cannot always be kept cold in transit. One health center “has only two refrigerators and one broken motorcycle to serve an area half the size of Switzerland.”

Doctors Without Borders put out the alert back in December, hoping that increased attention to the epidemic would bring more donations, and therefore more treatment. Tens of thousands of lives can be saved for barely a few dollars each. The only thing standing between those who are suffering and their good health is the vacillation of foreign donors.

Jake Simon

Source: Doctors Without Borders

Avian Flu Outbreak in MexicoGuanajuato, a state in the center of Mexico, is proud of its agricultural sector. However, a recent outbreak of avian flu has forced the Mexican Government to slaughter nearly 500,000 fowl to prevent further damage.

Senasica, Mexico’s National Food Health, Safety, and Quality Service, has vaccinated nearly 200,000 other birds to protect them from infection. This strain of avian flu was called “highly pathogenic” by Mexican health authorities. As a result, intense inspections are being carried out in nearby areas, with experts analyzing over 2,500 recently taken samples from more than 20 farms.

Mexico has seen a few outbreaks of avian flu over the past few years. In March 2012, 22 million hens had to be slaughtered, which resulted in economic instability due to the shortage of some staple goods like chicken and eggs.

This strain of avian flu is called AH7N, a different type of the disease than the one which has received much world attention in recent years (H5N1). Senasica will continue to provide vaccinations, even for “areas with no presence of the virus in an effort to prevent the spread of the disease.”

Jake Simon

Sources: Global Post, Washington Post
Photo: HowStuffWorks

Polio Vaccine
Nine public health workers were recently killed by gunmen in Nigeria, according to The New York Times. The women were giving the polio vaccine to patients as part of a drive to eradicate the disease. The United Nations Children’s Fund and the World Health Organization both have a hand in funding and running the aid effort. No group has claimed to have committed the murders but local militant groups are suspected.

Polio has not been an epidemic in the developed world for quite a long time. The polio vaccine is easily found and administered in most areas of the world. Nigeria is one of the few countries in which polio continues to cause a real threat to the population. A large factor in this deadly situation is a high level of mistrust of the vaccine. Rumors about the CIA and Western governments using the vaccine to spread AIDS and sterilize women have both been spread.

It is surprisingly easy to believe that such things would be happening since such things have indeed been done before. Building trust on both personal and international levels is important to defeating the last holdouts of polio. The absence of the disease from the rest of the world can’t be the only proof that health workers can bring to their communities, there needs to be greater trust and less fear.

To combat the myths about the polio vaccine and the fear of receiving it, Bill Gates of  The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has begun to address those issues head-on. Bill Gates recently gave a lecture outlining the importance of the vaccine’s availability and dispelling the popular myths about what it does.

The presence of a big name like Gates will go a long way in getting rid of these misconceptions that are putting people’s lives in danger. Watch Bill’s lecture here.

– Kevin Sullivan

Sources: The New York Times, BBC
Photo: Vaccine Truth