GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog reports on a potential public-private partnership that aims to bring tuberculosis (TB) vaccine trials to the gold mines of Southern Africa, where, “[f]or every 100,000 workers …, 3,000 have tuberculosis, and many have often-fatal, drug-resistant strains of TB.” The blog writes that mining company “Anglo American announced Tuesday at the GBCHealth Conference [in New York] that it has agreed in principle to make its mines available for TB vaccine trials organized by Aeras, a non-profit that has 12 TB vaccine candidates now in various stages of research,” noting, “No formal agreement has been reached, but Anglo American’s spokesman vowed to make it happen.”
“Every year, millions of people die from preventable and treatable diseases, especially in poor countries,” World Bank Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate, writes in this BusinessDay opinion piece. “In many cases, life-saving medicines can be cheaply mass-produced, but are sold at prices that block access to those who need them,” and “many die simply because there are no cures or vaccines, because so little of the world’s valuable research talent and limited resources is devoted to addressing the diseases of the poor,” he continues, arguing, “This state of affairs represents a failure of economics and law that urgently needs to be corrected.” Stiglitz continues, “The good news is that there are now opportunities for change, most promisingly through an international effort headed by the World Health Organization that would begin to fix the broken intellectual-property regime that is holding back the development and availability of cheap drugs.”
In this post in PSI’s “Healthy Lives” blog, Deputy Editor Tom Murphy examines routine vaccination solutions in Nigeria, where “[t]he Decade of Vaccines Economics projects 90 percent vaccine coverage against Hib, pneumococcal disease, rotavirus, measles and pertussis can save 600,000 lives and $17 billion in Nigeria over the next 10 years.” Murphy highlights a “new report [.pdf] by the International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC) at Johns Hopkins University [that] identifies the challenges and solutions to increasing routine vaccinations in” the country, noting it also “identifies supply, human resource and demand solutions to increasing vaccination access” (5/8).
“A vaccine against one of the most neglected yet fatal tropical diseases is being tested for the first time in a clinical trial in India and the U.S.,” IRIN reports. Visceral leishmaniasis (VL), “also called kala-azar or black fever, infects an estimated half million persons or more annually,” and “[i]t is found most commonly in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Brazil and Sudan,” the news service notes. “A total of 72 volunteers are participating in the trial, but scientists say it will take years of testing to roll out an affordable vaccine to the 200 million people globally at risk of VL infection,” IRIN writes, adding, “The WHO has warned that VL is spreading to previously unaffected countries due to co-infections of HIV and leishmaniasis, while the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said climate change can also spur the spread of the disease” (5/9).
Millennium Villages Project Research Yields Positive Results, But Some Researchers Question Methods Used
“Death rates among children under five at the [Millennium Villages Project (MVP)] — set up in Africa to demonstrate what is possible if health, education, agriculture, and other development needs are tackled simultaneously — have fallen by a third in three years compared with similar communities, according to the project’s first results,” published in the Lancet on Tuesday, the Guardian reports (Boseley, 5/8). The study “offers quantitative evidence of the success of the MVP model at nine Millennium Village sites in sub-Saharan Africa,” Nature News writes, adding, “Between 2006 and 2009, mortality in under-fives fell by an average of 22 percent, reaching a level roughly two-thirds of that in control villages not involved with the project, where child mortality seemed to rise.”
“The world is facing two immediate health crises concerning drugs and vaccines: affordable and reliable access to life-sparing medicines and the safety and reliability of those medicines,” Laurie Garrett, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), writes in the council’s Policy Innovation Memorandum No. 21, titled, “Ensuring the Safety and Integrity of the World’s Drug, Vaccine, and Medicines Supply.” According to the memorandum, “Unless this issue is addressed, millions more lives and the credibility of medicines and vaccines will be lost. The Groups of Eight (G8) and Twenty (G20) countries should take the lead, as a matter of urgency, in promoting cooperation among national safety regulators, tougher legal frameworks, and regional networks of surveillance and prosecution” (May 2012).
In a guest post on the Global Health Technologies Coalition’s “Breakthroughs” blog, Jamie Elizabeth Rosen, media and communications manager at Aeras, interviews Steven Reed, founder, president, and chief scientific officer of the Infectious Disease Research Institute (IDRI), “a 120-person non-profit biotech committed to applying innovative science to the research and development of products to prevent, detect, and treat infectious diseases of poverty.” Aeras, “a non-profit biotech focused on developing vaccines against TB,” has partnered with IDRI to develop a novel tuberculosis (TB) vaccine candidate, Rosen notes and summarizes Reed’s responses to questions regarding TB vaccine development (Taylor, 5/29).
“The CIA’s vaccination gambit put at risk something very precious — the integrity of public health programs in Pakistan and around the globe” and has “also added to the dangers facing nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in a world that’s increasingly hostile to U.S. aid organizations,” opinion writer David Ignatius writes in a Washington Post opinion piece. Noting that attention in the U.S. has focused on a 33-year prison sentence given to Shakil Afridi, a doctor convicted of treason for helping the CIA track down Osama bin Laden through a vaccination program, Ignatius says, “Afridi and his handlers should reckon with the moral consequences of what they did. Here’s the painful truth: Some people may die because they don’t get vaccinations, suspecting that immunization is part of a CIA plot.”
In this Atlantic opinion piece, Rachel Hills, a freelance writer based in London, examines the WHO’s decision on May 25 to declare polio a public health emergency, “calling for the 194 member states to fully fund the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, and fill the currently $945 million gap in its budget for 2012-13.” She writes, “Few people probably associate the phrase ‘global health emergency’ with polio, a disease that has been around for 5,000 years and is on a decades-long decline so steep that there are less than a thousand recorded cases left on Earth,” but “polio’s threat is still very real, and the mission to finally stamp it out forever is a crucial one for reasons even bigger than the disease itself.”
“The cholera strain in Haiti is evolving, researchers reported Thursday, a sign that it may be taking deeper root in the nation less than two years after it appeared and killed thousands of people,” the Associated Press/USA Today reports. “The study released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that the bacterium is changing as survivors acquire at least some immunity to the original bug, which apparently was imported from Nepal,” the news service writes (Daniel, 5/5). “The evolution of the cholera strain was expected and typical of the disease, according to the CDC,” CBS Miami notes (5/4).