Positive results announced this week from a large clinical trial testing the efficacy of the RTS,S malaria vaccine are “encouraging,” but they are also “a reminder of how much work remains to be done,” an Economist editorial reports. The WHO abandoned its first efforts to eradicate the disease 14 years after setting out to do so in 1955, but “a new wave of enthusiasm,” beginning in 1998 with the establishment of the Roll Back Malaria partnership and culminating with Bill Gates’s call for malaria eradication four years ago, “has helped to lower the number of malaria deaths by 20 percent over the past decade,” the editorial states.
Working in conjunction with the Haitian Ministry of Health and the Haitian aid group GHESKIO, Boston-based Partners In Health (PIH) will begin an immunization campaign in January aimed at providing two doses of the oral cholera vaccine Shanchol “to 100,000 Haitians living in two vulnerable communities: a neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, where potable water and latrines are luxuries, and to an isolated rural village in the lower Artibonite Valley region,” the Miami Herald reports.
The Guardian features an interview with Moncef Slaoui, now chair of research and development at GlaxoSmithKline, who discusses his 23-year involvement in the research leading to the RTS,S malaria vaccine that has shown to halve the risk of malaria among African children. Slaoui said cellular immunity is the key to the vaccine’s success and research on the vaccine has advanced the company’s knowledge of adjuvants, substances that stimulate the immune system, which has allowed the development of other vaccines (Boseley, 10/19).
“Vaccines are among the most successful and cost-effective health investments in history,” Seth Berkley, CEO of the GAVI Alliance, writes in this post in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog. Because vaccines have saved millions of lives, “donors, the global health community and developing countries themselves [must] stay focused on immunization,” he writes.
GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog examines how Kenya is working to decrease the number of preventable deaths under a “recently launched … campaign called ‘Let’s Live,’ which sets a target of reducing preventable deaths in Kenya by 50 percent by December 2012.” Achieving that goal “would be an historic feat. But the country could seriously decrease numbers of preventable deaths if it used currently available health tools, such as the rotavirus vaccine,” the blog writes (Donnelly, 10/18).
Paul Farmer, a founder of Partners in Health (PIH) and U.N. deputy special envoy to Haiti, in an interview with the Associated Press/Washington Post “said cholera has sickened more than 450,000 people in a nation of 10 million, or nearly five percent of the population, and killed more than 6,000,” giving the Caribbean nation “the highest rate of cholera in the world a mere year after the disease first arrived” (10/18).
In this Guardian opinion piece, the newspaper’s health editor, Sarah Boseley, responds to the positive results of a large-scale clinical trial of an experimental malaria vaccine reported on Tuesday and recaps other strides made against the disease in recent years, writing that “there is a way to go yet, with more results from the trial to come, and many uncertainties, including how much this vaccine will cost and who will be persuaded to pay.”
“China vaccinated 4.5 million children and young adults over the last five weeks in the western region of Xinjiang in a fight against polio after the disease paralyzed 17 people and killed one of them, the World Health Organization said,” according to Reuters. This is the first outbreak of polio in China since 1999, “and scientists say the strain originated from Pakistan,” one of four remaining countries where polio is endemic, the news service writes.
The Los Angeles Times examines polio eradication campaigns in Pakistan, which is one of just four countries where the disease remains endemic. “Several factors have stood in the way of eradication,” including tribal violence, migration within the country and “an intense mistrust among some Pakistanis for the vaccines and the people who supply and administer them,” according to the newspaper (Rodriguez, 10/16).
“An attenuated, or weakened, strain of Chlamydia trachomatis bacteria can be used as a vaccine to prevent or reduce the severity of trachoma, the world’s leading cause of infectious blindness, suggest findings from a National Institutes of Health (NIH) study in monkeys,” an NIH press release reports. The study, published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine on Tuesday, used cynomolgus macaque monkeys in the experiment “because their immune responses closely predict those of humans,” the press release states. “If this approach demonstrates continued success, the implications could be enormous for the tens of millions of people affected by trachoma, a neglected disease of poverty primarily seen in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa,” said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at NIH, according to the press release (10/10).