“Afghanistan is intensifying efforts to eradicate polio by the end of next year, but security remains a major challenge especially in the southern provinces where the virus is localized, says” Arshad Quddus, head of the WHO polio program in Afghanistan, IRIN reports. Polio remains endemic in Afghanistan, according to the WHO, IRIN notes, adding that Afghan “[g]overnment data show that 85 percent of the population now live in polio-free areas, but the virus is still circulating in 13 districts, including the seven where  recent cases have been detected.” In addition to security issues, “low literacy rates, poor hygiene practices and low awareness of the benefits of vaccination” are hindering campaigns, according to IRIN (9/15).
In this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Jose Esparza, deputy director of vaccines and HIV at the Gates Foundation, reports on AIDS Vaccine 2011, a conference being held this week in Bangkok, Thailand, that is expected to draw more than 800 scientists and policymakers from around the…
“After two years of analyzing the results of the largest AIDS vaccine clinical trial ever held — called RV144 — researchers say they have found two ways the immune system can respond, which could predict whether those inoculated will be protected or are more likely to become infected with HIV,” CNN’s health blog “The Chart” reports. The results were presented at the AIDS Vaccine 2011 conference being held this week in Bangkok, Thailand (Young, 9/13).
“An experimental malaria vaccine tested on children in Burkina Faso has shown ‘a high level of efficacy’ in protecting against the disease, a study published in” Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine said, according to Agence France-Presse. The research, which “was initially planned to study the safety and immune response of the vaccine, known by the name MSP3 … was led by scientists from the National Center for Research and Training on Malaria in Burkina Faso, the London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene and the Paris-based Pasteur Institute,” the news agency writes.
In this New York Times opinion piece, W. Ian Lipkin, a professor of epidemiology and a professor of neurology and pathology at Columbia University and a paid technical consultant on the film “Contagion,” which opened this weekend, writes about the risks of an infectious disease outbreak as portrayed in the film, stating, “Those risks are very real — and are increasing drastically.”
Candidate Malaria Vaccine Represents 'Potentially Encouraging Anti-Malaria Strategy,' Researchers Say
A team of researchers led by Stephen Hoffman of Sanaria Inc. have created a candidate malaria vaccine against Plasmodium falciparum, the most deadly of the malaria parasites, using live but weakened parasites that “represents a potentially encouraging anti-malaria strategy,” an NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases press release reports. The findings of the research, which “was conducted by scientists at the Vaccine Research Center (VRC) of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, working in concert with a large team of collaborators,” were published in Thursday’s online issue of Science, the press release states (9/8).
The U.N.’s Pan-American Health Organization, the United States and the international community “should be working with the Haitian Health Ministry to wage a more aggressive and effective effort” against the cholera epidemic that hit the country last year, and those efforts “should include not only clean water and sanitation systems but more antibiotics and cholera vaccinations,” a New York Times editorial says. “Ramping up manufacturing” of the cholera vaccine — of which there are less than 400,000 doses worldwide — “could be readily done and would have global benefits,” the editorial states.
Scientists at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Colorado State University report in the September 4 issue of Nature Medicine that “[a] potential vaccine against tuberculosis [TB] has been found to completely eliminate tuberculosis bacteria from infected tissues in some mice,” according to a HHMI press release. “The vaccine was created with a strain of bacteria that, due to the absence of a few genes, are unable to avoid its host’s first-line immune response,” the release states, adding, “Once this first-line defense has been activated, it triggers the more specific immune response that can protect against future infections” (9/4). A spokesperson for the campaign group TB Alert told BBC News, “These are interesting experiments but it is too early to tell what impact they will have on the development of a safe and effective vaccine,” the news service reports (Gallagher, 9/4).
Speaking at the 61st session of the WHO Regional Office for Africa (AFRO) in Yamoussoukro, Cote d’Ivoire, on Thursday, African Regional Director of WHO Luis Sambo said “that 46 Africa member countries still had remarkable challenges to scale before meeting the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” Nigeria’s The Nation reports.
Genetic Factor Found In Link Between H1N1 Flu Vaccine And Children's Narcolepsy, Finland Institute Says
“Finland’s national health institute said on Thursday its latest research on previously found links between children’s narcolepsy and GlaxoSmithKline’s [GSK] Pandemrix vaccine against [H1N1] swine flu also involved a genetic risk factor,” Reuters reports. In Finland, where 98 narcolepsy cases have been reported following the flu vaccinations, researchers found vaccinated children ages four to 19 “had a 12.7 times higher risk of experiencing narcolepsy than those who were not,” the news agency notes (9/1).