“It seems public health is the latest casualty of Pakistan’s fight against homegrown militants and extremist groups,” Huma Yusuf, a columnist for the Pakistani newspaper Dawn, writes in this post in the New York Times’ “Latitude” blog, highlighting a recent ban on polio immunization campaigns by the Taliban. “After a period of retreat, the polio virus has recently been detected in sewage samples from several Karachi localities,” she notes, writing, “Today, 22,000 children may be at risk in Karachi, and as many as 250,000 in the tribal areas where Bahadur is based.” She continues, “The resurgence of polio in Karachi is especially worrying because the city is an incubator of disease.”
“In April, Partners In Health [PIH] responded to Haiti’s cholera epidemic by providing oral vaccinations to 45,000 people living in the country’s Artibonite region — specifically, to two rice-farming communities hit hard by cholera,” Louise Ivers, senior health and policy adviser at PIH, reports in an article on the organization’s webpage. “In partnership with Haiti’s Ministry of Health, hundreds of community health workers fanned out across the rural, flood-prone area, delivering two doses to each person by the end of May,” she writes, and discusses the impact of the campaign (8/1).
Using a rodent model to examine the long-term effects of a potential malaria vaccine, a new study published in PLoS Biology by researchers at Penn State University shows that the vaccine could lead to the development of more virulent forms of malaria, the PLoS blog “Biologue” reports (Gross, 7/31). “Vicki Barclay, the study’s lead author, said it shows a need to track the long-term impact of any malaria vaccine, especially since any such vaccine is expected to be ‘leaky’ — meaning it won’t offer complete protection, and the disease will continue to spread, albeit at a slower rate,” CNN’s “The Chart” writes. “Researchers working with the leading candidate vaccine immediately questioned [the study], saying they’ve seen no sign of dangerous changes as a result of their work,” the blog continues (Hellerman, 8/1).
In this post in BMJ’s “Yankee Doodling,” Douglas Kamerow, chief scientist at RTI International and an associate editor for the journal, reflects on the possibility of achieving an AIDS-free generation “if somehow we succeeded in getting all HIV positive people in the world identified and under long term treatment.” He writes that while there has been “astonishing progress against AIDS,” “two concerns immediately arise: the magnitude of the work remaining to find and continuously treat all those infected, and the confusion between that treatment (even if it is somehow universally successful) and actual eradication of the disease.” He concludes, “It is a rosy scenario, but even if it came true it still would not spell the end of the HIV story,” because “[w]e have no vaccine, and the virus keeps mutating” (8/14).
The Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) on Monday released a report called “Eradicating Polio in Afghanistan and Pakistan.” According to the report summary, efforts to eradicate the virus globally “have proved largely successful, in part thanks to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), launched by the international community in 1988,” and “[t]he number of new cases has dropped in the past decade, even in countries where the virus has never been eradicated.” The summary adds, “Today, there are only three countries in the world where the polio virus remains endemic: Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan” (8/13).
“When you’re dealing with a global public health crisis, having an international presence isn’t just advisable — it is imperative,” Margaret McGlynn, president and CEO of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), writes in this post in USAID’s “Impact” blog, adding, “That’s why [IAVI], in partnership with USAID, has worked diligently over the past several years to establish itself as a truly global non-profit partner.” She continues, “IAVI has created an enviable network of research centers in sub-Saharan Africa dedicated to assessing novel AIDS vaccine candidates in clinical trials and conducting supporting epidemiological studies on HIV,” and writes that these “partnerships have made meaningful contributions to the research capacity of many developing countries — a capability that is now helping local researchers tackle other diseases” (8/13).
“Scientists researching the lethal Ebola virus have told [BBC News] that a commercial vaccine to prevent the onset of infection may never be developed,” the news service reports. “Efforts to develop a vaccine have been funded in the main by the U.S. Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health,” which “have poured millions of dollars into scientific research because of concerns that the virus could be turned into a biological weapon,” the news service writes. But in recent days, two companies that had begun human safety trials of their vaccines, Sarepta and Tekmira, “have been told by the Defense Department to temporarily stop work on their vaccines due to funding constraints.”
India on Monday “opened a $12 million, government-backed laboratory whose mission is to create a new vaccine against HIV,” Science Insider reports. “The HIV Vaccine Translational Research Laboratory, which aims to recruit about 30 scientists, is embedded within the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute, a $200 million facility under development on the outskirts of New Delhi” and “will work in collaboration with the New York based-International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI),” the news service writes, noting “operating costs will be shared equally” (Bagla, 8/14). “Former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam launched the [laboratory] in New Delhi on Monday at a symposium on accelerating India’s search for an HIV vaccine,” the Wall Street Journal’s livemint.com writes. “Promising ‘strong political will’ at the highest level, health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said, ‘A preventive vaccine for HIV/AIDS is the best hope to end this epidemic,'” and “added that the step was an initiative to reinforce a national response in the global fight against disease,” the news service notes (Krishnan, 8/13).
In this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Bill Gates, co-chair of the foundation, reflects on Angola’s success against polio, writing, “Angola marked a full year without a new case of polio” this month, an accomplishment that serves as “the latest evidence that we are extremely close to ending polio forever.” He continues, “Polio is a formidable foe and Angola is one of the world’s poorest nations with numerous health challenges to tackle, which makes Angola’s achievement especially noteworthy,” adding, “Like all 125 countries that have gotten rid of polio since 1988, Angola’s leaders and citizens also deserve the global resolve needed to ensure that no country ever has to go back and re-do the hard, expensive work that’s already been done to protect their children from polio” (8/27).
The Washington Post examines global efforts to eradicate Guinea worm disease, writing, “The parasitic infection which has sickened millions, mostly in Asia and Africa, is on the verge of being done in not by sophisticated medicine but by aggressive public health efforts in some of the poorest and most remote parts of the world.” According to the newspaper, “hundreds of thousands of volunteers” have contributed to fighting the waterborne parasite, by handing out filtered drinking straws or treating water sources with larvicide, among other efforts. “As a result, the ailment, also known as dracunculiasis, is poised to become the second human disease (the first was smallpox) to be eradicated — and the first to be eliminated without the aid of a vaccine,” the Washington Post continues.