Is natural immunity the best?

September 24th, 2014 (last updated)


Options and obstacles for designing a universal influenza vaccine

September 23rd, 2014 (last updated)

Since the discovery of antibodies specific to a highly conserved stalk region of the influenza virus hemagglutinin (HA), eliciting such antibodies has been considered the key to developing a universal influenza vaccine that confers broad-spectrum protection against various influenza subtypes. To achieve this goal, a prime/boost immunization strategy has been heralded to redirect host immune responses from the variable globular head domain to the conserved stalk domain of HA. While this approach has been successful in eliciting cross-reactive antibodies against the HA stalk domain, protective efficacy remains relatively poor due to the low immunogenicity of the domain, and the cross-reactivity was only within the same group, rather than among different groups. Additionally, concerns are raised on the possibility of vaccine-associated enhancement of viral infection and whether multiple boost immunization protocols would be considered practical from a clinical standpoint. Live attenuated vaccine hitherto remains unexplored, but is expected to serve as an alternative approach, considering its superior cross-reactivity. This review summarizes recent advancements in the HA stalk-based universal influenza vaccines, discusses the pros and cons of these approaches with respect to the potentially beneficial and harmful effects of neutralizing and non-neutralizing antibodies, and suggests future guidelines towards the design of a truly protective universal influenza vaccine.

Options and obstacles for designing a universal influenza vaccine Click here


It’s not just about you and your kids…

September 22nd, 2014 (last updated)

It’s not just about you and your kids…


61% fall in genital warts thanks to HPV vaccine

September 21st, 2014 (last updated)

In 2007, Australia began providing the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine free to girls 12 to 18 in a school-based program. Now researchers have calculated the effect on the incidence of genital warts in women 15 to 27.

The study, published in the September issue of PLOS One, found that the rate of genital warts in young Australian women decreased by 61 percent, while rates in age and sex groups not covered by the program were unchanged.

The program uses the quadrivalent HPV vaccine that protects against types 16 and 18, the major causes of cervical cancer, and against types 6 and 11, which cause genital warts.

Since 2007, more than 70 percent of Australian girls turning 15 have received all three doses of the vaccine, the authors write. In the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 38 percent of girls 13 to 17 have received all three doses.

“I’m talking as an outsider looking at the American system,” said the lead author, Christopher Harrison, a senior research analyst at the Family Medicine Research Center of the University of Sydney. “But for the vaccine to be effective and get herd immunity, it would be proper for the government to step in and provide the money for it.”

61% fall in genital warts thanks to HPV vaccine

Blog New York Times

Excuses people use to avoid the flu vaccine

September 20th, 2014 (last updated)

influenza virus vaccine

First, a little background: Influenza, a.k.a. the flu, is caused by two viruses, influenza A and influenza B. Every year there are different strains of these viruses lurking on doorknob surfaces, in air droplets (from coughs and sneezes) and other sneaky places. When we get the flu, it usually manifests itself in fever, body aches, dry, hacking cough, headache, sore throat, runny nose, weakness and general misery (along with the vague wish to roll over and die). After about a week you usually regain your will to live, although that cough may linger for another week or so.

While many people in modern society treat the flu as just another annoying inconvenience, influenza is no trifling matter. Recently, people have been hysterical about ebola. Ebola has nothing on the flu, a strain of which, known as the Spanish flu, killed upwards of 40 million people worldwide in 1918, more than all the deaths caused by WWI. Even today, modern medicine notwithstanding, up to 500,000 people died from influenza (and complications like pneumonia resulting from the flu) in the 2013-’14 flu season. As many as 36,000 of those cases were in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Contrast this with zero North American ebola cases.

Even if you shrug off the fact that sometimes people die of the flu, why would you want to risk suffering even a week’s misery if the yearly vaccine minimizes the chances? Here are five bogus excuses often used to avoid the flu shot.

1. “Vaccines are dangerous and give kids autism.” One reason people avoid the flu shot might come from anti-vaccine propaganda widespread in the media, mostly on the Internet. Anti-vaxxers have sown vaccine fear over a wide swath of the western world. In 1998, a British study by Andrew Wakefield purported to show a link between vaccines and autism. While the study focused on childhood vaccinations, the fearful link between vaccines and danger spread to other kinds of vaccines as well. Despite the fact that the study was definitively discredited and Dr. Wakefield was disgraced, the misinformation lives on, fueled by Hollywood celebrities like Jenny McCarthy, Bill Maher and Jim Carrey.

2. “I got the vaccine one year and it didn’t work.” Some people who believe flu vaccines don’t work cite the time they got the vaccine and still got the flu. This can happen. Flu vaccines are reformulated every year, based on the best guesses of flu experts as to which strain of flu will be most prevalent that season. It is not an exact science, and while the predictions are often correct, sometimes the scientists get it wrong. When that happens, the vaccine you have received does not protect you against the strain that is actually out there, and you might get the flu despite the vaccination. Still, the vaccine is effective about 60% of the time. Better odds than no vaccine.

In many cases, people mistakenly think they have the flu when they really have a bad cold. Cold symptoms are similar in many ways to the flu. A flu shot will not prevent colds, which are caused by completely different viruses (over 200 of them, which is the main reason we don’t have a cold vaccine). Usually you can tell the difference between colds and the flu by the high fever, body aches and the speed at which actual flu symptoms come on. Other people will point to the “stomach flu” they once came down with despite being vaccinated. The truth is there is no such thing as stomach flu. Vomiting, nausea and diarrhea are not usual flu symptoms. The so-called stomach flu is caused, most likely, by a norovirus, not influenza. The flu vaccine won’t protect you from noroviruses (or food poisoning, another often misinterpreted “stomach flu”).

3. “I have egg allergies.” This one is not completely bogus, but it is overused. While flu vaccines are prepared in eggs, only those people with severe anaphylactic reactions to eggs need to avoid the vaccine. Lesser reactions to eggs like hives or mild rashes pose no danger and are not a reason to avoid the vaccine, as long as the vaccinated are observed for 30 minutes after the vaccine is administered.

4. “I don’t get the flu.” Certain superhumans among us claim they “never get the flu.” The first answer to that is “never say never.” This could be your unlucky year! Beyond that there is a larger public health reason to get vaccinated—for the sake of the people around you. Some people are infected by the flu virus, and for whatever reason, do not suffer symptoms (up to 30% of flu virus carriers display no symptoms). Despite their lack of symptoms, they can still be carriers of the virus, and as such, threaten those around them. Infecting children, pregnant women and the vulnerable elderly are all to be avoided. (And, by the way, pregnancy is also no reason to avoid the vaccination, and in fact is vital to protect mother and fetus from serious flu effects.)

5. “The flu vaccine can give you the flu.” The idea that you can actually get the flu from a flu vaccine is another myth that has been hanging around for far too long. It is simply not true. Flu shots are made from flu viruses that are inactivated (basically, dead). Nasal spray flu vaccinations are prepared with live viruses, but they are altered to remove the part of the virus that makes you sick, and are not infectious. While a little arm soreness (from the shot), and for some people, mild fever and aches might occur, these symptoms are short-lived and nowhere in the remote vicinity of full-blown flu. If you get sick right after you get the flu vaccine, it wasn’t the shot that infected you. The vaccine takes up to two weeks to fully immunize you, so it is possible to be infected in that window of time. You may also have been infected immediately prior to getting the vaccine. The vaccine does not kill flu viruses already present in your system. It prevents future infections.”

Bottom line, children and the elderly are most at risk for death or severe repercussions from influenza. Vaccinating them, and yourself, is the best way to assure maximum protection from misery, and worse scenario, heartbreak.

Measles cost British workforce 23,000 days of productivity in 2013

September 19th, 2014 (last updated)

A new study conducted by British researchers showed the measles virus cost the English workforce 23,000 days of productivity last year due to missed work days.

According to the study, which was done by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Public Health England, on average, measles illness lasted for approximately two weeks, and 63 percent of people reported calling off work or school due to infection.

Another 37 percent of people reported that a caregiver had also missed work days to help take care of them, with the average number of missed days for a caregiver just over seven.

Published by PLOS ONE, the study is the first of its kind to examine the short-term impact of measles on a person’s quality of life, measured using the U.K. standard of Quality-Adjusted Life Years to assess how sick people really felt with the illness.

The researchers found that people who have the measles report feeling more unwell than individuals with the flu or chicken pox. Additionally, measles infection had a significant impact on people’s ability to carry out their daily routines, causing high levels of pain and anxiety.

“This is the first study to collect data on how sick people with measles actually feel, which helps us to understand the impact that measles infection has on the population so that we can compare the burden of measles to other diseases,” Dominic Thorrington, the lead author of the study, said. “This will help policy makers decide what level of resources should be allocated to prevent or control measles outbreaks.”

Outbreaks of the measles have increases in recent years in the U.K. and other parts of Europe, with more than 3,000 cases confirmed in England from 2012 to 2013.

Measles cost British workforce 23,000 days of productivity in 2013 Click here

Vaccine News Daily & PLOS One

Italian scientists test Ebola vaccine

September 18th, 2014 (last updated)

The World Health Organisation has been discussing experimental therapies and vaccines they hope could halt the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa. The death toll from the worst Ebola outbreak in history has risen to almost 2,300 and is accelerating. Al Jazeera’s Claudio Lavanga takes a look at one vaccine that could go into production soon – in the Italian city of Naples.

Al Jazeera

Whooping cough cases spike and pregnant women are encouraged to receive vaccine

September 17th, 2014 (last updated)

Highly contagious and on the rise, whooping cough is being seen all over the United States. And now, with a rise of more than 30 percent rise reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, expectant mothers are being encouraged to vaccinate themselves so that the immunity can be passed onto their babies.

“The spike in whooping cough may be due to the fact that the vaccine does not protect against the disease for long and parents who don’t vaccinate their children may be creating more opportunities for whooping cough outbreaks,” Sarah Wagner, MD, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Loyola University Health System, told Science Daily.

Caused by bacteria, the respiratory disease initially resembles a cold, but it can quickly progress to an uncontrollable violent cough that can make it very difficult to breathe. It’s most commonly seen in infants and young children. For children under one year of age, it can be life-threatening.

The recommendation, which comes from the CDC and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, suggest that all women receive a whooping cough vaccine sometime between 27 and 36 weeks of pregnancy. During this time, the protective antibodies are safely passed along to the growing fetus, and continues to protect infants for a short time after birth. This is important since infants do not receive their first vaccine for whooping cough (DTaP) until they reach two months of age.

“There are currently no whooping cough vaccines recommended for newborns at birth, so we recommend that all of our pregnant patients and those around the baby get the vaccination,” Dr. Wagner, who is also an assistant professor at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, said. “The vaccination is the best way to prevent whooping cough in the baby and reduces the risk of hospitalizations and deaths from this disease.”

Dr. Wagner suggest that mothers receive the vaccine during every pregnancy since the antibodies decrease over time. If not done – or if the vaccine is given too early in pregnancy – the antibodies levels in the mother may not stay high enough to provide adequate protection to baby.

pregnant woman

Growing Your Baby

Phase 1 clinical trial of human hookworm vaccine successfully completed

September 16th, 2014 (last updated)

The Sabin Vaccine Institute (Sabin) today announced that its product development partnership (Sabin PDP) successfully completed a Phase 1 clinical trial in Brazil of Na-GST-1/Alhydrogel®, a vaccine candidate for human hookworm, one of the most pervasive neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) affecting the world’s poor. The Sabin PDP is based at Sabin Vaccine Institute and Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas.

The trial, which tested the safety and immunogenicity of the vaccine, ran from January 2011 to August 2014 and enrolled 102 healthy adults in Minas Gerais, Brazil. Final study results are expected in December 2014.

“It is promising that our hookworm vaccine candidate yielded positive safety and immunogenicity results in people living in such a high risk area,” said David Diemert, MD, principal investigator of the study, director of clinical trials of the Sabin PDP and associate professor at The George Washington University. “This encouraging outcome brings us one step closer to realizing sustainable control of hookworm. With more than 600 million people worldwide infected with this devastating disease, it is critical that we continue pursuing long-term, low-cost and safe protections for children and adults.”

Sabin PDP partners collaborating on this trial include The George Washington University; Centro de Pesquisas René Rachou, a regional unit of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (FIOCRUZ) of the Brazilian Ministry of Health; and Infectious Disease Research Institute (IDRI). Funding is provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Studies will continue to evaluate the Na-GST-1/Alhydrogel® vaccine in the United States through the Children’s National Clinical and Translational Science Institute and in Gabon through the HOOKVAC consortium. The Na-GST-1/Alhydrogel® vaccine is being tested in combination with the GLA-AF adjuvant that is produced by IDRI.

“Developing lasting solutions for hookworm and other NTDs trapping people in poverty requires comprehensive collaboration, cutting-edge science and leadership among health and policy leaders in endemic countries,” said Peter Hotez, MD, PhD, president of Sabin, director of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. “The Sabin PDP is proud to pioneer developing and testing of the human hookworm vaccine and work with such esteemed global development partners in areas heavily impacted by NTDs, simultaneously accelerating progress and building up local capacity.”


Sabin Vaccine Institute

For when someone tries to tell you: “The flu shot doesn’t work.”

September 15th, 2014 (last updated)

Get a flu shot

The Immunization Partnership