Archive for May, 2012

HIV vaccine on trial

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012 (last updated)

A team of French scientists has started clinical trials on humans for a potential HIV/AIDS vaccine.

Chief Scientific Officer at Grenoble-based PX’Therapeutics Nicolas Mouz said: “We’re developping a vaccine against HIV, using a protein of the HIV virus called GP41.

“Why the GP41 protein? Because it’s a key protein in the mechanism of entry of the virus into the cells.

“And it’s a protein which allows the generation of neutralising antibodies, which is the main objective of the vaccine.”

Protein GP41 – remember that name, because that protein could help European researchers overcome one of the world’s most pernicious diseases: HIV/AIDS.

The team at PX’Therapeutics believes GP41’s low level of genetic variability means it could allow them to develop a truly ground-breaking vaccine.

Nicolas Mouz explained: “The idea is to look for an immune response of neutralising antibodies in the mucus. Why in mucus? Because nearly 90% of AIDS cases are due to sexual relations.”

These French researchers are part of a European project that includes clinical trials of their HIV vaccine.

The team is following closely as 50 British volunteers take part in the first round of tests.

PX’Therapeutics’ pharmaceutical director is Lucile Marron Brignone. She said: “After each administration of the product we check if there are any side effects.

“The other objective is to have information about the immunogenicity of the product, that’s to say whether or not it generates an immune response within patients or healthy volunteers.”

The trials have started well – and it is hoped this technology could be part of a truly effective HIV vaccine.

Nicolas Mouz said: “We are probably quite a long way from an AIDS vaccine, but we do believe that this vaccine has real potential, and we could imagine that the future AIDS vaccine will probably be a mix of different subunit vaccines, and that this vaccine subunit could be part of a future vaccine.”


Why polio just became a global health crisis

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012 (last updated)

Though only 650 cases were recorded last year, the World Health Organization declared the disease an emergency, but its importance goes beyond public health.


Few people probably associate the phrase “global health emergency” with polio, a disease that has been around for 5000 years and is on a decades-long decline so steep that there are less than a thousand recorded cases left on Earth, and it no longer even seems real to many in the developed world. “Global health emergency” might sound applicable to HIV/AIDS, malaria, or cancer, but polio?

And yet, that is exactly what happened late last Friday afternoon in Geneva, when the World Health Assembly, the governing body of the World Health Organization, declared 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. But this is about much more than just filling a budget shortfall: 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.

Since the world decided to come together to eradicate polio in 1988, the disease has been almost entirely eliminated. It killed or paralysed more than 350,000 children each year in the 1980s, but there were just 650 recorded cases in 2011. In January, India celebrated its first polio-free year in history, leaving the disease endemic in just three countries: Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The latest figures from the World Health Organization show only 60 cases so far in 2012.

But polio is a different type of emergency than the ones we usually hear about in the news. Its biggest danger isn’t the current number of cases, but the implications for failure: not only because a failure to eradicate could allow for a resurgence that could kill or disable thousands of children each year, but because of what it holds for the effectiveness of our global health systems itself.

Part of the risk has to do with money. Over the past quarter century, $9.5 billion has already been spent on polio eradication, driven by international organizations — primarily the WHO and UNICEF — as well as private donors such as the Gates Foundation and Rotary. The WHO’s strategic advisory group of experts on immunization have said that failure to eradicate polio would be “the most expensive public health failure in history.” A failure to make all that money achieve its intended goal could make it tougher to solicit donations from countries and individuals for future eradication campaigns.

The other element is symbolic. In a sense, polio will be a marker of either what the world can or cannot achieve in global health. “If we finish polio eradication, what it will prove is that with a relatively modest investment in the grand scheme of things, you can achieve real health outcomes,” says Bruce Aylward, the Canadian epidemiologist who heads the WHO’s eradication efforts

The Atlantic

Influenza vaccination to all children over five is ‘highly cost-effective’

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012 (last updated)

Department of Health advisers are considering recommending a schools-based programme to administer flu vaccinations to all children older than five years, after a review of the evidence suggested it would be cost-effective.

In draft minutes from a meeting held last month, members of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said a programme in children could prevent large numbers of serious cases of influenza in older adults and at-risk groups.

The JCVI said last November that recent evidence supported the extension of the current vaccination programme to all under 17s, but they required more evidence to determine how this should be done in practice.

After another meeting to consider the evidence last month, the JCVI said it is likely to be ‘highly cost effective’, but acknowledged health professionals would have ‘mixed opinions’ of a vaccination programme in children, and admitted it would be very costly to introduce.

The committee looked at a programme in all children older than six months, but said a programme in the over-fives was ‘the most cost effective option’ and would most likely be carried out in schools.

The draft minutes say: ‘Given that vaccinating children aged five to less than 17 years is the most cost effective option, that children under two years cannot receive the vaccine of choice, and that attitudinal research had suggested that vaccination of pre-school children is likely to be less well accepted by parents than the vaccination of school children, an extension to the influenza vaccination programme could initially target school-aged children spanning age five to less than 17 years.’

‘There may be additional benefits from such a programme: increasing opportunities for general health promotion in schools, strengthening school health services and wider understanding of immunisation and of the dangers of influenza by children and parents.’

The JCVI will make a final decision on whether to introduce this programme at its next meeting.

Pulse Today

Getting the miracle of vaccines to those who most need them

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012 (last updated)

GAVI CEO Seth Berkley describes the challenges and successes of bringing lifesaving vaccines to people in the poorest countries during the 2012 John Ring LaMontagne Memorial Lecture sponsored by NIAID.

GAVI Alliance

VACFA: an Africa free of vaccine preventable diseases

Sunday, May 27th, 2012 (last updated)

The Vaccines for Africa Initiative (VACFA) was founded in 2009 by Professor Gregory Hussey, the Director of the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine at the University of Cape Town. It is a partnership of concerned individuals and organisations who have come together with the expressed purpose of increasing awareness of and promoting uptake of vaccines on the African continent.  VACFA will provide a forum for the exchange of accurate, up-to-date and fully researched information on vaccines and immunisation practices relevant to Africa for health professionals, policymakers, programme managers, parents, and the general public.


The mission of VACFA is to increase awareness of the benefits of vaccines and to promote the uptake of established and newly available vaccines in Africa as well as make a significant contribution to capacity building, product development, and research on vaccines in Africa.


The website of VACFA ( is designed to be an interactive forum to encourage debate and information exchange between the public, scientific community, and health care professionals. The website aims to be a strategic resource to share information about current vaccines, vaccine research, and vaccine initiatives. The website will be accessible to both the public and scientific community and be a portal for information about vaccines and vaccine research and development.

VACFA, Vaccines for Africa

Potential new vaccine target for bacterial meningitis identified

Saturday, May 26th, 2012 (last updated)

Bacterial meningitis is an infection of the meninges, the protective membrane that covers the spinal cord and brain.

Children, elderly patients and immunocompromised patients are at a higher risk for the development of severe bacterial meningitis.


Recently, a team of researchers at the University of Adelaide in Australia sought to identify new vaccine targets in Streptococcus pneumoniae, which is the most common cause of bacterial meningitis in the world.

Led by Dr. Abiodun Ogunniyi, the research team developed a new method of screening for bacterial genes that are expressed during meningitis in brain tissue.

Using a mouse model system, the researchers examined mice infected with two different strains of S. pneumoniae.

They identified a protein known as glycerophosphate oxidase, and showed that this protein was critical for the progression of bacteria from blood to brain in mice.

They went on to show that a vaccine against glycerophosphate oxidase protected mice from invasive pneumococcal disease.

Their results not only suggest a new strategy for immunizing against Streptococcus pneumoniae, but also provide a blueprint for discovering additional genes from other pathogens that contribute to meningitis.


Seattle HIV Vaccine Trials Network

Saturday, May 26th, 2012 (last updated)

The Seattle HIV Vaccine Trials Unit (HVTU) is a program of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in collaboration with the University of Washington.

The Seattle HVTU is a local site for the HIV Vaccine Network (HVTN) —an international effort to test and find an HIV vaccine that will work safely in diverse populations worldwide.

In existence since 1987, we are dedicated to working with our local community to provide HIV vaccine education and research for people interested in fighting HIV. We work with many community based organizations such as African American Reach and Teach Ministries, Black Leadership Council on HIV/AIDS, Entre Hermanos, Gay City and Lifelong AIDS Alliance’s Men’s Prevention Program (

Located on First Hill near downtown Seattle and Capital Hill, our staff is experienced in enrolling HIV negative and positive volunteers in our various HIV vaccine and cohort research studies.

Together with the help of our volunteers, we hope to end the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Will you join us as we move one step closer to ending this epidemic once and for all? Go to:

Click here

Seattle HIV Vaccine Trials Unit

Dr Ran Goldman speaks about rotavirus and the new oral rotavirus vaccines

Thursday, May 24th, 2012 (last updated)

Emergency physician and paediatrician Dr. Ran Goldman from BC Children’s Hospital speaks about rotavirus and the new oral vaccine available for young children in BC starting in January 2012.

Immunize BC

Every child in the world has the right to receive all possible vaccination against all vaccine preventable disease

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012 (last updated)

Protective Immunisation is one of the most important effective and preventive goals available in medicine: Immunisation is the greatest single health advance for children. WHO and UNICEF support immunisation programmes worldwide. Vaccines usually protect the vaccinated person against the respective disease. Additionally, diseases which are spread only from one human to an other (e.g Poliomyelitis, Hepatitis B, Measles, Rubella ) can be eradicated if a high immunisation coverage of the population can be sustained as promoted by the WHO – eradication programmes.


Therefore, WHO has declared that no child should be denied immunisation without careful thought as to the consequences for that child and the community: “Every child in the world has the right to receive all possible vaccination against all vaccine preventable diseases.”


While many developed and developing countries report vaccine uptake rates in excess of 95 per cent, for many of the world ́s children immunisation still remains unavailable.


This resolution seeks to have the right to safe and efficacious vaccines as a stated right of children and for that right to be added to the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Children. The resolution does not intend to specify which vaccines children ought to receive, recognising that the schedule will vary between countries.


The resolution should emphasise the rights of children to have access to vaccines which have been shown to be safe and efficacious. The resolution should assist in efforts to ensure that Governments make available agreed and accessible schedules of immunisation for children in their countries.


Immunisation procedures should be free of charge at the point of delivery. The resolution should impress on parents the importance of bringing their children to immunisation. The resolution should help to convince governments and in particular their Departments of Health, to assess the cost-economics of immunisation, to produce an agreed schedule and to make available resources to ensure the delivery of immunisation schedules to all children.


It is an important task of any physician to give his patients sufficient protection through immunisation. This includes that primary immunization of new-borns and infants is started on time, is not unnecessarily delayed and is concluded on time.


It has to be ensured that caching-up and necessary booster doses are administered to people of all ages.


According to WHO’s recommendations, each contact with a physician should be used to check the immunisation record and to administer a booster dose if necessary (regardless of how long the recommended immunisation interval has been exceeded).

European Confederation of Primary Care Paediatricians (Wilhelm Sedlak)

Researchers present new findings for novel pancreatic cancer vaccine

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012 (last updated)

A novel pancreatic cancer vaccine shows promise in improving survival when added to standard treatment, according to new research out of University Hospitals Case Medical Center’s Seidman Cancer Center and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. The Phase 2 data was presented today at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract, part of Digestive Disease Week in San Diego.

The multi-site, nationwide study involved 70 patients with resected pancreatic cancer and suggests improvement in 12-month disease-free and overall survival.

“Pancreatic cancer is a deadly disease with long-term survival less than 5%,” says Dr. Hardacre, surgical oncologist with UH Case Medical Center and Associate Professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. “Better treatments are needed to improve survival and we are encouraged by the promising results of this vaccine therapy.”

The vaccine, known as Algenpantucel-L, is unique from other approaches in that it is designed to trigger the patient’s own immune system to destroy cancer cells. Algenpantucel-L, developed by NewLink Genetics Corporation, was added to standard adjuvant therapy for patients who have successfully undergone pancreatic surgical resection.

A pivotal, nationwide Phase 3 study of the vaccine, also led in part by Dr. Hardacre, has begun and will involve up to 722 patients.

Cancer of the pancreas is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United States, killing more than 35,000 Americans each year. Pancreatic cancer is characteristically aggressive with non-specific initial symptoms, making it difficult to diagnose early. Conventional therapies have little impact on prognosis and disease outcome. Surgical resection of the tumor is currently the only chance for a cure. Without resection, overall median survival is four to six months with an estimated five-year survival rate of 0.4 percent to 5 percent.

“Patients with pancreatic cancer have limited options and there have been few advances for this lethal disease in recent years,” says Stan Gerson, MD, Director of the UH Seidman Cancer Center and the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center at Case Western Reserve University. “We are proud that Jeff and our cancer center have played such a significant role in investigating this promising new treatment option.”