Archive for December, 2012

Dr. Thomas Kosten on the cocaine vaccine

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012 (last updated)

Imagine if you could take a pill to cure your addiction. Paradoxical as that may sound, scientists are looking for pathways that could lead to drugs that will help fight the disease.

Psychiatrist Thomas Kosten at Baylor University has been working on a vaccine that takes the high out of cocaine by stimulating the body’s production of antibodies to the drug. The antibodies attach to the cocaine in the bloodstream trapping it there. So long as the cocaine does not pass into the brain, it is rendered impotent. No high, no reason to smoke or snort.

Some addicts in the study used cocaine after the vaccine had time to take effect and produce the requisite antibodies. The amount of cocaine in their system was about ten times more than anyone had seen in a living human. And they felt nothing. So the vaccine is an effective blocker.

PBS News Hour

Pertussis rises, research focuses on vaccine

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012 (last updated)

Pertussis is one of the leading causes of unnecessary infant and child deaths worldwide. The deaths could largely be prevented with a vaccine. Most of the cases of pertussis occur in developing countries, but the U.S. has seen an increase in recent years.

Pertussis often starts with cold-like symptoms, but Lara Misegades at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control says that’s where the similarities end. She led a study that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“Pertussis is a very contagious respiratory disease, and it’s also known as whooping cough. It’s caused by a bacteria and it can cause violent coughing fits that last for a very long time, up to 10 weeks or more,” she said.

Colds are caused by viruses. Like a cold, pertussis can affect anyone but can be life-threatening for infants, young children and the elderly.

Globally, up to 50 million people get pertussis each year and it causes 300,000 deaths.  Ninety percent of the cases are in developing countries. A vaccine can prevent the disease.

The vaccine is given in a series of four shots during infancy and another just before a child starts school. Because of the increase in cases, the researchers studied vaccine histories to see if those who got the disease had completed the five dose series.

“Children with pertussis were less likely to have received the childhood pertussis vaccine series compared to children who did not have pertussis,” said Misegades.

The researchers also found that protection from immunization declines over time.

Dr. Gregory Poland at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota says the vaccine is highly effective at first.

“In year one, after getting the vaccine, the efficacy is nearly 100 percent, which is why I say it is an excellent short-term vaccine. By year five, you’re down to an efficacy of about 30 percent,” he said.

Dr. Poland says pertussis is mistakenly called a childhood disease. It’s really a disease that adults and teenagers give to children.

Doctors recommend that pregnant women get a booster vaccine so they don’t get sick and so their newborns have some protection.  Doctors also recommend that adults who spend a lot of time with young children get periodic boosters.

“It really is an all-round education effort to get people to realize that anyone is susceptible to pertussis, everyone needs to get a vaccine or booster against pertussis, and anyone who has a nagging, ongoing cough that lasts and lasts and lasts, ought to see their physician with the thought of pertussis,” he said.

The goal is to develop a better vaccine, but meantime people can take basic steps, such as washing hands often and getting vaccinated.

Voice of America

Got milk?

Monday, December 17th, 2012 (last updated)

Breast is best.  At least that’s what the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the World Health Organization (WHO) and a whole list of other medical and scientific institutions have to say.  You would be hard pressed to find a pediatrician (or any other medical professional for that matter) who would disagree with the fact that breastfeeding is not only a natural and beneficial source of nutrition, but also a newborn’s first line of defense against a multitude of illnesses and diseases.  For many women, myself included, breastfeeding provides a unique and emotional connection between a mother and her baby that is often difficult to put into words.  Some of the most peaceful and memorable moments with my children were spent in their first few months of life during a 3 A.M. feeding.  It is an experience I am grateful to have had.

All that being said I have recently noticed a disturbing number of comments, and flat out misinformation regarding the importance of combining the naturally immune boosting power of breast milk with the life-saving power of vaccinations.  While exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life has proven to provide a protective effect against “respiratory illnesses, ear infections, gastrointestinal diseases, and allergies” as well as a decrease in the rate of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and a reduction in adolescent and adult obesity, it does not provide the necessary protection against vaccine-preventable diseases that can only be obtained through immunizations as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).  While breastfeeding may provide short-term protection for a newborn, this protection is extremely limited and not specific for most vaccine-preventable diseases.  Breastfeeding, while important, simply cannot replace the long-term protection a child develops from vaccination.  In fact, breastfeeding and vaccines go hand-in-hand as an increased effectiveness of immunizations has been seen in breastfed babies, specifically with an increase in protection against polio, tetanus, and diphtheria vaccines.

Infants are vulnerable from the moment of birth to a host of illnesses and breastfeeding is the best initial method of protection for a precious new life.  However, the power of breast milk only reaches so far and immunizations are necessary, in conjunction with breastfeeding, to provide the broad spectrum of coverage needed to protect infants from vaccine-preventable diseases.  Just think of breastfeeding and vaccines like pickles and ice cream.  Ask any pregnant woman…they just go together!

MOMmunizations (

Why are adjuvants, like aluminum, in vaccines?

Saturday, December 15th, 2012 (last updated)

Dr. Paul Offit and Dr. Mark Sawyer respond to the question: Can you explain why adjuvants, like aluminum, are in some vaccines?

Vaccinate Your Baby

AVN (Australian Vaccination Network), an anti-vaccination lobby group has to change its misleading name

Friday, December 14th, 2012 (last updated)

A controversial anti-vaccination lobby group has been slapped with an order to change its misleading name or be shut down.

The NSW Office of Fair Trading doorstopped the home of Australian Vaccination Network president Meryl Dorey yesterday with a letter of action, labelling the network’s name misleading and a detriment to the community.

NSW Fair Trading Minister Anthony Roberts fired a broadside at the AVN, saying the information it provided was a public safety issue of “life and death”.

“This is not a victimless issue, it’s about the ability to stop pain and suffering,” he said.

Mr Roberts likened the AVN’s message to sanctioning speeding.

“People do not have the freedom of choice when it comes to endangering others … it’s the equivalent of saying a bloke can speed down the road and endanger others,” he said.

Mr Roberts said he was prepared for any appeals the AVN might make.

“This is an order, it is not a request,” he said.

Mr Roberts has warned other states if the AVN tries to register elsewhere.

NSW Fair Trading Assistant Commissioner for Compliance and Enforcement Robert Vellar says the AVN’s name had misled parents seeking information.

“People are being confused about the true nature of the information they are being provided on the AVN website, the name is misleading,” he said.

Mr Vellar said the NSW Government was working on changing definitions in the Associations Act to include group names that were in conflict with the group’s charter.

Complaints to the office from the Australian Medical Association prompted the move. It must change its name in two months or face deregistration.

AMA (NSW) president, Assoc Prof Brian Owler, said the AVN needed to take responsibility for information it gave to parents.

Australian Vaccination Network


New measles vaccine that can be inhaled shows promise

Friday, December 14th, 2012 (last updated)

A research team has developed and successfully tested a dry powder, live-attenuated measles vaccine that can be inhaled.

University of Colorado at Boulder

Vaccine patch to minimise discomfort

Thursday, December 13th, 2012 (last updated)

Despite the painful jab, a vaccination by needle and syringe injection is still a powerful weapon in fighting deadly infectious-disease outbreaks. This method has been in use for more than a century, but a kinder, gentler application is in the offing. Scientists have invented a new microneedle patch, which promises a pain-free vaccination.

The patch is just 5mm by 5mm, about 1/10 the size of a 10-cent coin, but it contains 3,000 microneedles. When the patch touches the skin, those tiny needles inject the vaccine which will dissolve into the body within a minute. Although the vaccine amount is minuscule, it is enough to invoke the plentiful immune cells in our skin to elicit their protective responses

Hong Kong’s Information Services Department

Researchers report early positive results in leukaemia vaccine trial

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012 (last updated)

Scientists in the United Kingdom have reported initials results in their study to treat leukaemia with a WT1 DNA (Wilms’ Tumor gene 1, deoxyribonucleic acid) vaccine, and the results are good. The University of Southampton team said the results showed strong vaccine-specific antibody responses in the trial’s vaccinated patients.

The early results are part of a phase II trial with 31 subjects to be enrolled in its chronic myelogenous leukaemia (CML) arm. It is the first research study to combine DNA vaccination with electroporation delivery of WT1 antigens, targeting the stimulation of high and durable levels of immune responses. The findings could lead to the development of better clinical outcomes for leukaemia.

The researchers also identified T cell immune responses, such as killer T cells, saying that antibody and T cell responses are strong signals of the DNA vaccine’s potential to treat the disorder.

So far, 14 CML patients are taking part in the study, and 13 unvaccinated CML patients are part of the control group. The researchers showed that the vaccine is safe overall and well tolerated by the patients participating in the study.

The team plans to evaluate T cell immune responses and assess the effect the vaccination has on the molecular marker BCR-ABL, which is a specific chromosomal abnormality linked with CML disease.

Thanks to the early positive results obtained with the vaccinated group, the researchers will enrol the acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) clinical trial arm with a total target of 37 subjects in both the vaccinated and control groups.

‘These preliminary data show strong vaccine-induced immune responses in vaccinated subjects in the CML arm,’ said Professor Christian Ottensmeier of the University of Southampton and the lead investigator of this study. ‘We are looking forward to enrolling and testing the vaccine’s impact in AML patients, who currently have limited treatment options and a low rate of progression free survival.’

The open-label, multi-centre phase II clinical trial is analysing a DNA vaccine-based immune therapy to treat the two types of leukaemia. The DNA vaccine is delivered using Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc. proprietary electroporation technology.

Latest data show that leukaemia is responsible for 222,000 deaths worldwide and 300,000 new cases are reported each year. Experts identified a strong link between WT1 and these types of cancer.

Professor Ottensmeier presented the study’s initial results at the recent DNA Vaccines 2012 Conference in California, United States.

Commenting on the study’s initial results, Inovio head Dr J. Joseph Kim said: ‘We are encouraged by preliminary phase II data showing a WT1 DNA vaccine’s potential, administered with our novel delivery technology, to generate T cells and robust antibodies to treat leukaemia. These results follow on our recent scientific breakthrough represented by our human data showing the powerful killing effect of T cells generated by our cervical dysplasia therapeutic vaccine.’

Eurasia Review

The science of immunisation: questions and answers

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012 (last updated)

The Australian Academy of Science, with the support of the Australian Medical Association, has published a booklet explaining why vaccinations are so important.

This publication aims to address confusion created by contradictory information in the public domain. It sets out to explain the current situation in immunisation science, including where there is consensus in the scientific community and where uncertainties exist. The document is structured around six questions:

  1. What is immunisation?
  2. What is in a vaccine?
  3. Who benefits from vaccines?
  4. Are vaccines safe?
  5. How are vaccines shown to be safe?
  6. What does the future hold for vaccination?

“The Science of Immunisation: Questions and Answers” was prepared by a Working Group of eight members, co-chaired by Professors Tony Basten and Ian Frazer. The document was also reviewed by an Oversight Committee chaired by Sir Gus Nossal.

The science of immunisation Click here

Australian Academy of Science

Mobile phones in Africa offers an opportunity to create innovative ways to address barriers to universal vaccination

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012 (last updated)

GSK today announced it has formed a partnership with Vodafone to harness innovative mobile technology to help vaccinate more children against common infectious diseases in Africa. Despite major advances in the funding and availability of vaccines worldwide, it is estimated that up to a fifth of children worldwide still do not receive basic vaccines. The proliferation of mobile phones in Africa offers an opportunity to create innovative and cost-effective ways to address barriers to universal vaccination.

The initial focus of the new partnership will be a one-year pilot vaccination project in Mozambique, supported by Save the Children and run in collaboration with the Mozambique Ministry of Health. This project aims to establish if mobile technology solutions could increase the proportion of children covered by vaccination in Mozambique by an additional 5-10% through helping to encourage mothers to take up vaccination services, support health workers, improve record keeping, and enable better management of vaccine stock.

If successful, the project will create a model that can be replicated throughout Mozambique and then scaled across Africa to reach thousands more children with life-saving vaccination.

Sir Andrew Witty, CEO of GSK, said: “Innovative technologies – whether mobile devices, medicines or vaccines – are helping to transform global health. Organisations such as UNICEF and GAVI have played a key role in making vaccines much more accessible in Africa but barriers still exist which stop children from benefitting from basic immunisation. This new partnership combines GSK’s expertise, knowledge and resources with those of Vodafone with the potential to deliver life-saving vaccines to tens of thousands more children in Mozambique. Our hope is that together we will create a sustainable and scalable model which could ultimately be replicated to help more children live healthy lives across developing countries.”

The pilot will use mobile technology to address barriers to increased take-up of vaccines in Mozambique in three key ways:

  • Mothers and caregivers will be registered on a Mozambique Ministry of Health database and alerted by SMS to the availability and importance of lifesaving vaccinations against common childhood diseases. Mothers will be able to schedule vaccination appointments by SMS and receive notifications of past and future vaccinations to ensure children complete the full schedule and become fully immunised.
  • Health workers will be provided with smartphones with software allowing them to contact mothers, view and record vaccination histories, schedule vaccinations and report on follow-up visits.

Healthcare facilities will be prompted to regularly report on crucial vaccination stock levels by SMS. This will enable critical supply chain management and the availability of vaccines when and where they are needed, particularly in rural areas.