Archive for September, 2013

HPV is the most commonly sexually transmitted disease but a vaccine can prevent it

Monday, September 30th, 2013 (last updated)

Today, HPV is the most commonly sexually transmitted disease, not only in the United States, but also in the world.

Fortunately, there is an effective vaccine that can prevent HPV infection, says Habibeth Gitiforooz, MD, Cleveland Clinic OB/GYN. She talks about the risks associated with HPV and explains why it is important to receive this vaccine before becoming sexually active.

Cleveland Clinic

New global consortium to advance first-ever clinical testing of the human hookworm vaccine in Sub-Saharan Africa

Sunday, September 29th, 2013 (last updated)

The HOOKVAC consortium, led by the Academic Medical Center (AMC) at the University of Amsterdam, announced this week it has been awarded a grant of six million Euros from the European Commission FP7 programme to expand the Sabin Vaccine Institute Product Development Partnership’s (Sabin PDP) work to develop and test a vaccine for human hookworm, a disease that infects 600-700 million of the world’s poorest people. Under this grant, the HOOKVAC consortium, which includes partners from the European Union, United States and Africa, will begin the first clinical testing of the human hookworm vaccine in the West African nation of Gabon.

The HOOKVAC consortium will build on the clinical development of a safe and cost-effective hookworm vaccine by conducting clinical Phase I studies that test two previously identified lead candidate antigens,Na-GST-1 and Na-APR-1, in African adults and children. Through previous funding received by the Sabin PDP, Phase I clinical trials for the safety and efficacy of Na-GST-1 are underway in the U.S. and Brazil, and a U.S. clinical trial for Na-APR-1 began earlier this month.

Hookworm primarily infects people living below the global poverty line, particularly pregnant women and children in sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America. Left untreated, hookworm causes internal blood loss leading to iron-deficiency anemia and malnutrition. Hookworm also contributes to physical and cognitive impairment, poor school performance and attendance, and low birth weights.

“The importance of developing a vaccine for hookworm cannot be overstated.  This is a devastating disease in Gabon,” said Dr. Ayola Akim Adegnika, co-director of the Centre de Recherches Médicales de Lambaréné of the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Gabon. “We are proud to take part in the launch of clinical testing in Gabon. The HOOKVAC consortium is paving the way for an advancement that could greatly improve people’s health, stimulate economic growth and give rise to other tools to control and eliminate parasitic diseases in Africa and around the world.”

Sabin Vaccine Institute

Wil a breast cancer vaccine prevent tumor growth? Cleveland Clinic announces plans to develop vaccine

Saturday, September 28th, 2013 (last updated)

After more than a decade spent on research, the Cleveland Clinic has announced plans to develop a new vaccine for breast cancer.

Shield Biotech is a spin-off company from Cleveland Clinic Innovations (CCI), a healthcare corporate venturing organization that brings new medical products and business opportunities to the commercial world. The Cleveland Clinic, a large medical center located in Cleveland, Ohio, is considered by U.S. News & World Report to be one of the top four hospitals in the U.S.

Based on research done at the Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute, Shield Biotech will work to develop the vaccine and eventually seek permission from the FDA to test the vaccine in human clinical trials. Vincent Tuohy, who will also be Shield Biotech’s chief science officer in developing the vaccine, conducted the research at Lerner Research Institute.

“The mission of Shield Biotech will be to translate the scientific research on a breast cancer vaccine…into a viable preventive alternative for the patients who may benefit,” Dr. Thomas Graham, Cleveland Clinic’s Chief Innovation Officer, told WKYC.

Researchers tested the vaccine in mice, finding that a single vaccination could prevent tumors as well as halting the growth of existing breast tumors. Dr. Graham believes that the vaccine may help to prevent fatal forms of breast cancer, as well as stopping “the recurrence of triple-negative breast cancer in women after they have recovered from their initial disease.”

“Our data show that safe and effective immune protection against this disease can be induced by vaccinating against proteins that are no longer expressed in aging breast tissues but are significantly overexpressed in triple-negative breast cancer, the most aggressive and lethal form of this disease,” Tuohy said. “We hope to provide women with a safe, effective and relatively benign alternative to invasive prophylactic mastectomy.”

The first phase of the trial will employ the vaccine on women who have triple-negative breast cancer and have undergone chemotherapy or other standard care. The second trial will be on women who are cancer-free but are faced with a high risk for breast cancer, and in the hopes of preventing it have chosen to have a bilateral mastectomy, or removal of the breasts.

The trials will begin within two years and are expected to take about three years to complete.

Join us in the fight

Medical Daily

Six myths about vaccination

Friday, September 27th, 2013 (last updated)

Recently released government figures show childhood vaccination has fallen to dangerously low levels in some parts of Australia, resulting in corners of the media claiming that “the vaccine debate” has been reignited.

But, scientifically, there’s no debate. In combination with clean water and sanitation, vaccines are one of the most effective public health measures ever introduced, saving millions of lives every year.

Those who claim there is a “debate” will cite a series of canards designed to scare people away from vaccinating. If you’re not familiar with their claims you could easily be convinced by this anti-vaccine rhetoric. Here’s why they are wrong:

Fact or myth

1. Vaccines cause autis

The myth that vaccines are somehow linked to autism is an unsinkable rubber duck. This myth was initiated in 1998 upon publication of a now notorious Lancet paper, where Andrew Wakefield –subsequently barred from practising medicine in the UK – was the first to suggest the measles mumps rubella (MMR) vaccine might be linked to autism.

What he didn’t reveal was that he had multiple conflicts of interest, including that he was being paid by lawyers assembling a class action against the manufacturers of MMR and that he himself had submitted an application for a patent for a single measles vaccine.

It eventually unravelled for Wakefield when the paper was retracted in 2010. He was struck from the medical register for behaviour classified as “dishonest, unethical and callous” and the British Medical Journal accused him of deliberate fraud.

But once the idea was floated scientists were compelled to investigate, particularly when the claim stood to damage public health so dramatically. One of the most powerful pieces of evidence that there’s no link between vaccines and autism comes from Japan, where the MMR was replaced with single vaccines in mid-1993 but where autism continued to rise.

After this door closed, anti-vaxers shifted the blame to thiomersal, a mercury-containing component. Small amounts of thiomersal were used as a preservative in some vaccines, but never MMR.

Thiomersal or ethyl-mercury was removed from all scheduled childhood vaccines in 2000, so if it were contributing to rising cases of autism you’d expect a dramatic drop following its removal. Instead, as happened when the MMR was replaced in Japan, autism continues to rise.

Further evidence comes from a recently published exhaustive review examining 12,000 research articles covering eight different vaccines, which also concluded there’s no link between vaccines and autism.

Yet the myth persists and probably for several reasons, one being that the time of diagnosis for autism coincides with kids receiving several vaccinations. Also, we currently don’t know what causes autism. But we do know what doesn’t, and that’s vaccines.

2. Smallpox and polio have disappeared so there’s no need to vaccinate anymore.

It’s precisely because of vaccines that diseases such as smallpox have disappeared.

India recently experienced two years without a single case of polio because of a concerted vaccination campaign.

Australia was declared measles free in 2005 by the World Health Organization (WHO) – before we stopped being so vigilant about vaccinating and outbreaks began to reoccur.

The impact of vaccine complacency can be observed in the current measles epidemic in Wales where there have now been more than 800 cases and one death. Many of the people presenting with measles are in the age group that missed out on MMR vaccination following the Wakefield scare.

In many ways, vaccines are a victim of their own success, leading us to forget just how debilitating preventable diseases can be – not seeing kids in calipers or hospital wards full of iron lungs means we forget just how serious these diseases are.

3. More vaccinated people get the disease than the unvaccinated.

Although this sounds counter-intuitive, it’s actually true. But it doesn’t mean vaccines don’t work. Remember that no vaccine is 100 per cent effective and vaccines are not a force field. So while it’s still possible to get the disease you’ve been vaccinated against, disease severity and duration will be reduced.

With pertussis (whooping cough), for example, severe complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis (brain inflammation) occur almost exclusively in the unvaccinated.

Since the majority of the population is vaccinated, it follows that most people who get a particular disease will have been vaccinated, but, critically, they’ll suffer fewer complications and long-term effects than those who are completely unprotected.

4. My unvaccinated child should be of no concern to your vaccinated one

Vaccination is not just a personal issue; it’s a community responsibility, largely because of a concept known as “community immunity”. This describes a level of vaccination that prevents epidemics or outbreaks from taking hold and spreading.

Some people question the validity of this concept, sometimes referred to as herd immunity, but the impact of it breaking down can be easily observed in places where vaccination levels fall dangerously low – take the measles outbreak in Wales, for example.

The other important factor about community immunity is it protects those who, for whatever reason, can’t be vaccinated or are not fully vaccinated. This includes very young children, immuno-compromised people (such as cancer sufferers) and elderly people.

5. Vaccines contain toxins

A cursory search of Google for vaccine ingredients pulls up a mishmash of scary-sounding ingredients that to the uninitiated can seem like “franken-science”.

Some of these claims are patently untrue (there is no anti-freeze in vaccines), or are simple scaremongering (“aborted foetuses” – in the 1960s some cells were extracted from a foetus to establish a cell line that is still used in labs today). Some of the claimed chemicals – and remember everything is made of chemicals – are present, but at such low levels as to never reach toxicity.

The thing to remember is the poison is in the dose – in high enough doses even water can kill you. There is 600 times more formaldehyde in a pear than in a vaccine.

Also, if you ever read the claim that “vaccines are injected directly into the blood stream” (they’re not), be sceptical of any other claims made.

6. Vaccines will overwhelm kids’ undeveloped immune systems

The concept of “too many too soon” was recently examined in a detailed analysis of the US childhood immunisation schedule by The Institute of Medicine. Experts specifically looked for evidence that vaccination was linked to “autoimmune diseases, asthma, hypersensitivity, seizures, child developmental disorders, learning or developmental disorders, or attention deficit or disruptive disorders”, including autism. The researchers confirmed that the childhood vaccination schedule was safe.

The amount of immune challenges children fight every day in the environment (2000 to 6000) is significantly greater than the number of antigens or reactive particles in all their vaccinations combined (about 150 for the entire vaccination schedule).

The Sydney Morning Herald

Voices of meningitis

Thursday, September 26th, 2013 (last updated)

Meningococcal meningitis, a form of meningococcal disease, is a serious bacterial infection. Unlike viral meningitis, it can potentially kill an otherwise healthy young person within 1 day after the first symptoms appear.

Meningococcal disease can be difficult to recognize, especially in its early stages because meningitis symptoms are similar to those of more common viral illnesses. But unlike more common illnesses, meningococcal disease can cause death or disability within just 1 day.

Voices of meningitis

HIV vaccine working in monkeys

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013 (last updated)

An HIV vaccine is having a high rate of success in curing Rhesus Monkeys of the virus. The study is a step towards a cure for the disease in humans, and we look at other treatments that have had success against the HIV/AIDS. As 30 million people have died from AIDS already, we discuss the news in the Lip News with Lissette Padilla


Even if there is an immunisation programme, if enough people are left unvaccinated, the germ can still infect those who aren’t protected

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013 (last updated)

Watch this video about immunisation to find out why it’s important to stay up to date with your vaccinations.


Bring back the Lyme vaccine (by Stanley Plotkin)

Monday, September 23rd, 2013 (last updated)

Stanley Plotkin

Each year there are more than 30,000 cases of Lyme disease reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But last month, the C.D.C. announced that the real number of annual infections was closer to 300,000.

The ticks that carry Lyme disease — which are prevalent in the Northeast United States, the Upper Midwest and Northern California, as well as in Central Europe and Scandinavia — can be hard to spot. Both nymph and adult ticks can transmit the bacteria, but the tiny nymphs — which emerge in the springtime — are hard to see with the naked eye until they mature in the fall.

In other words, it’s easy to be bitten and not realize it. If you are infected, it’s easy for a doctor to miss the symptoms. Shouldn’t there be a vaccine for such a prevalent and dangerous disease?

In fact, we used to have one, and are perfectly capable of producing another, if the public demand is high and we avoid the mistakes of the past.

In 1998 SmithKline Beecham (now GlaxoSmithKline) developed a vaccine that was about 80 percent effective for at least a year after three doses. But the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which counsels the C.D.C. on vaccine use, was lukewarm about the real benefits and necessity of it. The committee made a weak recommendation to “consider” vaccination for high-risk persons, overlooking the fact that plenty of casual gardeners and hikers were being infected. Instead, the committee emphasized the use of protective clothing and insect repellents, despite little evidence that those measures prevent tick bites and even less evidence that people will constantly use them.

Nevertheless, the vaccine was put on the market and physicians had to decide what to do with the ambiguous recommendations. Then the manufacturer made a strategic error of its own, deciding to directly advertise the vaccination to the public, despite the fact that by and large people rely on their doctors’ recommendations to decide whether to receive a vaccine. In addition, the manufacturer put the vaccine on the market before it had been tested in children, so it could be prescribed only to adults.

But the biggest blow to the marketing campaign came from a group of volunteers who had been involved in the vaccine’s prelicensure studies and who reported developing arthritic symptoms after the vaccination. Although the rate of arthritis in the vaccinated volunteers was the same as the rate in the control group, some Lyme disease activists concluded that the vaccine caused, rather than prevented, Lyme disease. In 1999, a class-action suit was brought against the manufacturer. Retrospective studies have shown no connection between the vaccination and arthritis, but at the time, sales of the vaccine dropped precipitously, and in 2002 the manufacturer withdrew it from the market.

Of course, Lyme disease did not go away. The tick that carries the Lyme bacteria is spreading to new areas. And though early antibiotic treatment can kill the Lyme bacteria, the diagnosis is frequently missed at the beginning of the disease, as in my son’s case. We need to prevent people from getting Lyme disease in the first place.

The experience of Glaxo has unfortunately frightened other companies away from pursuing this needed vaccine. I am a consultant to most of the major vaccine manufacturers (though I have no financial interest in the development of a Lyme vaccine) and I have long been arguing for a return to this area.

Despite the manufacturers’ reluctance, scientific studies have continued and experimental vaccines against Lyme infection are available for further development. If manufacturers think there is a market for them, they will work to obtain a license from the Food and Drug Administration, but first they must be convinced that the fiasco of the first vaccine will not be repeated. Physicians and patients should write to the C.D.C. to remind them of high public demand. It is likely that a new vaccine would now be recommended for all those who work or play outdoors in the areas where Lyme-bearing ticks are common — a large part of the population of the United States.

Until then, Americans can vaccinate their dogs against Lyme disease, but have no such option for themselves.

New York Times

Undervaccination increases risk of whooping cough (pertussis)

Saturday, September 21st, 2013 (last updated)

Undervaccination with the diphtheria, tetanus toxoids and acellular pertussis vaccine seems to be connected with a rise in pertussis risk in children, according to a recent study conducted by Kaiser Permanente.

Jason Glanz, a researcher with the Institute for Health Research at Kaiser Permanente Colorado in Denver, found that undervaccination with DTaP was associated with increased pertussis risk in children between the ages of three months and 36 months.

“Undervaccination is an increasing trend that potentially places children and their communities at an increased risk for serious infectious disease,” the study said.

Glanz and his colleagues looked at children born between 2004 and 2008 who were cared for at eight managed care organizations. Each child with laboratory-confirmed pertussis was matched to four randomly selected control patients.

Of the 72 case patients with pertussis, 47.22 percent were undervaccinated for DTaP, compared to just 22.2 percent of the control patients. Undervaccination was defined as missing any of the four scheduled DTaP doses.

Children were went undervaccinated for three doses of DTaP were 18.56 time more likely to have received a diagnosis of pertussis than children who received the recommended number of doses for their age. Children who did not receive any of the four doses of DTaP were 28.38 times more likely to contract pertussis.

Vaccine News Daily

New types of flu vaccines available this year

Friday, September 20th, 2013 (last updated)

It’s that time of the year to get your flu shot. This season there are more options, including a brand new shot with four strains that promises more protection. Everyone should get a flu shot