Vaccines and treatments

  • Food safetyDetecting horse-meat fraud in the wake of a recent food scandal

    As the United Kingdom forms a new crime unit designed to fight food fraud — in response to an uproar last year over horse meat being passed off as beef — scientists from Germany are reporting a technique for detecting meat adulteration.

  • EpidemicsScientists develop a new way to prevent the spread of deadly diseases

    For decades, researchers have tried to develop broadly effective vaccines to prevent the spread of illnesses such as HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis. While limited progress has been made along these lines, there are still no licensed vaccinations available that can protect most people from these devastating diseases. So what are immunologists to do when vaccines just aren’t working? Whereas vaccines introduce substances such as antigens into the body hoping to illicit an appropriate immune response — the generation of either antibodies that might block an infection or T cells capable of attacking infected cells — Caltech scientists have approached the problem in a different way: Why not provide the body with step-by-step instructions for producing specific antibodies that have been shown to neutralize a particular disease?

  • EbolaThree infected Liberian health workers receive rare Ebola serum

    Three Liberian health care workers who have been infected with the Ebola virus while treating patients, have on Friday received a scarce experimental serum – Zmapp — at a hospital outside the national capital, Monrovia, the Liberian capital. This is the same serum given to two American workers, Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, who contracted Ebola while working at ELWA Hospital in Monrovia. Brantly and Writebol were evacuated to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, where they have been showing promising signs of recovering from the disease. Mapp Biopharmaceutical of San Diego, which provided the drug, said the “available supply of ZMapp has been exhausted.”

  • U.S. sends 50 epidemics expert to West Africa in an effort to contain out-of-control outbreak

    The United States has announced plans to send at least fifty public health and epidemics experts to West Africa to help in the desperate effort to contain the worst-ever outbreak of Ebola. Senior U.S. and European health officials said the outbreak is now out of control, but insisted it could still be stopped. The Ebola outbreak has so far claimed more than 700 lives in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria. The current mortality rate is about 55 percent.

  • MalariaWiping out malaria-carrying mosquitoes with male-only offspring

    Over 3.4 billion people are at risk from contracting malaria, and an estimated 627,000 people die each year from the disease. Scientists have modified mosquitoes to produce sperm that will only create males, pioneering a fresh approach to eradicating malaria.

  • Public healthNo-refrigeration, spray vaccine to help fight diseases in remote areas

    A new kind of single-dose vaccine that comes in a nasal spray and does not require refrigeration could dramatically alter the public health landscape — get more people vaccinated around the world and address the looming threats of emerging and re-emerging diseases.

  • BioterrorismPositive safety results Marburg drug candidate announced

    Marburg hemorrhagic fever is a severe and potentially fatal disease in humans first recognized in 1967. It is caused by an RNA virus of the Filoviridae family and is understood to be endemic to Africa. The Marburg virus is classified as a Category A bioterrorism agent by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and in 2006 was determined by DHS to be a material threat to national security and public health. There are currently no treatments for Marburg virus infection beyond supportive care. Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Sarepta Therapeutics, a developer of innovative RNA-based therapeutics, announced positive safety results from a Phase I multiple ascending dose study of AVI-7288 in healthy volunteers. AVI-7288 is the company’s lead drug candidate for the treatment of Marburg virus infection.

  • MalariaNew malaria vaccine offers a new mode of protection

    Malaria kills more than 660,000 people each year, most of whom are children in Africa. A novel malaria vaccine developed at Oxford University has shown promising results in the first clinical trial to test whether it can protect people against the mosquito-borne disease.

  • SuperbugsRapid detection of superbugs

    Scientists developed an array that could test for 116 antibiotic resistant genes from one class of bacteria, and 90 resistant genes from the other class of bacteria. This new lab test detects antibiotic resistance genes quickly, helping doctors choose the right drugs to knock out superbugs.

  • MalariaStopping malaria transmission

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    Malaria is preventable and treatable. Yet, according to the World Health Organization, an estimated 219 million malaria cases occurred globally in 2010. The disease killed about 660 000 people, most of them children under five years of age, at the same time that increasing drug resistance might soon limit treatment options. Researchers say that to eradicate this disease, there is a need to look beyond treatment, and seek drugs that block transmission between humans and mosquitoes.

  • BioterrorismLying in wait: Anthrax toxin may lurk for days in cells as a lingering threat

    An anthrax infection can be fatal even when the infectious agent is no longer detected. The bacterium responsible for anthrax develops a strategy reminiscent of the Trojan horse tale. Its pathogenic factor is able to penetrate inside a cell in such a way that it becomes completely invisible to both the immune system and medical analysis. Furthermore, it manages to exit the cell several days later, and then it continues to poison other cells.

  • BioterrorismDiscovery points way to treatment of lethal toxin botulism

    Botulinum neurotoxins are produced by Clostridium botulinum and cause the possibly fatal disease botulism, which impedes nerve cells’ ability to communicate with muscles and can lead to paralysis and respiratory failure. The botulinum toxin has also been identified as a potential biological weapon against a civilian population. Scientists have decoded a key molecular gateway for the toxin that causes botulism, pointing the way to treatments that can keep the food-borne poison out of the bloodstream.

  • MalariaIrradiated mosquitoes provide malaria vaccine

    A new malaria vaccine is derived from mosquitoes that have been irradiated but not killed. The radiation critically weakens the malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, which is extracted from the insects’ salivary glands and administered intravenously to subjects.

  • Infectious diseaseSuperbug crisis shows progress in antibiotic development “alarmingly elusive”

    Despite the desperate need for new antibiotics to combat increasingly deadly resistant bacteria, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved only one new systemic antibiotic since the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) launched its 10 x ’20 Initiative in 2010 — and that drug was approved two and a half years ago.The IDSA says that time is running out for meeting the IDSA Goal of ten new antibiotics by 2020.

  • STEM educationSchools do not offer students sufficient practical science experience

    New evidence shows that a worrying number of students are not experiencing a complete and authentic education in the sciences, due to a lack of resources for practical work. Secondary schools reported not having enough of some of the most commonly used equipment, such as microscopes, eye protection, and connecting leads for circuits. The research also shows that many secondary schools lack essential support from qualified technicians to carry out practical work.