Uganda Conducts Preventive Ebola Vaccine Trial

Ugandan health authorities reported Tuesday that a trial of a preventive vaccine against Ebola, a contagious disease that causes deadly hemorrhages, was rolled out among health personnel in this African country.

One of the project's principal researchers, Pontiano Kalebu, said the vaccine will be applied to about 800 people over a two-year period in the district of Mbarara, in the southwest of the country, according to the Africa News Website.

Through the trial of the vaccine, manufactured by a Belgian company, we will try to assess 'its safety and ability to provoke an immune response with the aim of fighting the virus,' Kalebu specified.

The Health Ministry of Uganda, which shares a border with the Democratic Republic of Congo to the west, in addition to carrying out the immunological trial, is taking several measures to prevent an outbreak of Ebola, such as strengthening health controls and maintaining adequate personal hygiene.

According to the World Health Organization, Ebola, which has a high mortality rate if not treated in time, is transmitted through direct contact with contaminated blood and body fluids.

Zika vaccine trials begin – but fears remain over virus’s impact

There’s finally some progress in the fight against Zika. A vaccine is being given to 160 people in Zika-hit Puerto Rico, and a preliminary study has identified two existing drugs that seem to protect human brain cells from the virus.

The vaccine, developed by Inovio Pharmaceuticals, contains a synthetic DNA fragment similar to one in the virus itself. The company hopes that people who receive it will develop immune protection against Zika.

The two drugs that might be useful as a treatment came from an analysis of thousands of compounds, including some drugs that are used to treat other conditions. Zika seems to target cells that make new neurons in the brain and stop them from working properly. This is thought to cause the horrendous brain defects seen in some babies born with the virus, and could also put infected adults at risk of memory and mood disorders.

A team of researchers from the US and China identified one drug – currently in clinical trials for liver diseases – that protects brain cells from damage, and 10 others that stop Zika from replicating, one of which is an already-approved drug used to treat worm infections. A combination of two compounds could be an effective Zika treatment, say the authors, who hope to start testing in animals soon.

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But we are still some way off having treatments ready for use on the ground, says Edwin Trevathan, a paediatric neurologist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, who advises the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Zika. “Even if the vaccine development moves as quickly as we’d like, realistically it will be a year before we have something we can use to protect people,” he says.

Transmission cases

The development is welcome after a couple of weeks of bad news. Last Friday, the CDC described the first known case of Zika transmission from a man who had shown no symptoms of illness to his sexual partner, a couple of weeks after he returned from the Dominican Republic. The news came days after a finding that Zika had remained in an Italian man’s semen for six months after a trip to Haiti – around three times longer than previously seen in people.

At the same time, doctors and scientists are warning that the effects of Zika could be worse than thought, and may not affect some babies for several years, when it could impact their brain development. “It could affect parts of the brain that don’t manifest their function until the age of 2, 4 or 6,” says Travathan. “Sadly, I suspect that many of us who take care of children will see the effects of Zika for a long time. This is a problem that may have been dramatically underestimated.”

Until we have vaccines and treatments, efforts are under way to stem infections and the spread of Zika-infected mosquitoes. Last Friday, the US Food and Drug Administration recommended testing for Zika virus in all donated blood before it is used. The organisation has also fast-tracked the approval of a commercially available Zika diagnosis kit.

The CDC has set aside $6.8 million to fund public awareness, diagnosis and mosquito surveillance – although this is only a fraction of the $1.9 billion that the Obama administration has requested from Congress. And new polls suggest that most people living in Florida support the release of genetically modified mosquitoes that could help stem the spread of the virus.

Dengue Vaccine Enters Final Phase Trial in Brazil

Brasilia, Jun 27.- The third and last phase of a dengue vaccine created by the Batantan Institute in Sao Paulo will be implemented next week in two cities: Manaus and Boa Vista.

In this phase, which serves to test the drug's effectiveness, over 17,000 healthy people will be enrolled. They will be divided into three age groups: from 2 to 6 years, from 7 to 17 and from 18 to 59, explained the head of the biomedical research center, Jorge Kalil.

Vaccination will be held under the randomized double-blind study, which means that neither participants nor the staff involved in the research will know if the person is taking the vaccine or a placebo (a substance that has the same characteristics of the vaccine, but it is inactive).

An observation committee will know and observe, through statistics, if the candidate vaccine prevents dengue fever and at what rate. We expect the protection index to be between 80 and 90 percent, predicted Kalil.

The last phase of the trial may last over a year, but the patients will be under observation for five years to determine whether in this period they are protected against the disease and if they would need a booster dose in the future, he added.

According to Kalil, quoted by Agencia Brasil, it is estimated that the vaccine will be available for registration in 2018, which will be extremely important because over three billion people worldwide face the risk of getting infected by dengue fever, and the country reports more than three million cases every year, with a relatively-high mortality rate. (Prensa Latina)

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