Early HIV vaccine results lead to major trial: researchers

WAAF Team member testing a community member to know status

Durban (South Africa) (AFP) – Promising results from an early safety trial with a potential HIV vaccine have paved the way for a major new study, researchers announced at the International AIDS Conference in Durban on Tuesday.

An 18-month trial with a candidate vaccine dubbed HVTN100 drew on 252 participants at six sites in South Africa, one of the countries hardest-hit by an epidemic that has claimed more than 30 million lives worldwide since the 1980s.

The participants fell within a low-risk category for contracting the sexually-transmitted virus, the researchers said.

The trial cleared a key hurdle in the long, three-phase process to test new drugs. In this early phase, the main point is to assess safety, not efficacy.

“We wanted to see if this vaccine candidate is safe in a South African population and if it is tolerable,” Kathy Mngadi, principal investigator at one of the research sites, explained to AFP.

The team also looked for antibodies signalling that the body’s immune system was responding to the vaccine.

The trial built on the foundations laid by a groundbreaking trial conducted in Thailand in 2009, which yielded the world’s first partially effective vaccine, dubbed RV144.

While hailed as a breakthrough, the effect of the Thai course decreased with time, dropping from 60 percent after one year to 31.2 percent after three-and-a-half years.

“RV144 set us on this journey of hope, but also showed us what we still need to learn and accomplish in this field,” said Fatima Laher, co-chair of the HVTN100 trial.

– Next step –

All the study criteria “were met unequivocally and, in many instances, the HVTN100 outcomes exceeded both our own criteria,” added trial protocol chair Linda-Gail Bekker.

The next phase of the trial, dubbed HVTN702, will kick off in November with the recruitment of 5,400 South African men and women aged between 18 to 25 at high risk of contracting HIV.

People are divided into risk categories through criteria that includes their sexual activity.

“We hope to have results in five years, and it is going to be a very exciting five years for all of us because it is the result of many, many years of hard work,” said Glenda Gray, HVTN Africa programme director.

A fully effective vaccine is still a long way off, she cautioned.

But recent studies have shown that even a partially effective blocker could have a huge impact if rolled out on a large scale.

Some two-and-a-half million people are still becoming infected with HIV every year, according to a new study published on Tuesday, even as drugs have slashed the death rate and virus-carriers live ever longer on anti-retroviral treatment.

While the quest for a cure continues, many view a vaccine as the best hope for stemming new infections.

Larry Corey, principal investigator for the HIV Vaccine Trials Network, a publicly-funded international project, said vaccines were barely mentioned the last time the conference was held in Durban some 16 years ago.

“It’s really gratifying now to see how far we’ve come scientifically,” he said.

Last year, billionaire and philanthropist Bill Gates, who spends millions of dollars on AIDS drug development, said he hoped for an HIV vaccine within a decade, as a cure seems less likely.

Malaria vaccine loses effectiveness over several years: study

WAAF Team member testing a community member to know status

An experimental vaccine against malaria known as Mosquirix — or RTS,S — weakens over time and is only about four percent effective over a seven-year span, researchers said Wednesday.

The findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, are based on a phase II clinical trial involving more than 400 young children in Kenya.

There is currently no vaccine against malaria on the world market and Mosquirix — developed by the British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline — is the experimental vaccine in the most advanced stage of development.

It has also been tested in a vast clinical trial that spanned seven African nations, and last year the European Medicines Agency gave it a “positive scientific opinion” regarding its use outside the European Union.

But the current study, involving 447 children from five to 17 months of age, suggested otherwise.

Some of the infants were given three doses of the malaria vaccine, while others received a vaccine against rabies for comparison.

In the first year, the protection against malaria among Mosquirix-vaccinated children was 35.9 percent.

But after four years this protection fell to 2.5 percent.

Researchers said that on average, over the course of seven years, the vaccine would be considered just 4.4 percent effective against malaria.

This rate “was substantially lower than that seen over short-term follow up,” said the study.

Furthermore, among children who were more frequently exposed to mosquito-borne malaria, cases of infection with the parasite P. falciparum in the fifth year were higher than in the control group.

Researchers said this phenomenon may be occurring because the vaccine protects against the earliest form of malaria’s life cycle, known as sporozoites, and reduces exposure to a later form, known as the blood-stage parasite, which causes the clinical symptoms of malaria such as fever, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

“The reduced exposure to blood-stage parasites among persons who have received the RTS,S/AS01 vaccine may lead to a slower acquisition of immunity to blood-stage parasites, leading to an increase in episodes of clinical malaria in later life,” said the study.

The results of a larger, phase III clinical trial with the same vaccine, published last year, showed that three doses could reduce the risk of malaria by 28 percent over a period of four years.

The rate of protection rose to 36 percent when children received a fourth dose of the vaccine, suggesting that this additional dose was significant.

Malaria killed more than 400,000 people worldwide in 2015, with most of the deaths occurring in sub-Saharan Africa and most among children under age five.

The research was funded by the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

AFP

Angola’s yellow fever death toll tops 300: WHO

story

Angola’s yellow fever outbreak has killed more than 300 people since December, with cases of the deadly disease spreading to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and even China, the World Health Organization has said.

The outbreak was first detected in the capital Luanda at the end of last year, and has now been confirmed in most coastal and central regions of the west African country.

“Angola has reported 2,536 suspected cases of yellow fever with 301 deaths,” WHO said in an update released Thursday.

“Despite vaccination campaigns in Luanda, Huambo and Benguela provinces, circulation of the virus persists in some districts.”

WHO warned of unimmunised travellers spreading the virus after neighbouring DR Congo reported 41 cases imported from Angola, with two cases in Kenya and 11 in China.

“The outbreak in Angola remains of high concern due to persistent local transmission in Luanda despite the fact that more than seven million people have been vaccinated,” WHO said.

There is no specific treatment for yellow fever, a viral hemorrhagic disease transmitted by infected mosquitoes and found in tropical regions of Africa and Latin America’s Amazon region.

Yellow fever vaccinations are routinely recommended for travellers to Angola, though the country had not previously seen a significant outbreak since 1986.

Aid groups have warned of poor health facilities and vaccine shortages limiting Angola’s ability to cope with the outbreak.

AFP

Eating Healthy: Nutrition tit-bits

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Food is the basic need for nourishment of our physical bodies which is scripturally proven (1Kings 19:8). Right from the womb a baby is developed by the food stored by the mother as well as what is being consumed.

Food is made up of nutrients which perform important functions in the body. Without food life cannot continue.

The body requires energy for its activities such as respiration, movement, reproduction etc. foods that provide energy are those that contain the nutrients Carbohydrate, Protein and Fat. We will take a critical look at Carbohydrate for now.

The main function of Carbohydrate is to provide energy while protein and Fat provide energy when there is no carbohydrate in the body. Carbohydrate is completely broken down to glucose which is the fuel that gives the body energy. Also glucose is the only food required by the brain to function.

The energy needed by the body in a day is around 2000 calories (unit for measuring energy) however your body might need more or less depending on your gender, age, weight, height and most importantly your level of activity.

Carbohydrates are found in the following foods;
Fruits, Vegetables, Bread, Cereals and grains (rice, maize, wheat, millet etc.), cereals and grains food product like Banku, Koko (fermented corn dough porridge), Tuo zaafi etc., Milk and milk products (yoghurt, ice cream etc ) and Foods containing added Sugars (cakes, cookies, sugar sweetened drinks/beverages).

Carbohydrates are basically broken down to sugars and it is important not to consume more than the body needs. Excess carbohydrate can be converted to Fat in the body and increase the amount of fat in the body than required.

It is therefore necessary to feed the body with the right amount of carbohydrate mainly from healthier foods and not from foods with added sugars like Sweetened drinks.

Healthy foods high in carbohydrates include ones that provide
Dietary Fiber eg. Beans, Oatmeal, Fruits, Vegetables, Wheat bread, Brown rice
Whole grains eg. Corn, Rice, Millet, Sorghum

It is recommended that 45% – 65% of the body’s energy should come from carbohydrate meaning that about 50% of your meals should be carbohydrate not more, not less. Most people especially in Africa consume more carbohydrate and very little of the other food nutrients.

Assuming your body needs 2000calories of energy in a day,

About 1000calories should come from carbohydrate.

1 calorie=4g carbohydrate

Thus you need about 250g of carbohydrate in a day. 250g carbohydrate in a day can be obtained from eating

A bowl of breakfast cereal, 3 slices of bread and a plate of rice or 1 cup size Banku or a plate of pasta

By: Frema Addy

Feature/Opinion: Climate Change; A Sustainability Issue That Needs To Be Addressed Now

Even though the term “climate” is a very familiar term known worldwide, it cannot be guaranteed that everybody knows what climate really is. Gladly, this article delves more into what climate actually is, as well as the many effects climate can have on living things and the natural environment at large.

Climate can be defined as the general weather conditions at a specific area or region over a long period of time. Such weather conditions that are studied over time in order to determine the climate of a region include temperature, air pressure, humidity, precipitation, sunshine, cloudiness and winds.

Changes in the climate of a certain region come with their effects on living things, as well as the society and the ecosystems in a broad variety of ways. These effects can never be tackled unless the real causes are identified.

It is sometimes amusing how some activities of man, turn round to affect them in a negative way. One example is the greenhouse effect, which is caused by the release of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas into the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide. The result of this is the condensing of the layer of the greenhouse gas, which in turn increases the warmth of the earth (usually referred to as global warming).

Additionally, effects of global warming include the rising of the sea level and the swamping of coastal areas. The thermal expansion caused by the warming of the oceans (since water expands as it warms) and the loss of land-based ice (such as glaciers and polar ice caps) due to increased melting are the main causes of this rise. Subsequently, the rise is sea level also causes the increase in the events of flooding, which leads to loss of lives and properties.

Apart from flooding, there are other effects of the rise in the sea level which are usually overlooked. Such effects include contamination of water bodies, including sources of drinking water. This comes from the overflow of sea water into these drinking water bodies. And of course, salty water is not safe for drinking.

Another effect of the rise in sea level is the threatening of wildlife populations. Many forms of wildlife make their home on the beach. As the rising ocean erodes the shoreline and floods the areas in which coastal animals live, animals like shorebirds and sea turtles will suffer. Their delicate nests may be swept away by flooding, an especially big problem for endangered animals like sea turtles that can’t afford to lose any offspring. Their habitats may be so damaged by flooding or changes in the surrounding plant life that they can no longer survive in the environment.

In order to prevent all these effects from happening, there must be some measures put in place. First, there is the need to limit global warming pollution. Political governments need to enact new laws that cap carbon emissions and require polluters pay for the global warming gases that they produce. This message must be well publicized to the people, letting them know that the government will hold them accountable for what they do — or fail to do — about global warming.

Secondly, we can help reduce global warming through our transportation systems. We must choose alternatives to driving such as public transit, biking, walking and carpooling, and bundle your errands to make fewer trips. Choosing to live in a walkable “smart growth” community near a transportation hub will mean less time driving, less money spent on gas and less pollution in the air.

We can also help reduce global warming by personally practicing recycling in order to reduce waste. Do your part to reduce waste by choosing reusable products instead of disposables. Buying products with minimal packaging (including the economy size when that makes sense for you) will help to reduce waste. And whenever you can, recycle paper , plastic , newspaper, glass and aluminum cans . If there isn’t a recycling program at your workplace, school, or in your community, ask about starting one. By recycling half of your household waste, you can save 2,400 pounds of carbon dioxide annually.

One might ask that how this ever persistent global warming issue can be solved and how long this journey is actually going to take. Nevertheless, we must make efforts in trying to make the world a sustainable place to live, for both present and future generations. And remember, a journey of a 1000 miles begins with just a step. Good luck in our quest for a sustainable earth!

Written By: Owusu Siaw Nana Yaw

Sierra Leone revises safe burial policy amid countdown to zero Ebola case

Ebola

Sierra Leone’s National Ebola Response Center (NERC) announced Wednesday a revised update in the “safe and dignified” burial policy in the Western Area including the capital Freetown.

From now on families in the Western Area can now negotiate for which cemetry to bury their dead ones.

The NERC chief executive officer Pallo Conteh made the disclosure in his weekly press conference Wednesday but noted that for now all burials “will be carried out by the burial team together with staff of the funeral homes within 24 hours.”

Pallo announced that “all funeral homes must clear and close all storage of corpses from now on but will be open for the sale of coffins only.”

“All suspicious burials should be reported to 117 or the police,” he warned.

Conteh informed the media that the overall Ebola situation in the country remains encouraging with the country recording no case of the Ebola virus for 12 days now and that there are only 2 patients currently admitted for Ebola.

Of the two, one of them has tested negative and has been discharged Wednesday, whilst the other patient is said to be recovering and is expected to be discharged this week.

He said when Sierra Leone begins the countdown and reaches 42 days, NERC will add another three months to make sure that what happened in Liberia is not repeated in Sierra Leone.

He was optimistic that the countdown will start very soon.

Source: Xinhua

World News: 65 year woman gives birth to quadruplets

They are the babies that propelled their mother into the history books and earned her the scorn of millions.

But three months on since 65-year-old Annegret Raunigk gave birth to quadruplets, mother and babies have been given the green light to leave hospital by the end of the month.

According to the head of the Neonatology Department at Berlin’s Charite Hospital, Annegret and her four babies are now strong enough to face the outside world.

Doctors were extremely concerned at the time that the very premature babies would not survive, with tiny baby girl Neeta weighing just 1lb 7oz when she was born.

Neeta’s three brothers were almost as small – with Bence weighing 1lb 8oz, Fjonn 1lb 10oz and Dries 2lb 2oz – and the severely underweight babies had to be kept in incubators for the first week of their lives.

Experts warned that, even if they did pull through, they could suffer lifelong health problems including lung, intestinal, eye and brain complaints.
But Professor Christoph Buhrer has confirmed: ‘All have developed well, they have grown wonderfully in a short time.

‘The children were born through Caesarian section but all four are now as strong and as heavy as it they had been born naturally.’

A few days ago, Neeta, Bence, Fjonn and Dries – now weighing 5lb 11oz, 5lb 12oz, 5lb 13oz and 6lb 3oz respectively – were examined and deemed fit enough to leave the hospital soon.

Professor Buhrer added: ‘Now they are ordinary children who want to go home to be looked after by their mother.’

The children spent months in an extremely delicate health, connected to breathing tubes in incubators.

I sleep very little but I know I can take care of them 65-year-old mum, Annegret Raunigk
Dries needed surgery four weeks ago after developing fluid on his brain but he has recovered through a procedure which diverts excess cerebral fluid to his abdomen.

Neeta, his sister, also underwent an operation shortly after birth to repair a hole in her bowel.
‘Dries has recovered well but he is going to need physiotherapy as a result of the intervention,” said the professor. ‘Ms Raunigk needs now, above all, practical help.’

Waiting to greet the retired English and Russian teacher is her daughter Leila, aged 10, who persuaded her to seek fertility treatment in Ukraine because she wanted a sibling to play with.

Annegret was forced to travel to Kiev as doctors in Germany refused to give her IVF treatment, because they were concerned that her body wouldn’t be strong enough to survive the stress of pregnancy and giving birth.

In Ukraine, doctors agreed to use a donated egg and donated sperm to artificially inseminate her – a process which is illegal in Germany.

But even Annegret admitted to being ‘shocked’ when the ultrasound scan revealed she was carrying quadruplets.

‘I sleep very little but I know I can take care of them,’ said Annegret, who will move from Berlin to a country home 300 miles west of the city to raise her new brood.

Annegret is now a mother of 17 children, with the oldest being 44, and a grandmother of seven.
She has always ignored the moral earthquake she has triggered, the gasps of horror from those who say she is selfish, mad or both.

‘Everyone should live as they want to but everyone, it seems, has something to say about this,’ she said, shortly after announcing her pregnancy.
‘This is not about egotism and it is not selfishness. I like children – they keep me young. You get more tolerant the older you get.

‘I would never dream of telling anyone to do this or that. I am looked after, consulted, observed. I am fit and I am ready to have these babies and to care for them.’

Married just once, and the matriarch of a clan of 17 created through five different fathers – not including the donated sperm – she said she doesn’t think much of men and says ‘there aren’t many who would fit the bill’ in helping to raise the new additions.
‘My experience with men was that I never found the right one,’ she said.

Annegret is no stranger to the spotlight: she appeared on the Gunther Jauch show – he is a kind of Noel Edmonds of the Fatherland – back in 2005 with her extended brood after she gave birth to her youngest daughter, Leila, who turned ten this year.

Back then she was celebrated as Germany’s Eldest Mum. Now opinion is divided as to whether she should be regarded as a feminist icon…or a freak.

‘It was my daughter Leila who suggested it,’ she said of the quest for motherhood at an age when most senior ladies would confess they could think of nothing worse.

‘”I want a brother or sister!” she said. She got a bit of a shock when I told her there were four babies on the way.’

She is poised to move from Berlin to the small town of Hoexter in the state of NorthRhine-Westphalia where she has bought a much larger house.

‘I want them to be raised somewhere quieter than Berlin,’ she said.

Source: Dailymail.co.uk