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

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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

World Toilet Day: Open Defecation in Ghana has not ended

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Journalist capturing someone defecating

World Toilet Day (WTD) is a United Nations (UN) observance, on November 19, to take action. It is a day to raise awareness about all people who do not have access to a toilet despite the human right to water and sanitation.

The purpose of World Toilet Day is to raise awareness about the lack of sanitation in parts of the world (especially in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia where access to improved sanitation is very low), and to encourage the policies that increase sanitation access among the poor.

The World Toilet Organization (WTO), have promoted World Toilet Day for years; hence, In 2013, the United Nations(UN) officially recognized November 19 as World Toilet Day in a bid to make sanitation for all a global development priority. It deemed the practice of open-air defecation as “extremely harmful” to public health.

According to United Nations (UN), the provision of proper toilets could save the lives of more than 200,000 people in the world. The countries where open defecation is most widely practiced are the same countries with the highest numbers of under-five child deaths, high levels of under-nutrition and poverty, and large wealth disparities.

“Equality and Dignity” is the theme of World Toilet Day 2014; thus, the campaign will inspire action to end open defecation and put spotlight on how to access improved sanitation.

Ghana began marking the day in 2009 even when the United Nations (UN) had not officially recognized to celebrate such day.

Last year’s commemoration brought together government institutions, the private sector, NGOs, Development Partners, children and youth of Ghana to discuss and build consensus on issues of sanitation in Ghana.

This situation of open defecation has been in existence for a very long time and still going on in this 21st century: with the aim of celebrating World Toilet Day, intensive campaigns to provide more toilet facilities to put an end to such activity are embarked upon.

Moreover, over one billion people defecate in the open due to lack of proper toilet facilities. Having to defecate openly infringes on human safety and dignity. Women and girls risk rape and abuse as they wait until night falls because they lack access to a toilet that offers privacy.

However, the situation has become very appalling upon which young people are losing their lives as a result of defecating near a big gutter or in a bush at night where wild animals can cause harm.

People especially those in the rural areas are suffering due to the absence of toilet facilities or few toilets facilities serving more people in an area.

Read this (Man dies during “free range” http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/regional/artikel.php?ID=332414)

After pondering on the existence of the WTD celebration and the ongoing open defecation activity, these questions came to mind: “What is the significance of celebrating World Toilet Day? What are the strategies or measures government is putting in place to end open defecation as far as the WTD is concerned?”

Open defecation can end when the government together with NGOs concerned engage in a massive project to construct more toilet facilities to each household in the country especially to those in the rural areas.

In addition, more seminars and public education must be organized to involve all the citizens on sharing ideas on how to provide possible means to ensure proper sanitation in the country as part of celebrating the World Toilet Day.

I think the media should give more publicity on the celebration to create the awareness to the public to also observe such a day by keeping the environment including the toilets clean and avoid open defecation to ensure sanitation in the country.

 

Written by Dorcas Aba Annan

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

Authors Diary: Must Strike be the Ultimate Remedy to receive conditions from Gov’t?

It has been very disheartening to experience constant strike actions by various organisations and groups in Ghana with the aim of receiving proposed conditions from the government in power. Yes, it is acceptable in a democratic country like Ghana to embark on a strike action or demonstration with the mindset of the leaders in power responding to a proposed condition.

However, the strike action has rather been accepted by most well noted institutions in the country as the best and only remedy for the government to respond to their needs.

This strike action has caused more harm than good with reference to the recent strike action by doctors in Ghana. Most institutions go on the strike without considering the effects the people involved will go through or experience in their absence. I would not like to conclude that, if it happens this ways then it means they think about themselves alone and does not think about ‘service to mankind’.

On the other hand, from the look on how these strike actions are on the rise; then there will be no harm to say some government workers do not consider the people involved and the negative effects they will go through before they can conclude on embarking on strike.

Doctors in Ghana embarked on strike action starting from the Out-patient Department(OPD) of the government hospitals with the mindset of government responding to their proposed terms and conditions.

The situation which was taken on a slightest note caused more harm as most private hospitals had more patients at their premises putting more pressure on their doctors and nurses on duty; hence most people who had no money to afford private hospitals also lost their lives.

Eventhough it is accepted in a democratic country to embark on strike, but the leaders in Ghana also took good decisions by moving towards the direction of the demands from the doctors. The government of Ghana had plans to invite doctors from Cuba and also to call doctors who are on retirement to come back to work and help attend to patients.

It took the intervention of former Heads of State, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II (Asantehene), Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin (Okyehene), the Christian Council, Pastors, Catholic Bishops Conference, Ghana Pentecostal Council, Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), the National House of Chiefs, the Peace Council, the Trade Union Congress (TUC), the Ghana Health Service, Former President John Agyekum Kufuor and other great people in the country for Doctor’s strike to come to an end.

Strike action should not get this extent where Chiefs and great men were begging and convincing people at all levels before they can get back to work; this is not acceptable in any country which is aiming to get to a developed stage.

I thought they will continue to be on strike as the Cuban doctors were almost about arriving in the country; hence report emerged that the doctors have called off the strike and will resume to work on Monday.

Read the full press statement below and you understand what i have been pondering on “Must strike action be the ultimate remedy to receive conditions from Gov’t”

PRESS STATEMENT ISSUED AT THE END OF AN EMERGENCY NATIONAL EXECUTIVE COUNCIL MEETING, HELD IN ACCRA ON AUGUST 21, 2015

The National Executive Council (NEC) of the Ghana Medical Association (GMA) having met and extensively deliberated on the ongoing industrial action by the Members of the GMA and having discussed all developments including the following;

1. Dedication of GMA Members
The determination and dedication of the members of the GMA to fight for a negotiated and signed Conditions of Service document for doctors in Ministry of Health (MOH) and its agencies cannot be over emphasized. All doctors in the public sector have indeed proven that we have the tenacity and the capacity to fight for our future and shall continue to work together to achieve our goals. The National Executive Council of the GMA would like to salute our gallant doctors. It is clear to everybody that the fight has just started and our determination to get a negotiated and signed Conditions of Service document shall never be abandoned until same is achieved.

2. Appeals

The National Executive Council of the GMA in its deliberations took into consideration the appeals by the ordinary Ghanaians, the wise counsel of certain eminent individuals and some credible organizations.

The intervention of former Heads of State, Otumfuo Osei Tutu Il (Asantehene), Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin (Okyehene), the Christian Council, Catholic Bishops Conference, Ghana Pentecostal Council, Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), the National House of Chiefs, the Peace Council, the Trade Union Congress (TUC), the Ghana Health.

Service Council, the Parliamentary Select Committee on Health, and sections of the media. It is the hope of the GMA that, all these people who have intervened will not relent on their effort to ensure that doctors in this country get their Conditions of Service to forestall future occurrence of this industrial unrest

3. Insults by Government Communicators The GMA at this moment forgives all these individuals who out of ignorance and other motivations took the path of insults in their attempt to resolve this industrial unrest by doctors to demand a legitimate right. It is the hope of the GMA that, these people will take a cue from this protracted industrial dispute and realize that, insults including threats of armed robbery attacks do very little to help matters when it comes to labour disputes.

4. National Labour Commission (NLC) Directive The NLC in time past has woefully failed to enforce its rulings in favour of the GMA against government. It is our hope that the NLC would leave up to expectation this time around.

5. Government’s Ultimatums, Intimidations and Threats Threats by governments and its agencies rather increased the resolve of the GMA. It is the position of the GMA that, the government has taken an entrenched position throughout the process of negotiations.

The government instead of adopting a problem solving approach rather chose to go on the tangent of threats and intimidations. We would like to indicate that, these threats, intimidations and ultimatums do not solve any problems in the industrial front.

6. Opinion of So-Called Labour Consultants The GMA finds it very unfortunate that some individuals who call themselves labour consultants chose the path of emotions in expressing their opinion in this matter.

It was the hope of the GMA that some of these people could have been more professional in their work instead of choosing to only see one side of the coin and in all their communications clearly showed bias towards the GMA. Indeed, some of these so-called labour consultants have proven to all and sundry that they are more of government communicators and propagandists than professionals.
In as much as NEC is aware that the general membership would like to pursue this matter to its logical conclusion, the NEC of the GMA decides as follows;

a. That the ongoing withdrawal of out-patient and emergency services by members of the GMA is suspended. b. That the suspension takes effect from Monday 24th of August, 2015.
c. That all members of the GMA should fully restore their services effective 8.00am on the said date.

d. That the Negotiation Committee of the GMA should continue to negotiate on behalf of the members of the GMA with government such that the conclusions of negotiations would be fed into the 2016 budget for implementation of same.

e. That all members should wait for further information from leadership as and when it becomes necessary.

Signed by President of GMA Dr Kwabena Opoku Adusei and General Secretary Dr Frank Serebour

Article written by: AllAboutAfrica.com

Press Statement: GMA

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