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‘Adolescent deaths from AIDS tripled over last 15 years’

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New York, Nov 27: The number of adolescent deaths from AIDS has tripled over the last 15 years, most of the patients having acquired the disease when they were infants, according to new data released on Friday by Unicef.

AIDS is the number one cause of death among adolescents in Africa and the second leading cause of death among adolescents globally. Among HIV-affected populations, adolescents are the only group for which the mortality figures are not decreasing, according to Unicef, reported Xinhua.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the region with the highest prevalence, girls are vastly more affected, accounting for 7 in 10 new infections among 15-19 year olds. However, among adolescents in that age group in the region, just over 1 in 10 are tested for HIV, it said.

“It is critical that young people who are HIV-positive have access to treatment, care and support,” said Craig McClure, head of Unicef’s global HIV/AIDS programs. “At the same time, those who are HIV-negative must have access to the knowledge and means to help them stay that way.”

According to the data in Unicef’s Statistical Update on Children, Adolescents and AIDS, less than half of children under 2 months old are tested for HIV. Only 1 in 3 of the 2.6 million children under the age of 15 living with HIV are on treatment.

The new data states that most adolescents who die of AIDS-related illnesses acquired HIV when they were infants, 10 to 15 years ago, when fewer pregnant women and mothers living with HIV received anti-retroviral medicines to prevent HIV transmission from mother to child.

However, since 2000, nearly 1.3 million new infections among children have been averted, largely due to advances in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

By 2014, 3 in 5 pregnant women living with HIV received anti-retroviral treatment to prevent transmission of the virus to their babies. This has translated into a 60 percent reduction in AIDS-related deaths among children under 4 years of age since 2000, according to the Unicef.

The data reveal that currently among adolescents (15-19): 26 new infections occur every hour; and about half of those living with HIV are from just six countries: South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, India, Mozambique and Tanzania.

(IANS)

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An Experimental Vaccine to Treat Malaria

Scientists hope to get a better grasp on the system these vaccines employ, known as cellular immunity. Harnessing this system could help tackle hepatitis and HIV infection.

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Vaccines
A doctor assists people looking for treatment for malaria at a health center in San Felix, Venezuela. VOA

After decades of disappointment in efforts to develop a malaria vaccine, researchers are starting to see promise in a new approach.

While most vaccines trigger the body’s defenses to produce antibodies against a disease-causing germ, the new approach recruits an entirely different branch of the immune system.

If it works, it could open up a new route to attack other diseases, including hepatitis and possibly HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Nearly 450,000 people die of malaria each year, according to the World Health Organization. The parasites that cause the disease are increasingly becoming drug-resistant.

One successful vaccine has been developed so far, but it prevented only about a third of cases in a clinical study.

Experts have decided that’s better than nothing. The vaccine is being piloted in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi.

Vaccine
Defensive cells killed liver cells that were infected with malaria parasites. (VOA)

New angle

Other scientists are trying a different angle of attack.

There are basically two ways to prevent germs from causing infections. “You either prevent them from getting into cells with antibodies, or you kill them inside the cells with T-cells,” said Stephen Hoffman, chief executive officer of Sanaria, a company working on one vaccine.

Most vaccines target the infection by building up antibodies. “If you need to kill them inside the cells with T-cells, we haven’t been overwhelmingly successful,” Hoffman said.

But Sanaria is one group seeing success by targeting malaria parasites inside infected liver cells, the first stop in the complex life cycle of the disease.

One key difference is how the vaccine is delivered. Hoffman’s group tried a typical route: injecting radiation-weakened parasites into patients’ skin or muscle. That didn’t work.

But it did work when injected directly into veins.

Vaccine
A public health worker takes a blood sample from a woman to be tested for malaria in Bo Rai district, Trat province, Thailand. VOA

The weakened parasites traveled to the liver, where they set off an immune reaction. Defensive cells killed liver cells that were infected with malaria parasites.

And the liver’s defenses were ready when faced with the real thing months later.

Most of that early work has been done in mice and macaques. When Hoffman and colleagues did something similar with a handful of human patients, most were protected against infection.

No waiting

Recruiting immune cells in the liver is especially effective because “we don’t need to wait until the immune system figures out that the parasite is in the liver and starts mounting an immune response, which can take days and sometimes weeks,” said Adrian Hill, director of the Jenner Institute at Oxford University.

“By then, the malaria’s gone. It only spends a week in the liver, and then it’s out in your blood causing disease.”

Vaccine
FILE – A worker of the Ministry of Public Health and Population fumigates in the street against mosquito breeding to prevent diseases such as malaria, dengue and Zika in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Feb. 15, 2016. VOA

Hill’s group just published a study in the journal Science Translational Medicinein which immune cells in the liver were triggered by using a protein from the parasite, rather than the entire organism.

Scientists hope to get a better grasp on the system these vaccines employ, known as cellular immunity. Harnessing this system could help tackle hepatitis and HIV infection.

Also Read: Alcohol Kills More People Than AIDS, Violence Combines: WHO

Drugs can control HIV infection but can’t eliminate it from the body.

“If somebody could get cellular immunity to work really well for vaccination, that would be transformative for a whole range of diseases,” Hill said. “Not just for infectious diseases that we want to prevent, but ones that we want to treat and we can’t treat today.” (VOA)