Thursday December 12, 2019

Chinese Scientists to Start Testing Long-lasting HIV Vaccine on Humans

There are nearly 1.25 million HIV-positive patients in China, where around 80,000 people contract the disease every year, according to the National Health Commission

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sexually transmitted disease
A nurse takes blood from a man for a free HIV test on a bus in Tehran, Dec. 16, 2015. VOA

A group of Chinese scientists will start trialing a long-lasting human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) vaccine on 160 volunteers, the first time that such a vaccine has reached a second-phase human trial, the official newspaper China Daily reported on Friday.

The candidate vaccine, known as DNA-rTV, relies on replication of the virus’ DNA to stimulate “effective immunization” against the virus, said Shao Yiming, an HIV researcher at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to Shao, this vaccine — similar to the one used to prevent smallpox — is the first to undergo a second-phase human trial.

“With significant reduction of virulence, the vaccine will not cause infection in healthy receivers,” Shao was quoted as saying by Efe news.

Moreover, the vaccine being developed does not contain all segments of the virus but some parts of its genetic material, so that the chances of infection are significantly reduced, the report said.

The DNA of the virus will continue replicating after vaccination, thereby stimulating the immune system continuously to produce antibodies, a similar process to the one used by vaccines for other diseases.

HIV
Nearly 40 individual HPV types linked to HIV infection. Pixabay

Most of the HIV vaccines being developed in China and around the world are inactivated vaccines, which do not contain HIV DNA that can replicate, so their effect is not long-lasting.

The first phase of testing, started in 2007, proved the “safety” of the vaccine while the second phase will serve to determine the vaccination procedure to be followed in the future, Shao said.

“Hopefully, the second-phase trial will be completed in the latter half of 2021, and the third-phase clinical trial may start at the end of that year, which will involve thousands of volunteers in a trial to test the effectiveness of the vaccine to protect people against HIV,” he added.

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The research group has already recruited over 130 volunteers and initial work has begun in two Chinese hospitals, one in Beijing and another in Hangzhou in eastern China.

Chuang Chuang, head of Hangzhou Sunflower, a non-profit promoting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights, told China Daily that over 100 volunteers had already registered with the organization after coming to know about the second phase.

There are nearly 1.25 million HIV-positive patients in China, where around 80,000 people contract the disease every year, according to the National Health Commission. (IANS)

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Vaccine Alliance GAVI to Invest $178 Million to Create Global Stockpile Ebola Vaccines

Vaccine group announce creation of ebola vaccine stockpile

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Vaccine
There are similar stockpiles for vaccines against yellow fever, meningitis and cholera. Pixabay

The vaccine alliance GAVI announced Thursday it would invest $178 million to create a global stockpile of about 500,000 Ebola vaccines, a decision that health officials say could help prevent future outbreaks from spiraling out of control.

The public-private partnership includes the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Bank, among others. The funding announcement was made after a meeting of GAVI’s board. GAVI said the investment, which it called an estimate, will be provided between now and 2025.

Since the current outbreak in eastern Congo was identified last August, health officials have immunized more than 255,000 people with a recently licensed vaccine made by Merck. To date there have been nearly 3,200 confirmed Ebola cases, including more than 2,200 deaths, in what has become the second deadliest Ebola outbreak in history.

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, chair of Gavi’s board, called the creation of the Ebola vaccine stockpile a “historic milestone in humanity’s fight against this horrific disease.” GAVI said “a coordinating mechanism” to decide how and when vaccines will be used will be established with partner organizations.

There are similar stockpiles for vaccines against yellow fever, meningitis and cholera. Those limited shots are doled out to developing countries by WHO, UNICEF, the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders after receiving technical advice from others.

Ebola Vaccine Stockpile
A healthcare worker from the World Health Organization prepares vaccines to give to front line aid workers, in Mbandaka, Congo. VOA

The Ebola vaccine stockpile will be available to all countries, but only developing countries will be able to get vaccines for free in addition to support for the logistical costs of mounting vaccination campaigns.

Jason Nickerson, a humanitarian affairs adviser at Doctors Without Borders, said the new stockpile would change how officials respond to future Ebola outbreaks.

“Knowing how many doses of the vaccine exist in the world, and then being able to get a supply of them to high-risk countries in a very quick way, gives us another tool to respond to these outbreaks,” he said.

Earlier this year, the medical charity publicly called for an independent committee to oversee Ebola vaccination efforts in Congo, saying WHO sometimes used arbitrary criteria to determine who would get immunized. It said the fact that Ebola was continuing to spread despite the large number of people vaccinated was a damning assessment of the response.

Containing this outbreak has been complicated by violence and misunderstandings in a part of Congo that had never reported an Ebola case before.

Also Read-Measles Kills 140,000 people, WHO Calls it “Collective Failure”

Last week, response activities were suspended after attacks killed four Ebola responders, including a member of a vaccination team. Multiple rebel groups operate in eastern Congo and the region has been described as a war zone.

WHO has warned continued attacks on health workers and Ebola clinics could undermine attempts to curb Ebola and prompt a resurgence of the disease. (VOA)