Monday July 23, 2018

Measles haunts the unvaccinated: Number of infected reaches 114 in the U.S.

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Vaccination in the US
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The U.S. is the only western country to have reported high number of cases of Measles

by Smita Anand

As it seems to be the beginning of a major measles outbreak, the toll of infected children is climbing up. Since a large part of the population in the U.S. shrugged off vaccination as a significant preventive measure against fatal diseases, the likelihood of an epidemic cannot be denied. So far, most of the cases of infections are linked with the unvaccinated children and as the percentage of overall vaccination decreases further the risks would be widespread.

Vaccination in the US

Immunization against many diseases is what the world needs and vaccination is one of the vital methodologies toward achieving this. The whole idea of getting vaccinated filled the people with some dread at first during the 1950s, which stabilized later over the time with positive results and drastic fall in fatal diseases observed globally. But as it seems the fear bounced back again haunting the people in the U.S. with random negative theories connected to vaccination.

A collision between politics and medicine has stirred the anti-vaccination movement in the recent years where personal belief has triumphed over science. People argue that they should be given a choice to be vaccinated or else they would stay away from it. As fingers were pointed without any scientific and logical basis, it raised many concerns and the trust in the vaccinations faded away substantially.

With recent reports of measles breakdown in Disneyland and more than 114 affected with the contagious disease, the skepticism over vaccination seems to be starting to wane off. The people who kept themselves away from vaccination, now feel a growing compulsion to go for it.

The anti-vaccination phase drew in a lot of mistrust and created a huge shield of misinformation delivered to people through means of irrational propaganda. During this phase people believed nothing but linking of vaccine to autism and other long-term behavioral diseases, turning a small worry into a bigger concern and cause due to some maleficent reports published in a medical journal based out the UK.

Though a lot of doubts are being raised towards these time-proven preventive medicines and their manufacturers, the question is how could be the other means to prevent diseases then? The answer has many varied theories and explanations but so far the vaccines seem to be the only effective measure.

The only country that now has measles outbreak in the Western Hemisphere is the U.S.; this is not a blunt statement but a truth as quoted by the National Geographic News.

The current public health crisis that the U.S. is going through is the result of its own ignorance and making vaccines look like a medication of mutation. The result: sick people with whooping cough and fever, and tensed family and health department. The dreaded, contagious Measles is back again to haunt.

Why wait for an outbreak and search for a remedy when it is already there to prevent it beforehand. The dilemma about vaccines is to overturn the previous negative ideologies. Waiting for epidemics like Measles and Whooping Cough to return and remind the people of the importance of vaccines would be a damaging and life-threatening risk.

Last, but not the least, the debates about vaccinations are not questions raised against science but delivered information. The pharmaceutical companies need to be transparent; the government needs to be transparent, and they both need to encourage the efforts of science to safeguard the people against deadly diseases sooner than later.

Image Credit: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

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Two New Ways To Prevent Cholera: Microbes Fighting Microbes

The research has so far only been done in animals

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A woman draws water from an unprotected well in Chigwirizano, a peri-urban area hit by a Cholera outbreak in Malawi.
A woman draws water from an unprotected well in Chigwirizano, a peri-urban area hit by a Cholera outbreak in Malawi. VOA

Two promising new ways to prevent cholera are on the horizon. One is an entirely new kind of vaccine. The other is as simple as a cup of yogurt.

Both may offer fast, cheap protection from explosive outbreaks of a disease that claims tens of thousands of lives each year.

The research has so far only been done in animals. Human studies are yet to come.

Cholera declawed

Cholera causes such serious diarrhea that it can kill within hours. Current vaccines take at least 10 days to work, don’t provide complete protection and don’t work well for young children.

One group of scientists working to create a better vaccine engineered cholera bacteria that are missing the genes that make the microbe toxic.

The researchers fed the modified bacteria to rabbits. The microbes colonized the animals’ guts but did not make them sick.

When the scientists then fed rabbits normal, disease-causing cholera 24 hours later, most of the animals survived.

Those that did get sick took longer to do so than rabbits given unmodified bacteria, or modified bacteria that had been killed. Those animals died within hours.

Doctors Giving vaccines
Doctors Giving vaccines, Pixabay

The engineered cholera bacteria provided protection much faster than a conventional vaccine. They acted as a probiotic: colonized the animals’ intestines in less than a day and prevented the disease-causing microbes from getting a foothold.

The researchers expect that the modified bacteria will also act like a typical vaccine, stimulating the body’s immune system to fight a future cholera infection.

“This is a new type of therapy,” Harvard University Medical School microbiologist Matthew Waldor said. “It’s both a probiotic and a vaccine. We don’t know the right name for it yet.”

The research is published in the Science Translational Medicine journal.

Yogurt solution

In another study in the same journal, a group of researchers discovered that a microbe commonly found in yogurt, cheese and other fermented dairy products can prevent cholera infection.

Bioengineer Jim Collins at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and colleagues had been working on genetically modifying the bacteria, known as Lactococcus lactis, to treat cholera.

It hadn’t been working.

But they accidentally discovered that unmodified L. lactis keeps cholera germs in check by producing acid that the disease-causing microbes can’t tolerate.

Feeding mice doses of L. lactis bacteria every 10 hours nearly doubled their survival rate from cholera infection.

“It was remarkably surprising and satisfying,” Colllins said. “We were really getting frustrated.”

They also designed a strain of L. lactis that turns a cholera-infected mouse’s stool red. It could be a useful diagnostic, for example, to identify those carrying the bacteria but not showing symptoms.

Collins said pills of L. lactis bacteria — or simply ample supplies of fermented milk products — could be “a very inexpensive, safe and easy-to-administer way to keep some of these outbreaks in check.”

Waldor said his group’s modified-cholera vaccine also could be grown and packaged in pills quickly and easily in case of an outbreak.

Both caution that these animal studies are a long way from new treatments for human patients. They need to be proven in clinical trials.

Microscopic Image Of a Virus
Microscopic Image Of a Virus, Pixabay

Beyond cholera

The two studies could not only have an impact on cholera, but could also influence how doctors treat other intestinal diseases and manage gut health, according to Robert Hall, who oversees research funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

While fermented foods promising better health are widely available, “the studies with probiotics in the field have really seldom shown great effectiveness when they’re done scientifically,” Hall said.

The work Collins’s group did not only shows effectiveness, but explains how it works: by “making the intestine inhospitable” to cholera, he added.

Hall wrote a commentary accompanying the two studies.

Other gut diseases work the same way as cholera, he noted, so it’s possible that other microbes could be developed that block harmful germs from gaining a foothold while acting as vaccines at the same time.

Also read: Lack of Toilets, Clean Drinking Water Pose Cholera Threat in Rohingya Refugee Camps

“It’s a very exciting principle,” Hall said. (VOA)