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Novel Synthetic DNA Vaccines Safe To Use Against Ebola: Scientists

While there are no licensed treatments available for Ebola virus disease yet, multiple experimental therapies are being developed.

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A Congolese health worker administers Ebola vaccine to a woman who had contact with an Ebola sufferer in the village of Mangina in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo
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Scientists, including one of Indian-origin, have found that the novel synthetic DNA vaccine is safe against Ebola virus and offers a long-term alternative to traditional vaccines.

The team, from The Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, US, optimised a shorter, dose-sparing, immunisation regimen and simplified vaccine that can be directly administered into the skin. They targeted a virus surface protein called glycoprotein.

This new approach induced rapid and protective immunity from virus challenges.

Importantly, the approach showed strong immune responses one year after the last dose, supporting the long-term immunogenicity of the vaccine — a particularly challenging area for Ebola vaccines.

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A boy runs past a dispenser containing water mixed with disinfectant, east of Mbandaka, DRC. VOA

“Synthetic non-viral based DNA technology allows for rapid vaccine development by delivery directly into the skin, resulting in consistent, potent and rapid immunity compared to traditional vaccine approaches,” said lead researcher David B. Weiner, Director of Wistar’s Vaccine and Immunotherapy Center.

“An anti-Ebola virus DNA vaccine like this may provide an important new tool for protection, and we are excited to see what future studies will unveil,” he added.

In the study, published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, the team detected antibody levels were equal or higher to those reported for other vaccines currently being evaluated in the clinic.

“The success of intradermal delivery of a low-dose regimen is very encouraging,” said Ami Patel, Ph.D., associate staff scientist in the Weiner Lab. “The ultimate goal of our work is to create effective and safe vaccines that are optimised for field use in at-risk areas.”

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Photo taken Sept 9, 2018, shows health workers walking with a boy suspected of having the Ebola virus at an Ebola treatment centre in Beni, Eastern Congo. VOA

Ebola virus disease is a serious and often fatal illness that can cause fever, headache, muscle pain, weakness, fatigue, diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach pain and haemorrhage (severe bleeding).

First discovered in humans in 1976 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the largest outbreak occurred in West Africa from 2014 to 2016, which claimed more than 11,000 lives, according to the World Health Organization.

Also Read: Ebola Increases The Number of Orphans in DRC: UNICEF

The death rate is about 50 per cent and the virus is spread by contact with contaminated body fluids, including blood and semen.

While there are no licensed treatments available for Ebola virus disease yet, multiple experimental therapies are being developed. (IANS)

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Governments Have Failed to Respond Adequately to Climate Change at The U.N. Conference: Activists

While there are parts of the package that could and should have been stronger, the implementation guidelines adopted today provide a strong basis to start

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U.N. Climate Conference
In this Dec. 11, 2018 photo a participant in U.N. climate conference walks by a photo of a satellite in Katowice, Poland. VOA

At the UN Climate Change Conference, which concluded in the presence of delegates from nearly 200 countries, green activists on Sunday said governments have failed to adequately respond to the catastrophic impact of climate change that was highlighted in a recent IPCC report.

Late Saturday night, the UN climate negotiations, known as COP24, drew to a close, with parties adopting a set of guidelines for the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

The climate change conference has failed to deliver a clear commitment to strengthen all countries’ climate pledges by 2020.

At the same time, a relatively effective though incomplete rule book for how to implement the Paris Agreement was finalised.

“It is a weak rule book that we have for implementation of the Paris Agreement. This rule book is completely insufficient to drive ambitious climate action,” New Delhi-based think tank Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) said.

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Participants take part in plenary session during COP24 U.N. Climate Change Conference 2018 in Katowice, Poland. VOA

CSE has been tracking the negotiations at the 24th meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP) here.

The COP24 conference also failed to increase the ambition of countries to cut the emissions of greenhouse gases as per the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Special Report on 1.5 degrees Celsius, CSE’s Deputy Director General Chandra Bhushan told IANS.

Limited progress was also made with regard to how financial support for poorer countries coping with devastating climate change impact will be provided and accounted for, says another climate negotiator.

The EU has made welcome efforts by building alliances with other countries and finding common ground on sticking points.

With several other members of the High Ambition Coalition, the EU has set a good example by committing to increase its 2030 climate target by 2020, in light of the warnings of the IPCC calling for “rapid and far-reaching” action to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

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COP24 President Michal Kurtyka speaks during the opening of the COP24 U.N. Climate Change Conference 2018 in Katowice, Poland. VOA

However, NGOs and civil rights bodies say the COP24 has failed to convince all other governments to make the same commitment.

Germany doubled its support for the Green Climate Fund to support developing countries, but other European countries still have to do the same.

Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe Director Wendel Trio told IANS: “The weak outcome of this COP runs contrary to stark warnings of the IPCC report and growing demand for action from citizens. Governments have again delayed adequate action to avoid catastrophic climate breakdown.”

“The EU needs to push ahead and lead by example, by providing more support to poor countries and increasing its climate change pledge before the UN Secretary General Summit in September 2019. It must be a significant increase, even beyond the 55 per cent reduction some member states and the European Parliament are calling for.”

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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses during the opening of COP24 UN Climate Change Conference 2018 in Katowice, Poland, Dec. 3, 2018. VOA

Jennifer Tollmann, climate diplomacy researcher, E3G said: “In the end the EU did finally step up as a bridge-builder. But we now need to see whether they can ace the real test.”

Andrew Wu, research analyst at World Resources Institute, said: “We cannot overlook land use, a sector which accounts for a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions. There is now a common framework, supported by COP, to help countries measure land use emissions. All countries must adopt this and incorporate natural climate solutions in their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.”

Also Read: As Climate Talks Come to a Halt, Africa Suffers From Global Warming

Commenting on the decision, Chair of the Least Developed Countries Group, Gebru Jember Endalew, said: “While there are parts of the package that could and should have been stronger, the implementation guidelines adopted today provide a strong basis to start implementing the agreement.” (IANS)