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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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Ebola, UNICEF. congo, DNA
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

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.

Ebola, UNICEF. congo, DNA
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.”

Ebola, UNICEF. congo, DNA
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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East African Countries Set to Ban Skin-Lightening Products Containing Hydroquinone

If bans are not backed by enforcement, they will have little effect on the use of the high demand skin-lightening products, despite the risk to health

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skin-lightening products
FILE - Aranmolate Ayobami, plastic surgeon at Grandville Medical and Laser clinic in Lagos, holds a tube of Skinlite a skin lightening product used at his clinic, on July 17, 2018, in Lagos, Nigeria. VOA

East African countries are set to ban skin-lightening products that contain hydroquinone, a medical agent linked to health problems when used in high concentrations. The East African Legislative Assembly last week passed a resolution calling for a region-wide ban on the manufacturing and importation of products containing hydroquinone.

At a beauty parlor in Arusha, 52-year-old Rose Mselle has been using skin-bleaching products since she was a teenager. She says women like her want to be beautiful. “And in the process of looking for beauty, or for our skin color to shine, we use things that we shouldn’t,” she added.

At a nearby market, 32-year-old clothing vendor Janet Jonijosefu used skin-lightening products that contain hydroquinone, a medical agent used to treat dark spots, for years. She stopped after her skin became fragile.

She said the beauty products containing hydroquinone badly affected her skin. She started developing patches on her face. She went to the doctor and was advised to stop using products containing hydroquinone and instead use aloe vera.

skin-lightening products
FILE – A shop sells skin-lightening products in Accra, Ghana, on July 3, 2018. VOA

Skin-lightening products often use high concentrations of hydroquinone, which can cause skin problems or become toxic when mixed with other bleaching chemicals.

Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, and South Africa ban or regulate the agent in cosmetics. Tanzania bars imports. The East African Legislative Assembly last week passed a resolution on a region-wide ban of hydroquinone’s manufacture and importation.

Suzan Nakawuki, a member of the regional assembly from Uganda, noted that hydroquinone is not only used by women but also men. “We have seen men bleaching seriously even more than women,” she said. “But it’s becoming a problem. If we don’t regulate it, it is going to become very problematic.”

When used medically, hydroquinone can be an effective treatment for skin discoloration. Some East African lawmakers spoke out against a blanket ban. Aden Abdikadir, a lawmaker from Kenya, said he is concerned a blanket ban will cause “serious trade disruption” for cosmetics.

skin-lightening products
If bans are not backed by enforcement, they will have little effect on the use of the high demand skin-lightening products, despite the risk to health. Wikimedia Commons

If signed by heads of state, the ban becomes law in all six East African Community states, which include Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

Critics point out bans on hydroquinone have failed to stop smuggled products from being sold openly. Cosmetics labeled as having hydroquinone are on display at shops in Arusha.

If bans are not backed by enforcement, they will have little effect on the use of the high demand skin-lightening products, despite the risk to health. (VOA)