Malaria Vaccine Trials – getting under fives to skip the hard learning
So the malaria vaccine mentioned last time (RTS) has been a long time coming (since around 1987) and no-one’s pretending it’s ‘here’ yet. But a paper released earlier this week suggests that it could have a pretty decent role in protecting children in malaria endemic areas.
Quick recap as to why that’s far bigger news than I just made out:
Malaria is responsible for around two million deaths a year, but these deaths are not evenly spread across age groups. In sub-saharan africa approximately 90-95% of all malaria deaths are children under the age of five.
Extremely tired, so will write about this properly tomorrow, BUT. Here’s evidence for a step further to a fully effective malaria vaccine (RTS,S/AS01E). Yup, that’s right, a malaria vaccine. Maybe not the holy grail of vaccines (thinking HIV here) but definitely impressive.
The efficacy doesn’t seem fantastic yet (45%ish), but then, there’d be a lot of herd immunity as well. Perhaps in mix with more vector control this would have a massive impact?
Yes, there are many problems with vaccinations for an endemic disease, even if the vaccine works more effectively than this does. I’ll chat about those tomorrow though. That and the challenges to creating a vaccine in the first place.
I’ve been brought up on a healthy diet of Radio 4 listening, and I’d recommend the programme ‘Case Notes’ to any budding medics out there.
Each week they cover a different topic in a half-hour programme - from Autism to Biomechanics
Note: Although part of the BBC World-service, it may not be available outside the UK.
As another Radio 4 geek, another good programme is More or Less. Useful for the stats side of things; when you hear something in the news and go ‘huh, that can’t be right’, they’re normally there to explain the many many ways someone’s been fiddling with the numbers. They’ve a podcast of episodes that I subscribe to…
Pharmacists who knowingly put lives at risk get off scot-free.
Yesterday it was announced that the Royal Pharmaceutical Council of Great Britain has dropped two cases, both against pharmacies that were recommending homeopathic ‘treatments’ to prevent malaria.
This wasn’t alongside recommending seeing a doctor or travel clinic before heading abroad. The advice of a few magic sugar pills was all that was given to a reporter, who had said they were heading to a malaria endemic zone for research.
Pharmacies have a role in protecting and advising the public on health care. They aren’t just a drug shop; they have an legal and moral obligation to make sure people are getting the medicines they require.
What occurred here was an abuse of their reputation as a source of medical information. Many don’t know the ideologies behind alternative medicines, and will accept a pharmacist’s word as the truth. By selling homeopathic ‘medication’ for a deadly condition, they were reckless and showed ignorance (or apathy) to the potential consequences.
Snake Bites (Post 1 of 2) - Global Issues and Health
Why should we care about Snake Bites? Most of us are sitting at home safe, well removed from any risk.
But whilst they may not be a danger to you personally, you’re still scared of snakes right?
I know I am. That fear’s been bred into us. Those without it couldn’t pass on their ‘SnakeConfidence’ genes, due to the problems associated with becoming lunch.
It’s not just the tropics that are affected; the ‘Tropics’ are the areas 23.5 degrees either side of the equator, but you find venomous snakes in the ares 50 degrees either side of the equator in the western hemisphere, and 30 degrees either side in the eastern.
Whilst an unnecessary fear for many of us, it’s an ever present risk for many around the globe. Yet it’s ignored by the medical community to a large extent. Like so many tropical diseases, the patients don’t have political sway on the level required to get the protection they need.
“We either have a major public health problem or a significant theological event: … More than 10 percent of teens who said they were abstinent also tested positive for a sexually transmitted disease”—
Article from Mike @ http://bit.ly/hBUZoc
(The values given in the article don’t seem to add up to 10% … I think really it’s 10% of the people who had STI’s also said they were abstinent (118 of the 964 who had STI’s).
But still; when you’ve got 60 teenagers who say they’ve ‘never ever ever ever had sex, not even a little bit’, who somehow have STI’s… you’ve got a problem with abstinence focused sex education. Yes that is a biased view on my part; a bias in preferring people to not catch preventable diseases.)
“But as for you, unlucky Laevus, your blood, congealed by a serpent of the Nile, choked your heart; you evinced no sign that the bite was painful, but in sudden darkness embraced death and went down to join the ghosts of your comrades.”—
Lucanus MA. Bellum civile (civil war). Book IX. http://www. thelatinlibrary.com/lucan/lucan9.shtml
- Chosen by David Warrell to introduce his Seminar on Snake Bite: ’Warrell, D. a Snake bite. The Lancet375, 77-88(2010).’
- Chosen by me to emphasise how much I’ll be relying on this seminar for my ‘intro to snake bites’ post coming up. David Warrell writes in an incredibly gripping manner, I’d really recommend reading his paper.
Antigens; or, what the immune system can see and fight.
Every post so far has talked of immune cells looking at whole microbes or cell fragments.
This isn’t really what happens. Your immune cells don’t see something like mycoplasma tuberculosis (which causes TB) as a whole organism; instead immune cells see separate, smaller, things called ‘antigens’.
Causative agent of TB, mycoplasma tuberculosis. Seen under electron micrograph (accessed from http://www.textbookofbacteriology.net/tuberculosis.html on 02-Jan-2011)
So to prevent us going on about ‘things’ much longer, what are antigens?
Antigens are molecules that the immune system can react to, and produce antibodies against. Really they’re any molecule an antibody could bind to. They’re antibody generating molecules.