Health and Fitness

Cell-Culture And Animal Tests Show Antiviral Could Provide Protection Against HIV, Ebola, Hepatitis C, Herpes And More

The development of antibiotics gave physicians seemingly miraculous weapons against infectious disease. Effective cures for terrible afflictions like pneumonia, syphilis and tuberculosis were suddenly at hand. Moreover, many of the drugs that made them possible were versatile enough to knock out a wide range of deadly bacterial threats. Unfortunately, antibiotics have a fundamental limitation: They're useless against viruses, which cause most infectious diseases. Antiviral drugs have proven far more difficult to create, and almost all are specifically directed at a few particular pathogens - namely HIV, herpes viruses and influenza viruses. The two "broad-spectrum" antivirals in use, ribavirin and interferon-alpha, both cause debilitating side effects. Now, researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, UCLA, Harvard University, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases and Cornell University have teamed up to develop and test a broad-spectrum antiviral compound capable of stopping a wide range of highly dangerous viruses, including Ebola, HIV, hepatitis C virus, West Nile virus, Rift Valley fever virus and yellow fever virus, among others.

U.N. Secretary-General Focuses On MDGs During African Union Summit

Addressing the 14th African Union (AU) Summit on Sunday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for African countries to maintain their commitment to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), "which include reducing poverty, disease and child mortality, ahead of their target date of 2015, " BBC reports (1/31). "The global recession, energy crisis, food insecurity and climate change have all made development more difficult and more urgent, [Ban] told more than 50 heads of state and government attending the three-day AU meeting" in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the U.N. News Centre writes. Ban noted that the MDG summit, planned for September, "will focus on harnessing support for the success of the MDGs, identifying gaps that need urgent attention, emphasizing priority areas for action and building a coalition capable of taking action, " according to the U.N. News Centre (1/31). "We have seen a sharp decrease in malaria and measles deaths across the continent, virtual gains in primary school enrolment, marked improvement in child health, " Ban said, according to the BBC.

Virulent Bacteria Offer Insight Into Host-Pathogen Interactions

Researchers at National Jewish Health have discovered how the virulent food-borne bacteria Listeria monocytogenes induces infected immune cells to sabotage their own defensive response. The studies offer insight into host-pathogen interactions and suggest potential therapeutic targets for food poisoning, tuberculosis and autoimmune diseases. In the Feb. 15 issue of the Journal of Experimental Medicine, Laurel Lenz, PhD, and his colleagues report that macrophages infected by the bacteria Listeria release interferon-О О (IFN- О О ), which makes them and nearby immune cells unresponsive to activation signals. This reduces immune resistance to the bacteria, which causes thousands of cases of food poisoning -- and more than 500 deaths -- each year in the United States. "Listeria appears to benefit by triggering an endogenous pathway of the host that dampens its own immune response, " said Dr. Lenz. "Our findings suggest that Listeria increases its survival in infected individuals by inducing cross-talk between host interferon signaling pathways.

Antibodies Attack Immune Proteins

Two studies published online on February 1 in the Journal of Experimental Medicine reveal that patients with a rare autoimmune disease produce antibodies that attack microbe-fighting immune proteins called cytokines. These findings may help explain why these patients suffer recurrent yeast infections. Autoimmune polyendocrine syndrome, or APS-I, afflicts one in 100, 000 people and is characterized by disrupted thyroid and adrenal gland function and recurrent skin infections with one type of yeast. Normally, the immune system produces cytokines that help protect the body against airborne yeast and other environmental pathogens. Two teams of researchers - one led by Anthony Meager at the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control (UK), and the other led by Desa Lilic at Newcastle University (UK) and Jean-Laurent Casanova at Rockefeller University (New York) - found that patients with APS-I produce autoantibodies that bind to and disarm these yeast-fighting cytokines. It is not yet clear why these patients are prone to infection with only one type of yeast.

Wars Less Deadly, Most War-Related Deaths Result From Disease, Hunger, Report Says

"Wars are less deadly than they once were and national mortality rates have continued to decline even during conflicts due to smaller scale fighting and better healthcare, " according to a study released Wednesday by the Human Security Report Project, Reuters reports. "The report noted that most deaths in wars result from hunger and disease but said improved healthcare in peacetime had cut death tolls even during wartime, as had stepped up aid to people in war zones, " according to the news service. The report found that since 2000, 90 percent fewer people have died in the average conflict annually compared with the 1950s. "In 2007, the average conflict killed fewer than 1, 000 people as a direct result of violence, and there had been a 70 percent decline in the number of high-intensity conflicts since the end of the Cold War 20 years ago, it said, " Reuters writes. "Researchers found that in 14 out of 18 sub-Saharan African countries that experienced medium to high intensity conflict between 1970 and 2007, the under-5 mortality rate was lower at the end of the conflict than at the beginning, " according to the news service (Worsnip, 1/20).

Government Of Canada Announces Significant Contribution To WHO Global Pandemic Relief Efforts

The Government of Canada announced it will make a donation of five million doses of the H1N1 flu vaccine, as well as a $6 million contribution to support the World Health Organization's (WHO) global pandemic relief efforts. The five million vaccine doses amount to 10% of Canada's total vaccine order, a donation which is in line with that of other developed countries. The $6 million, provided by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), will enable the WHO to support H1N1 vaccination programs in developing countries. "We are fortunate to be in a position to contribute H1N1 flu vaccine to the WHO to help developing countries now that we have met Canada's immediate needs, " Canada's Minister of Health, the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq affirmed. Citing a WHO update released on January 22, 2010 that reported pockets of intense H1N1 flu activity in recent weeks in North Africa, South Asia and parts of Eastern Europe, Minister Aglukkaq emphasized that: "The Government of Canada will work collaboratively with the WHO to ensure its vaccine donation is shipped in a timely way to those countries most in need.

WHO Pneumonia Expert Recognized For Efforts To Ensure Children Receive Life-saving Vaccines

WHO pneumonia expert Dr. Thomas Cherian will be honored by a group of the world's leading infectious disease experts today for his pivotal work to accelerate access to vaccines preventing pneumococcal disease, the world's leading vaccine-preventable killer of children under age five. The Global Leadership Award, given annually by the Pneumococcal Awareness Council of Experts (PACE), will be presented at today's World Health Organization (WHO) Global Immunization Meeting in Geneva, and comes on the heels of the Gates Foundation's unprecedented $10 billion commitment to fund vaccine research, development and delivery throughout the developing world. Pneumococcal disease is a bacterial infection that causes life-threatening pneumonia, meningitis and sepsis. Every year, pneumococcal disease takes the lives of nearly 1.6 million people, nearly half of whom are young children in the developing world, where vaccines to prevent the disease are not yet in widespread use. The lack of access in these countries has been due primarily to obstacles in awareness, policy guidance and available financing for low-income countries, barriers which Dr.

Baylor Research Institute Partners With French Government To Study Potential Treatments For Infectious Diseases And Cancer

"We are delighted to be working with such esteemed institutions in order to generate cutting-edge therapeutic antibodies, " said Matthew Baker, chief scientific officer and co-founder of Antitope. "This agreement combines our partners' expertise in novel therapeutic strategies with Antitope's expertise in engineering humanized antibodies to create therapeutic antibodies that may have a significant impact on the treatment of these major diseases." "This partnership will enable us to leverage Antitope's unique technology in generating our therapeutic vaccines which may represent a genuinely novel approach to treating those diseases having a major unmet medical need, " said Jacques Banchereau, director of the Baylor Institute for Immunology Research (BIIR), the human immunology department of BRI. "This research is integrated within the ANRS HIV vaccine research program aimed to develop innovative strategies towards a preventive and/or therapeutic vaccine, " said PR Yves Levy, the scientific director of the ANRS HIV Vaccine network.

FDA Accepts TOPICA'S Luliconazole IND To Begin Clinical Trials In Onychomycosis

TOPICA Pharmaceuticals, a privately-held biotechnology company, announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has accepted the company's Investigational New Drug (IND) application for the use of luliconazole, its lead product candidate, in patients with onychomycosis (nail and nail bed fungal infections). The company plans to initiate a Phase 1/2 trial in the first quarter. Luliconazole is one of the most potent and broad-spectrum topical antifungal agents in development and will be advancing to Phase 3 clinical development in the U.S. for tinea pedis (athlete's foot). "The FDA's acceptance of our IND for luliconazole is a significant step forward in realizing our goal of bringing this product to market in the United States as the first highly effective and safe topical therapy for onychomycosis, " said Greg Vontz, president and CEO of TOPICA Pharmaceuticals. "We believe the comprehensive development program completed for luliconazole in Japan, where the drug is approved for tinea infections, has greatly aided its advancement through the IND process.

UNICEF And Partners Kick Off Fifth Annual Global Immunization Meeting

UNICEF together with WHO and the GAVI Alliance, its global partners in the fight against vaccine-preventable diseases, met in Geneva for the start of the fifth annual Global Immunization Meeting. The three-day meeting brings together technical experts from all three partners and is designed to provide a technical update to WHO and UNICEF regional and country staff. The meeting will address the 2010 goals established in the Global Immunization Vision and Strategies (GIVS), including how to improve routine vaccination and support to the accelerated disease control initiatives; introducing new vaccines, including an update on the Hib Initiative and the status of pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines; experiences in integration of EPI with other programmes (including malaria interventions); and issues of global interdependence including vaccine supply and the pandemic influenza vaccines. Immunization reaches over 80 per cent of children worldwide and is one of the most successful and cost-effective public health interventions ever, eradicating smallpox, lowering the global incidence of polio by 99 per cent since 1988, and achieving dramatic reductions in illness and death from diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough.

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