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PostPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2012 5:24 am 
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HPV Vaccine Reduces Spread Even In Unvaccinated

The Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center published a study in Pediatrics today showing that non immunized teens were showing a lower infection rate of the human papillomavirus. Usually, in large populations, vaccination tends to reduce the spread of a disease even in those without the vaccine.

It is thought to be the first study to definitively show a decrease in HPV in a community setting, whilst at the same time demonstrating the 'Herd Protection' that occurs when a critical mass of people are immunized against a contagious disease.

"Infection with the types of HPV targeted by the vaccine decreased in vaccinated young women by 69 percent ... Two of these HPV types, HPV-16 and HPV-18, cause about 70 percent of cervical cancer. Thus, the results are promising in that they suggest that vaccine introduction could substantially reduce rates of cervical cancer in this community in the future." said Jessica Kahn, MD, MPH, a physician in the division of Adolescent Medicine at Cincinnati Children's and lead author of the study.

HPV vaccine has not been available for very long. The first registration was only in June 2006. The U.S. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends the vaccination of girls and women between the ages of 11 and 26 to reduce rates of HPV infection, because HPV infection can lead to cervical cancer and the vaccination was shown to reduce this.

Dr. Kahn and her colleagues at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center gathered nearly 400 unvaccinated sexually active women between the ages of 13 and 16 who attended the care clinics in the city. The also took another 400 who had been vaccinated. This enabled them to compare pre and post vaccination infection rates.

It appeared there was a substantial decrease in infection rates with a 58% drop from 31.7% to 13.4%. The decrease was high amongst vaccinated patients with a 69% success rate of the vaccine, however, the unvaccinated girls also showed a reduction of 49%. There is a danger, of course, that in hearing news like this many people would not bother with the vaccine of consider it important, and Dr. Kahn said she was impressed with the results, especially since many of the women were exposed to HPV before being vaccinated and only one dose was considered as vaccinated. She emphasized the need for vaccination of as many people in the population as possible to maintain the herd effect..

The study was a relatively short one with a small number of people and the subjects were mainly young black women on Medicaid insurance. It was also confined to a single city. Dr. Kahn stressed the need for more research to quantify the effectiveness of the HPV vaccine, but nonetheless her results are extremely positive.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/247592.php


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2012 5:22 am 
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Bad flu season expected in WA

Health experts are warning West Australians to brace for a severe flu season, with twice the number of people attending hospital emergency departments with flu-like illnesses this time last year.

This season, almost 900 cases of influenza have been diagnosed in WA, and in the past week the number of cases diagnosed was three times higher than the previous week.

However, experts say this is only the tip of the iceberg as thousands of cases are going undiagnosed.

Half of diagnosed cases are the H3N2 strain, which is more likely to cause deaths and hospitalisation. The other half have been diagnosed as having the milder type B.

Influenza Specialist Group Chair Dr Alan Hampson said the fact that the H3N2 and the type B strains hadn't been prominent in the community for the past few years could increase this season's severity.

"When we see high levels of H3N2, which is the predominant strain this season, there is significant impact, especially in high risk groups. Typically, we can expect to see more deaths and hospital admissions," he said.

"Given the prospect of it being a severe flu season, it's important people protect themselves by regularly washing their hands, avoiding crowds, ensuring frequently touched household surfaces are kept clean, as well as practicing good flu etiquette by covering their mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve when they sneeze or cough.

"If you're nursing a sick family member, avoid being in close proximity as much as possible and be mindful of hand hygiene."

He said bed rest was the best way to recover from the flu and warned it was dangerous to "press on" with normal activities.

Despite the flu season being well under way, it’s still not too late to be vaccinated, Dr Hampson said.

http://www.watoday.com.au/wa-news/bad-f ... z20FVvXGhw


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2012 5:26 am 
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Women's cancer risk halves, if others have jab

Unvaccinated teenagers have benefited from the cervical cancer jab because of fewer cases of the infection in circulation, it has been found.

The American study is thought to be the first to show a 'herd immunity' effect in which even unvaccinated populations benefit.

The researchers found a substantial reduction in cases of human papilloma virus in vaccinated and unvaccinated teenagers in Cincinnati.

The findings, from a team at the The Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Centre, will be published online in the journal Pediatrics.

In 2006 and 2007, Dr Kahn and colleagues at Cincinnati Children's recruited 368 young women between the ages of 13 and 16 from two primary care clinics in the city of Cincinnati.

The young women had sexual contact but none were vaccinated.

In 2009 and 2010, they recruited a different group of 409 young women in the same age range, more than half of whom had received at least one dose of the vaccine.

The researchers compared pre- and post-vaccination HPV prevalence rates.

The prevalence of vaccine-type HPV decreased 58 per cent overall, from 31.7 per cent to 13.4 per cent.

There was a 69 per cent decrease among vaccinated participants but also a 49 per cent drop in the unvaccinated.

Dr Jessica Kahn, a physician in the division of Adolescent Medicine at Cincinnati Children's and lead author of the study, said: "Infection with the types of HPV targeted by the vaccine decreased in vaccinated young women by 69 per cent.

"Two of these HPV types, HPV-16 and HPV-18, cause about 70 per cent of cervical cancer. Thus, the results are promising in that they suggest that vaccine introduction could substantially reduce rates of cervical cancer in this community in the future."

Dr Kahn says the decrease in vaccine-type HPV among vaccinated participants was "especially remarkable," given that participants were sexually active and many were exposed to vaccination-type HPV before vaccination, and only one dose of the vaccine was required to be considered vaccinated when normally there are three given.

Dr Kahn emphasises that despite the evidence of herd immunity demonstrated in her study, vaccination of all young women between the ages of 11 and 26 is important to maximise the health benefits of vaccination.

The HPV virus remained common, she said, as nearly one in four unvaccinated women had already contracted at least one strain of HPV.

In England all 13 year old girls are offered the vaccine at school. The latest data show almost nine out of ten at received at least one of the three doses.

Girls have reported side effects including nausea, muscle weakness, dizziness, blurred vision, fainting and fever.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/93849 ... e-jab.html


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 14, 2012 6:13 am 
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Boys first in Gardasil cancer vaccine rollout

AUSTRALIA will be the first country to offer males free access to the cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil, after the federal government announced it would spend $21 million to immunise nearly 900,000 boys across four years.

The new program, which will start next year, will expand the existing program that provides Gardasil to teenage girls, offering the two-dose vaccine to boys aged 12-13. For two years there will also be a catch-up program for boys in Year 9.

The decision has been hailed by public health and cancer experts, as well as by the vaccine's inventor, former Australian of the Year Ian Frazer. Professor Frazer said the decision, announced by federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek in Brisbane yesterday, was "great news" and would not only further limit the spread of human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes cervical cancer in women, but also directly benefit boys and men.

Ms Plibersek said more than 65 million doses of Gardasil had been given to women worldwide since its invention, and "we know that it's a safe vaccine". "This Australian innovation will protect our young men and our young women from developing cancers that come from HPV," Ms Plibersek said yesterday. "Every parent wants their child to have the maximum opportunity to lead a healthy life and this improves the protection we have against HPV and against the related cancers that come from it."

While two of the four strains of HPV the vaccine protects against, 16 and 18, are thought to cause more than 70 per cent of cervical cancer cases, they are also implicated in the development of various other cancers known to affect men, which include cancers of the anus, penis, mouth and throat.

The other strains, 6 and 11, are also responsible for genital warts, the rate of which has already more than halved in Australia since Gardasil was first offered free to girls and women in 2007.

Professor Frazer, who is now chief executive and director of research at the Translational Research Institute in Brisbane, said his three sons had all been immunised with Gardasil in 2006, at the ages of 24, 22 and 20. But as HPV is transmitted sexually, and because Gardasil can protect against HPV only before infection occurs, the vaccine is recommended to be given to both girls and boys before the age when sexual activity is likely to start.

"I am pleased to see Australia is leading the way with this important public health measure," Professor Frazer said.

"They are desperately keen to try to do this in the US because the uptake among girls has been much lower, and giving it to boys as well is the best protection.

"This will be a move that changes the way other countries think about these vaccines."

The decision to fund the vaccine for boys follows a recommendation last December by the federal government's pharmaceutical benefits advisory committee, despite only months earlier rejecting the idea on the basis of "unacceptably high and uncertain cost-effectiveness".

The recommendation was changed in December after CSL, the Melbourne-based drug giant that markets Gardasil in Australia, resubmitted its application with a reduced price and a reanalysis of earlier data that suggested vaccinating males could prevent up to 91 per cent of cases of intraepithelial neoplasia, which there is evidence to suggest can develop into anal cancer.

Much of this evidence comes from gay and bisexual men, but the PBAC accepted the vaccine was likely to be just as effective in the general male population.

Cancer Council Australia chief executive Ian Olver said HPV was responsible for a rising number of head and neck cancers,and this benefit "would be the most dramatic".

But some immunisation experts say health authorities may struggle to achieve a high uptake with the new boys' program, given that Gardasil was known as the "cervical cancer vaccine" and as some of the other benefits were more an issue for gay men.

Perth mother-of-two Vicki Brown told The Australian yesterday she was excited that her son Harrison, 10, would be among the first schoolboys in the world to receive the Gardasil vaccine. Ms Brown said she was firmly in favour of a vaccine that reduced the chances of some forms of cancer later in life; her husband Richard was a fit and healthy non-smoker when he was diagnosed with the aggressive throat cancer that killed him six months later.

"The experience was horrible in every way -- Harrison was only two when his father died," she said. "If anything can be done to reduce the number of people who have to go through that pain, and the health system, I say do it."

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/nationa ... 6424883455


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 15, 2012 5:25 am 
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Gene-swapping vaccines result in the creation of two deadly poultry viruses

Three vaccines used to prevent respiratory disease in chickens have swapped genes, producing two lethal new strains that have killed tens of thousands of fowl across two states in Australia, scientists reported on Friday.

The creation of the deadly new variant was only possible because the vaccines contained live viruses, even though they were weakened forms, said Joanne Devlin, lead author of the paper published in the journal Science. Devlin and her team discovered how closely related the two new strains were with viruses in the vaccines after analyzing their genes.

"What we found was the field viruses ... were actually a mixture of the genomes from different vaccine viruses," said Devlin, a lecturer at the University of Melbourne's School of Veterinary Science. "They actually combined, mixed together."

The viruses emerged in 2008, a year after Australia started using a European vaccine along with two very similar Australian vaccines to fight acute respiratory disease in poultry. The illness causes coughing, sneezing and breathing difficulties in birds, normally killing five per cent of them.

The two new strains, how-ever, were far more harmful, and since they were created have killed up to 17 per cent of chicken flocks across Victoria and New South Wales, the two main chicken rearing states in Australia.

"What could have happened was one chicken was vaccinated with one vaccine and later was exposed to the other vaccine somehow, from nearby chickens," Devlin said.

Agricultural authorities in Australia have been informed of the results of the study, and are considering how to prevent similar crossovers happening again.

"Use of only one vaccine in a population of birds will prevent different viruses from combining," Devlin said. "Authorities are reviewing labels on vaccine to change the way vaccines are used and prevent different vaccines being used in one population."

http://www.vancouversun.com/health/Gene ... story.html


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2012 5:22 am 
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Scientists see AIDS vaccine within reach after decades

CHICAGO (Reuters) – At an ill-fated press conference in 1984, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Margaret Heckler boldly predicted an effective AIDS vaccine would be available within just two years.

But a string of failed attempts – punctuated by a 2007 trial in which a Merck (MRK.N) vaccine appeared to make people more vulnerable to infection, not less – cast a shadow over AIDS vaccine research that has taken years to dispel.

A 2009 clinical trial in Thailand was the first to show it was possible to prevent HIV infection in humans. Since then, discoveries have pointed to even more powerful vaccines using HIV-fighting antibodies. Now scientists believe a licensed vaccine is within reach.

“We know the face of the enemy,” said Dr. Barton Haynes, of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and recent director of the Center for HIV AIDS Vaccine Immunology (CHAVI). The research consortium was funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), founded in 2005 by the National Institutes of Health to identify and overcome roadblocks in the design of vaccines for the human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS. NIAID’s funding of CHAVI ended in June.

Unlike many viruses behind infectious disease, HIV is a moving target, constantly spitting out slightly different versions of itself, with different strains affecting different populations around the world. The virus is especially pernicious since it attacks the immune system, the very mechanism the body needs to fight back.

“The virus is far more crafty than we ever thought,” said Haynes, who will outline progress in vaccine research at the International AIDS Society’s 2012 conference being held in Washington from July 22-27.

FIRST SIGN OF HOPE

Thanks to drugs that can control the virus for decades, AIDS is no longer a death sentence. New infections have fallen by 21 percent since the peak of the pandemic in 1997 and advances in prevention – through voluntary circumcision programs, prevention of mother-to-child transmission and early treatment – promise to cut that rate even more.

Still, as many as 34 million people are infected with HIV worldwide. And with 2.7 million new infections in 2010 alone, experts say a vaccine is still the best hope for eradicating AIDS.

Teams have been working on a vaccine for nearly three decades, but it wasn’t until RV144, the 2009 clinical trial involving more than 16,000 adults in Thailand, that researchers achieved any hint of success.

The test of a combination of two vaccines followed several big failures, including the stunning news that Merck’s vaccine may have increased the risk of infection among men who were both uncircumcised and had prior exposure to the virus used in the vaccine.

“It had an extremely chilling effect on the whole field,” said Colonel Nelson Michael, director of the U.S. Military HIV Research Program at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, which led the RV144 trial.

The Thai study tested Sanofi’s (SASY.PA) ALVAC, a weakened canary pox virus used to sneak three HIV genes into the body, and AIDSVAX, a vaccine originally made by Roche Holding’s (ROG.VX) Genentech ROGING.UL that carried an HIV surface protein.

Both vaccines had poor showings in individual trials. Researchers were so convinced the Thai trial would fail that 22 scientists wrote an editorial in Science calling it a waste of money.

Then came the shocker. Results of the study published in 2009 showed the vaccine combination cut HIV infections by 31.2 percent. According to Michael and many other experts, the result was not big enough to be considered effective, but its impact on researchers was huge, says Wayne Koff, chief scientific officer of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) based in New York.

An extensive analysis of the Thai trial published this year in the New England Journal of Medicine offered clues about why some volunteers responded.

The study, led by Haynes, scientists at Walter Reed and 25 other institutions, found men and women who were vaccinated made antibodies to a specific region of the virus’s outer coat, suggesting this region provides an important vaccine target.

Preparations are under way for a follow-up trial testing beefed-up versions of the vaccines among heterosexuals in South Africa and men who have sex with men in Thailand.

Once again, the trial will use a Sanofi vaccine, but instead of AIDSVAX, researchers will use a different vaccine candidate with a boosting agent from Novartis (NOVN.VX).

Michael said it has been a major effort to secure new research partners and funding, including support from host countries, as well as to persuade rivals Novartis and Sanofi to work together. The teams still need to retool the vaccines to work in South Africa, where the strain of HIV is different.

“We’re really working as fast as we can,” said Michael, who expects large-scale effectiveness studies to start in 2016.

The hope is to have at least 50 percent effectiveness, a level that mathematical modelers say could have a major impact on the epidemic. Michael thinks this might be the pathway for getting the first HIV vaccine licensed, possibly by 2019.

Vaccine experts are equally excited about a vaccine that Michael’s team is developing with Harvard University and Johnson & Johnson’s (JNJ.N) Crucell unit, which uses weakened versions of a common cold virus and a smallpox virus.

A study published in February showed this vaccine protected monkeys from a virulent strain of HIV. Animals that did become infected after repeated exposure also had low levels of virus in their blood. Safety studies in human patients are just starting, with large-scale efficacy studies slated for 2016.

NEXT-GENERATION VACCINES

The current crop of vaccines is largely designed to train immune system cells known as T-cells to recognize and kill cells already infected with HIV. While these trials progress, scientists are working on even more advanced vaccines that activate powerful antibodies to prevent HIV from infecting cells in the first place. Both would be administered before a person becomes exposed to the virus.

Most modern vaccines use this antibody approach, but HIV’s extreme skill at mutating makes it difficult for specifically targeted antibodies to identify and neutralize the virus.

Teams led by Dr. Dennis Burton of the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, Dr. Michel Nussenzweig at Rockefeller University in New York, Dr. Gary Nabel of NIAID’s Vaccine Research Center, Haynes at Duke and others have focused on rare antibodies made by 10 to 20 percent of people with HIV that can neutralize a broad array of strains.

Researchers think a vaccine that can coax the body into making these antibodies before HIV exposure would offer a powerful foil to many forms of the virus.

Such antibodies seek out and latch on to regions of the virus that are highly “conserved,” meaning they are so critical to the virus that they appear in nearly every HIV strain. By attaching to the virus they make it incapable of infecting other cells.

Until 2009, scientists had identified only a few broadly neutralizing antibodies, but in the past few years teams have found dozens.

So far, scientists have isolated the antibodies, identified what part of HIV they target and even know the exact shape they make, Koff said. Researchers are now using this information to design vaccines that prompt the immune system to make them.

“We’re not there yet,” Nabel said.

NIAID this month said it will spend up to $186 million over the next seven years to fund the Centers for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology & Immunogen Discovery. The new consortium is focused on making vaccines that induce these protective antibodies, with major grants going to Duke and Scripps.

Nabel said no vaccine being tested today “is likely to hit it out of the park,” but many researchers do feel advances in broadly neutralizing antibodies are key to developing a highly successful HIV vaccine.

“It’s really a new day when we start to think about where we are with AIDS vaccines,” Nabel said.

http://www.firstpost.com/world/scientis ... 78188.html


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 17, 2012 5:26 am 
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US approves first-ever pill for HIV prevention

WASHINGTON — The first-ever daily pill to help prevent against HIV was approved Monday by US regulators for use in uninfected adults who are at risk for getting the virus that causes AIDS.

Truvada, made by Gilead Sciences in California, has been on the market since 2004 and was approved by the Food and Drug Administration for a new use as a tool to help ward off HIV in otherwise healthy people, in combination with safe sex and regular testing.

The pill as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) has been hailed by some AIDS experts as a potent new tool against human immunodeficiency virus, but some health care providers are concerned it could encourage risky sex behavior.

In addition, the regimen is estimated to cost around $14,000 per year, making it out of reach of many.

"Truvada alone should not be used to prevent HIV infection," said Debra Birnkrant, director of the division of antiviral products at the FDA.

"Truvada as PrEP represents another effective, evidence-based approach that can be added to other prevention methods to help reduce the spread of HIV."

The FDA said Truvada should be used as "part of a comprehensive HIV prevention strategy that includes other prevention methods, such as safe sex practices, risk reduction counseling, and regular HIV testing."

Truvada was previously approved as a treatment for people infected with HIV to be used in combination with other antiretroviral drugs.

The decision by the FDA followed the advice of an independent panel in May that supported Truvada for prevention in uninfected people, after clinical trials showed it could lower the risk of HIV in gay men and heterosexual couples.

One study on Truvada, called the iPrEx trial, published in 2010 in the New England Journal of Medicine included 2,499 men who were sexually active with other men but were not infected with the virus that causes AIDS.

Participants were selected at random to take a daily dose of Truvada -- a combination of 200 milligrams of emtricitabine and 300 milligrams of tenofovir disoproxil fumarate -- or a placebo.

Those in the study who took the drug regularly had almost 73 percent fewer infections. Across the entire study, including those who had not been as diligent in taking Truvada, there were 44 percent fewer infections than in those who took a placebo.

A second study on 4,758 heterosexual couples in which one partner was infected with HIV and the other was not, showed that Truvada reduced the risk of becoming infected by 75 percent compared with a placebo.

Experts have described the results as game-changing and the first demonstration that an already-approved oral drug could decrease the likelihood of HIV infections.

Common side effects were the same as experienced by people with HIV who were taking Truvada, and included diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain, headache, and weight loss.

However, adherence rates -- meaning how often people in the study actually took the drug daily -- were low in the study of men who have sex with men, just 30 percent, Birnkrant said.

In the study of heterosexual partners, adherence was much higher, between 80 and 90 percent.

Therefore, the drug label must include special instructions for health care providers on how to counsel potential users of the drug.

The drugmaker must also include a warning that Truvada for PrEP "must only be used by individuals who are confirmed to be HIV-negative prior to prescribing the drug and at least every three months during use."

Gilead Sciences is also required to collect samples from people who test positive for HIV while taking the drug and analyze them for signs of drug resistance.

As to concerns about whether the pill might boost risky sex practices and lead people to abandon condoms as a first line of protection, Birnkrant said the studies have not shown that so far.

"We don't really have any strong evidence to show that condoms were not used or that there was a decrease in condom use when Truvada was used," she told reporters.

The goal of the approval is to eventually cut back on the rate of new infections in the United States, which have stayed steady in recent years at about 50,000 annually, she said.

A key goal of the US strategy against HIV/AIDS, set forth in 2010, is to decrease the number of new infections by 25 percent by 2015.

"The hope is that over time it will decrease the rate of new infections or incidence in the United States."

http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/ar ... f57454.141


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 22, 2012 6:00 am 
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Flu epidemic hits country

New Zealand is facing an influenza epidemic that experts say is as big as swine flu and has already left about 12 people fighting for their lives.

The H3N2 strain of the virus, which causes hallucinations and crippling nausea, is even striking healthy young people.

About 60 flu-stricken people have been admitted to a special isolated ward in Christchurch Hospital, and now public health officials have warned that the virus is spreading north.

Aucklander Lucy Janisch-Fitzgerald was rushed to hospital on Tuesday night and placed on a ventilator in the intensive care unit, unable to control her breathing.

The 22-year-old was in a serious condition for three days and was only moved out of the ward on Friday.

Speaking from her hospital bed last night, she told the Herald on Sunday she had been knocked sideways by the flu.

"I crashed," she said. "I couldn't breathe on my own, my heart rate was too high. I've been on IV drips for six days now," Janisch-Fitzgerald said.

She is believed to be one of the first in Auckland struck down by the same severe strain of flu that is causing havoc in Christchurch, according to Canterbury Health virologist Lance Jennings.

Canterbury has been the worst hit so far by the "epidemic" of the H3N2 strain, which is expected to be as severe in New Zealand as the H1N1 swine flu that killed 49 people in 2009.

"With H3N2 ... we tend to see more severe outcomes in terms of hospital admissions, admissions to intensive care and death," Jennings said.

Waitemata and Counties Manukau have the highest number of flu sufferers nationwide, but there has yet to be a rise in flu patients hospitalised in those districts.

Tim Jelleyman, acting chief medical officer at Waitemata, said he expected the number of flu cases in the district to increase.

Canterbury medical officer Alistair Humphrey said a special ward had been set up at Christchurch Hospital to cater for up to 60 patients affected by the epidemic at any given moment. About seven patients had been admitted to intensive care, he said.

"It's certainly putting pressure on the whole health system. I work clinically as a GP in a 24-hour surgery ... My shifts have been absolutely full-on every time I'm there. It's putting pressure on GPs, on the emergency departments, on hospitals. Doctors and nurses are starting to get ill."

The epidemic is expected to spread across the country in coming weeks, expedited by the return to school after the winter break.

Vaccination is free until July 31 for pregnant women, people aged 65 or older, and anyone with ongoing medical conditions.

National Influenza Specialist Group spokeswoman Brenda Saunders said almost 960,000 doses of the flu vaccination had been distributed so far this season - 28,000 fewer than the same time last year.

Public Health Surveillance's national report shows a steep increase in flu cases last week, almost double the number at the same time last year.

Humphrey said: "This year we are up [on flu cases] pretty much as high as we were during the swine flu epidemic. It's a serious illness. It's not something that should be ignored."

What is H3N2

* H3N2 is an A-type virus.
* It descended from a virus that originated as a pandemic in Hong Kong in 1968.
* Canterbury Health virologist Dr Lance Jennings says H3N2 circulates through a population until the level of immunity has built up.
* Symptoms include hallucinations, crippling fevers and nausea.
* Once there is resilience in the population, H3N2 mutates so that it is more infective.

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/artic ... d=10821267


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 26, 2012 5:31 am 
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AMA calls for release of Tamiflu for epidemic

The Australian Medical Association has clashed with the WA Government over a television advertisement designed to reduce the pressure on public hospitals from the flu outbreak.

The ads tell people with flu-like symptoms to visit their GP first, instead of heading straight to an emergency department.

Emergency departments were swamped last month by more than 6,000 people with flu-like symptoms.

The AMA's Richard Choong says the advert trivialises what has become a flu epidemic.

"To say that a short, clever, little ad is going to change the outcome of patients and save lives, I don't think so," he said.

"Although the ad has some humour behind it, it does trivialise how serious this influenza epidemic is.

"Our huge concern here is that the video will suggest to patients who are unwell and need to go to hospital that they shouldn't be there, that they'll become a burden to the health system."

Appeal

On the weekend, the AMA asked the State Government to release stocks of an anti-viral medication called Tamiflu at no cost to the public.

It can reduce the length and severity of the illness but must be administered in the first 40 hours of flu-like symptoms emerging.

The WA Health Department says Tamiflu is available from doctors and pharmacies.

The department's Tarun Weeramanthri says the anti-viral drug is only given out for free during extreme outbreaks or pandemics.

But, he says WA is nowhere near that stage.

"I'd like to reassure people that this isn't a crisis, this is a normal, difficult flu season," he said.

"This is definitely not the pattern of illness seen in the pandemic in 2009."

Dr Weeramanthri says stocks of the anti-viral drug are plentiful.

"Tamiflu is actually widely available in WA," he said.

"Any GP, if they see a patient for whom they think it is indicated, can prescribe it, and it's available through your community pharmacy.

"There is no shortage of Tamiflu."

Not affordable

Dr Choong says Tamiflu is not an affordable option for everyone and should be offered free of charge to the public.

"We asked the Government to consider but what did they do?" he asked.

"They dismissed it and instead delivered this ad campaign; ad campaigns do not save lives, ad campaigns do not make patients better."

"What we're calling on is the Government to release their stocks of this anti-viral medication so we can actually help patients and change the clinical outcome.

"We have got to crisis level and we need to address this with serious responses and we need to have this drug made available."

Earlier, the Health Minister Kim Hames rejected claims by Labor that the Government should have been better prepared for a surge in flu patients.

Dr Hames says there are not enough beds in hospitals.

He also said the problem has been compounded because a European strain of the flu is over-riding vaccinations.

"The reality is we don't have enough beds in the system at the moment," he said.

"Once Fiona Stanley is constructed that will make an enormous difference but in the meantime we've got to make the best of what we've got."

Ten people have died from flu-related illnesses so far this year.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-07-25/a ... section=wa


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 28, 2012 5:25 am 
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Potential anti-obesity drug developed

SCIENTISTS believe they may have found the right recipe for an obesity drug to help people lose weight and keep it off, without nasty side effects.

The drug, which is yet to be tested in humans, increases sensitivity to the body's appetite-suppressant hormone, leptin.

"By sensitising the body to naturally occurring leptin, the new drug could not only promote weight loss, but also help maintain it," said study author George Kunos of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in the US.

The drug works by reversing desensitisation to leptin, a process scientists think is caused by receptors that mediate hunger sparked by marijuana use and naturally occurring cannabinoids in the body.

Scientists have previously developed anti-obesity drugs to target cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1R), but one, rimonabant, was taken off the market in Europe because of serious side effects including anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts.

Dr Kunos and his team minimised the side effects by developing a drug that targets CB1R without entering the brain.

Obese mice given the drug lost weight after their appetites were suppressed by increasing their sensitivity to leptin.

The mice did not express anxiety or adverse behavioural side effects.

"Obesity is a growing public health problem, and there is a strong need for new types of medications to treat obesity and its serious metabolic complications, including diabetes and fatty liver disease," Dr Kunos said.

"This finding bodes well for the development of a new class of compounds for the treatment of obesity and its metabolic consequences."

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/breaki ... 6436261629


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 02, 2012 5:39 am 
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New whooping cough vaccine less effective than old

A new whooping cough vaccine introduced in 1999 is less effective than the one it replaced, possibly explaining a resurgence of the disease in children, researchers have found.

A study of more than 40,000 Queensland children found that those who received a full course of the new vaccine were three times more likely to have developed whooping cough between 2009 and 2011, compared with those who received the old vaccine.

The children studied were born in 1998, at a time when the old vaccine was being phased out, and therefore received either a full course of the old or new vaccine, or a mixture of both. The vaccine is delivered at two months, four months and six months.

The study, published yesterday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, helps explain a spike of whooping cough cases in children aged between six and 11 years.

Co-author Stephen Lambert said younger children were not included in the study, but the new vaccine appeared to offer good protection against whooping cough for some years.

Cases of whooping cough in Australia have jumped from 14,287 in 2008 to 38,596 last year.

http://www.smh.com.au/national/new-whoo ... z22KDpNqWv


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2012 5:25 am 
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Two nurses claim care for swine flu victim was lacking

TWO registered nurses who cared for swine-flu victim Angela Fensom have told a coronial inquest they were concerned about her treatment.

Ms Fensom visited her local GP, Dr Veemarajah Vernugopalan, in August 2009 and was hospitalised with viral gastroenteritis.

She died the following day at the Millicent District Hospital from complications associated with influenza A H1N1 - also known as swine flu.

Zeta Tucknott, a registered nurse with almost 30 years of experience, treated Ms Fensom on the morning shift on the day she died.

Giving evidence yesterday, Ms Tucknott said she was concerned at the lack of care for Ms Fensom - even though she had not been her assigned patient.

"I spoke to Angela and found that she hadn't been attended to at all," she said. "I never saw her (assigned) nurse and I came back to check on her and did another lot of observations.

"I wasn't actually officially looking after her but I felt a responsibility to check that someone had checked on her - and no one had." Ms Tucknott said she first checked on Ms Fensom at 11.30am after noticing medical orders had not been signed.

"I said that I would start the fluids ... I checked her bed notes and found she'd had no observations since 6am."

Registered nurse Jenny Bertram was on the afternoon shift.

She told the inquest she had phoned Dr Vernugopalan when she believed Ms Fensom's condition was worsening, about five hours before she died.

"I checked on her (at 4.45pm) ... and from that visit I then went out and called the doctor with concerns that I had," she said yesterday.

"My understanding was that she wasn't well at that point in time.

"She was still OK and was communicating well earlier. It wasn't until 4.45pm that there was a change.

"At about 5.30pm, she appeared to be deteriorating a little bit more."

Ms Bertram said at one point she was worried Ms Fensom might have been given too much fluid.

Deputy State Coroner Anthony Schapel on Thursday opened an inquest into Ms Fensom's death and that of Andrew Johannes Taankink, 26, who died under similar circumstances in a separate case.

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/nation ... 6440563068


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2012 6:02 am 
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Research deal may lead to new vaccines - RMIT

New vaccines for a range of serious illnesses may emerge from a research agreement signed between RMIT University and biotechnology company BioDiem Ltd.

BioDiem, based in Melbourne and listed on the Australian Stock Exchange, works with the influenza virus and other research platforms to develop world-class research and technology for the treatment of cancers and infectious diseases.

RMIT's School of Applied Sciences will work with BioDiem to explore the potential for new vaccines based on successful work already done by the company to produce influenza vaccines administered by nasal spray.

"There are some very exciting opportunities to be explored in this area, and the versatility of our technology gives rise to a lot of potential new treatments," BioDiem CEO Julie Phillips said.

Promising areas for research include mosquito-borne diseases like malaria, as well as other infectious diseases and certain forms of cancer.

According to Professor Peter Smooker, of the School of Applied Sciences, BioDiem will provide seed funding for the research, and the partners will seek further funding in joint applications.

RMIT will earn royalties on any commercial developments resulting from the research.

RMIT and BioDiem are optimistic that the ability of the company's Live Attenuated Influenza Virus to create a strong immune response will be transferrable into treatments for other medical conditions.

"The ability to utilise a virus that has a long history of safety and efficacy in humans for the development of vaccines against other diseases is a great opportunity," Professor Smooker said.

"This work will also undoubtedly provide excellent training for many of our bright students, under the direction of myself and Dr Hao Van, with opportunities to participate in some of the very important work going on at present to explore how the influenza vaccine's benefits can be expanded into new fields."

Professor Smooker's research interests focus on targeting of the immune system, various platforms for vaccines and the structure and function of proteins - all areas of central importance to the research program.

He is a core member of the Health Innovations Research Institute.

http://www.healthcanal.com/medical-brea ... -RMIT.html


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 12, 2012 7:04 am 
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Scientists closer to beating deadly viruses

THE emerging Hendra and Nipah viruses are under the gun as international researchers report success in an animal trial of an anti-Nipah vaccine.

The work, reported on Thursday in the journal Science Translational Medicine, follows last week's report by Australian scientists on the discovery of a new virus in the group called henipaviruses, which includes Nipah and Hendra.

The henipaviruses were discovered in the 1990s following investigation of serious disease outbreaks in horses and pigs, as well as human beings in Australia and Malaysia. While the viruses seldom cause serious illness in their fruit bat hosts, both have a high fatality rate in humans: over 75 per cent for Nipah and 60 per cent for Hendra.

As the new-found Cedar virus infects but doesn't sicken ferrets - good laboratory stand-ins for people - it promises to become an invaluable tool for determining why Nipah and Hendra pack such a lethal punch, claims discovery team member Deborah Middleton, a veterinary pathologist with CSIRO's Australian Animal Health Laboratory in Geelong.

So far, only Nipah is known to spread from person to person. That's why the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists it as a potential "bioterrorism agent" and funds extensive work on a vaccine.

Since Nipah first emerged in a 1998 outbreak among pigs and pig farmers in Southeast Asia, further outbreaks have occurred in Singapore, India, Bangladesh and Malaysia.

Hendra outbreaks remain confined to northern Australia since it first hit horses and humans in 1994.

"It's a terrible disease for horses," says Middleton. "But if you look at people who have become infected, they all were in close contact to seriously infected horses." She says only seven human cases of Hendra have been confirmed, including four fatalities.

Consequently, Middleton and her CSIRO colleagues have focused on a Hendra vaccine for horses rather than people. "Take the horse out of the picture and you eliminate the risk (to people)," she says.

Middleton's group has applied to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority for "minor use" approval of its Hendra horse vaccine. That would permit its controlled use. "We're aiming for complete registration in the first quarter of 2013."

By chance, the Nipah vaccine reported by a team led by Katharine Bossart, with Boston University's National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories, also protects against Hendra virus. As such, it could potentially be fast-tracked to protect people and horses against the Hendra virus.

The Nipah vaccine is based on a Hendra virus surface protein, the G glycoprotein, a known target for triggering a protective immune response.

Middleton says the AAHL team did preliminary work on the Nipah vaccine that Bossart's team showed afforded African green monkeys (a proxy for humans) "complete protection" against Nipah infection.

Previously, the same vaccine protected cats from Nipah and ferrets and horses from Hendra.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/he ... 6447009556


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 14, 2012 5:42 am 
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Diabetes study suggests link to viruses and toxins

MINI-EPIDEMICS of type 1 diabetes appear to be occurring among Australian children every five years, a landmark study that points to an environmental cause of the autoimmune disease shows.

The study found that type 1 diabetes, a condition that occurs when the body's immune system seems to spontaneously attack and kill the cells that produce insulin, has also been inexplicably increasing by more than 2 per cent every year.

The researchers reviewed every new case of type 1 diabetes in Western Australia over 25 years, finding that while the illness was on the rise, it was doing so with an even flow of peaks and troughs.

In some cases there was a difference of up to 20 per cent between the peak and low years, the study, published in the journal Diabetes Care, says.

One of the co-authors, Professor Tim Jones, said that while there must be some reason for both the increase and the cyclical pattern of the condition, it was not yet understood.

"We don't really know what the triggers are. There are probably multiple triggers, including environmental factors such as viruses and toxins," he said. "There have been increases in allergies at the same time [as type 1 diabetes has increased], so it may reflect similar underlying causes."

When his team compared the pattern in West Australia with similar research done overseas, they found it to be "almost identical" to a pattern found in northern England, despite the two areas having very different demographic and climatic conditions. The data suggests another peak beginning this year, with previous ones occurring in 2007 and 2002.

More than 87,000 Australians have been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, the most recent figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare show.

Professor Jones said the peaks could be caused by cycles in which viruses are dominant, similar to those with cold and flu viruses, where different strains are common each year.

He said research was now being done to monitor babies who could be at risk of the condition because their parents have it, to try to track what made them develop it.

However, it is complicated by the fact that about 80 per cent of children whose parents have type 1 diabetes will not develop the condition.

The national policy adviser for Diabetes Australia, Greg Johnson, said people often mistakenly believed that type 1 diabetes was an inherited condition. "There is not a common understanding that there are clearly environmental factors at play," he said.

But he cautioned that further studies would be needed before it was clear that viruses were the cause.

"It's complex. Viruses could be implicated but there might be factors such as chemicals and environmental pollutants or who knows what else," he said.

http://www.smh.com.au/national/health/d ... z23SP8b0l9


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