COVID-19 isn’t the only infectious disease scientists are trying to find a vaccine for. Here are 3 others



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Danielle Stanisic, Griffith University and Johnson Mak, Griffith University

More than 28 million people around the world have now contracted COVID-19, and more than 900,000 people have died.

Research groups across the globe are rightly racing to find a vaccine to protect against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

While it’s not surprising all eyes are on this vaccine race, COVID-19 isn’t the only disease for which scientists are currently trying to find a vaccine.

Let’s look at three others.

The big three

We regard malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS as the “big three” infectious diseases. Together they’re responsible for about 2.7 million deaths a year around the world. They disproportionately affect low- and middle-income countries.

Deaths from these three diseases could almost double over the next year as a result of disruptions to health care in the face of COVID-19.

This is a clear example of the indirect effects of an uncontrollable infectious disease. It also reminds us of the importance of vaccine research for the many other infectious parasites, viruses and bacteria that can cause disease and death.




Read more:
Creating a COVID-19 vaccine is only the first step. It’ll take years to manufacture and distribute


Malaria: the parasite

Malaria is a parasitic disease transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. Common symptoms are flu-like: fever, headache, muscle aches and fatigue. If not treated promptly, malaria can lead to severe disease and death.

In 2018, nearly half of the world’s population was at risk from malaria. There were roughly 228 million cases and 405,000 deaths from the disease, mainly in children under five in sub-Saharan Africa.

Anti-malarial drugs are routinely used to treat and prevent malaria infection. But Plasmodium falciparum, the deadliest of the malaria parasites that can infect humans, has developed resistance against all drugs currently used to treat and prevent malaria. So we urgently need an effective vaccine.

Development of a malaria vaccine is complicated by the diverse forms, or life-cycle stages, of the parasite in the human host. The immune responses required to kill the parasite differ between these different stages. So malaria vaccine candidates typically target just one parasite stage.

Close-up of a mosquito on somebody's skin.
Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease.
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British multinational pharmaceutical company GSK has licensed the world’s first malaria vaccine, Mosquirix. It targets the stage the parasite is at when the mosquito injects it.

Although it’s the only malaria vaccine candidate to successfully complete phase 3 trials, Mosquirix has only moderate effectiveness (less than 40%) which drops off rapidly after the final dose. So we need a more effective vaccine capable of inducing long-lasting immunity.

There are 20 other malaria vaccine candidates in advanced pre-clinical or clinical evaluation.

At the forefront of these is Sanaria’s whole sporozoite vaccine (PfSPZ), which also targets the parasite stage injected by the mosquito. It’s currently being evaluated for effectiveness in Africa.




Read more:
From STIs to malaria, here are six disease trends we should heed during the pandemic


Tuberculosis: the bacterium

Globally, tuberculosis is the leading cause of death by a single infectious agent. It’s caused by a bacterium that spreads from person to person through the air and mainly affects the lungs.

Tuberculosis was responsible for 1.5 million deaths in 2018. About one-quarter of the world’s population has latent tuberculosis, which has no symptoms and is not infectious. But 5-15% of these people will go onto develop active, infectious disease.

Generally, tuberculosis can be effectively treated with antimicrobial drugs. But the emergence of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis is a major cause of death and a serious public health concern.

We do have one licensed vaccine for tuberculosis. The BCG vaccine was first used in 1921 and is usually administered to infants in countries with high tuberculosis prevalence. But the degree and duration of protection this vaccine offers is not enough to control the disease.

Scientists are working to develop prophylactic vaccines (to prevent infection from the outset) and post-exposure vaccines (to prevent disease progression in people with latent tuberculosis).

At least 14 tuberculosis vaccine candidates are in clinical trials, with promising results giving hope we might be able to get the disease under better control in years to come.

HIV/AIDS: the virus

Since the discovery of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in the 1980s, the disease has caused 33 million deaths — roughly 770,000 in 2019. Some 38 million people have HIV/AIDS worldwide.

There’s currently no cure or protective vaccine. While antiviral therapeutics can effectively control HIV, around 20% (7.6 million) of HIV-infected patients don’t have access to them.

Gloved hands place a band-aid on a person's arm where they received a vaccination.
There’s no vaccine yet for HIV/AIDS.
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Researchers are aiming to develop a protective vaccine against HIV. A major focus is developing broadly neutralising antibodies (antibodies that can attack different HIV strains) in HIV-infected patients.

Notably, researchers identifying and developing COVID-19 therapeutics have used significant expertise from HIV vaccine development.

For example, defining the structural details of SAR-CoV-2’s spike protein as a target for a COVID-19 vaccine, and identifying broadly neutralising antibodies from convalescent plasma as a potential treatment, are similar to strategies scientists working on HIV have used.




Read more:
Could BCG, a 100-year-old vaccine for tuberculosis, protect against coronavirus?


Time and commitment

Beyond COVID-19 and the big three, there are many more conditions for which scientists are working to develop vaccines.

The current pandemic highlights the need for governments, NGOs and philanthropists to support this work — and scientific research more broadly.

Research on one type of disease can often accelerate the development of treatments for others. We’re seeing this in the quest for a COVID-19 vaccine.

Ultimately, COVID-19 has raised public awareness of the type of scientific challenges researchers encounter every day. There’s neither a silver bullet nor a shortcut in the development of a safe and effective vaccine.The Conversation

Danielle Stanisic, Associate Research Leader, Institute for Glycomics, Griffith University and Johnson Mak, Professor, Institute of Glycomics, Griffith University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Article: Zimbabwe – Bizarre AIDS Solution Put Forward


The link below is to an article reporting on a bizarre solution to AIDS proposed by a politician in Zimbabwe.

For more visit:
http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/chatter/how-reduce-hiv-zimbabwe-make-women-uglier

More Nonsense: Jesus had HIV


The following article concerns a South African preacher who has said that Jesus had HIV. Read about this nonsense at:

http://www.timeslive.co.za/local/article639505.ece/Reverend–Jesus-had-HIV

SOMALIA: CHRISTIAN IN KENYA REFUGEE CAMP ATTACKED, SHOT


Muslim zealots jail convert, burn home of another; in Somalia, a mother and daughter raped.

DADAAB, Kenya, December 10 (Compass Direct News) – A Somali Christian put in a refugee camp police cell here for defending his family against Islamic zealots has been released after Christians helped raise the 20,000 Kenya shilling fine (US$266) that a camp “court” demanded for his conversion dishonoring Islam and its prophet, Muhammad.

But for Salat Sekondo Mberwa of Mogadishu, the war-torn capital of Somalia, this was not the highest price he has had to pay for leaving Islam. A few weeks ago Muslim zealots shot Mberwa in the shoulder and left him for dead, and he and other refugees told of hired Muslim gangs in Somalia raping and killing converts, denying them access to water and, in the refugee camp, burning their homes.

“I thank God that I am alive,” a timid and worried Mberwa said.

At about 9 a.m. on Oct. 13, five Muslim youths knocked on Mberwa’s sheet-iron gate in the refugee camp, one of three that is home to 572,000 refugees from Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan in northeastern Kenya’s Dadaab town.

“I refused to open the gate, and they started cutting the iron sheets,” he said. “They were shouting and calling me names, saying I was the enemy of the Islamic religion, and that I would pay the ultimate price for propagating a different religion. They threatened to kill me if I did not open the door for them.”

With him inside the house was his 22-year-old son, Nur Abdurahman, he said.

“As the assailants forced their way into our room, I whispered to my son to prepare for war,” he said. “While defending ourselves, I hit one of the young men whom I later came to know as Abdul Kadir Haji.”

They soon overpowered the assailants, he said, and the gang ran away, only to return three hours later accompanied by Muslim elders and the police. They arrested Mberwa and detained him at a camp police cell.

After his release, Mberwa said, he was resting inside his house on Nov. 26 at around 6 p.m. when he heard people shouting his name and swearing to “teach him a lesson” for embarrassing them by having left Islam. Once again he decided to lock himself in, and as before the attackers forced their way in.

“I was trying to escape through the window when one of them fired a gun, but the bullet narrowly missed me,” he told Compass. “Then I heard another gun fire, and I felt a sharp pain on my left shoulder. I fell down. Thinking that I was dead, they left.”

Relatives immediately arrived and gave first aid to the bleeding Mberwa. They arranged treatment for him in Mogadishu, after which he was relocated to Dadaab for recovery.

The officer in charge of Dadaab refugee camp, Omar Dadho, told Compass that authorities were doing their best to safeguard freedom of worship.

“We cannot guarantee the security of the minority Christians among a Muslim-dominated population totaling more than 99 percent,” Dadho said. “But we are doing our best to safeguard their freedom of worship. Their leader, Salat, should visit our office so that their matter and complaints can be looked at critically, as well as to try to look for a long-lasting solution.”

A bitter and exhausted Mberwa told Compass he was not about to give in.

“What will these Muslims benefit if they completely wipe away my family?” he said. “My son has just arrived from Bossaso with a serious bullet wound on his left hand. It’s sad. Anyhow we are happy he is alive.”

In November 2005, leaving behind his job at an international relief and development agency in Mogadishu, Mberwa had fled with his family to Dadaab after Muslim extremists murdered a relative, Mariam Mohammed Hassan, allegedly for distributing Bibles. At that time his oldest son, 26-year-old Abdi Salat, had gone to Bossaso, in Somalia’s autonomous Puntland region.

Situated in a hostile environment with high temperatures and little or no vegetation cover, Dadaab refugee camps house refugees from Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan: 150,000 people in the Dagahaley camp, 152,000 in Ifo and 270,000 in Hagadhera.

Where Mberwa lives as a refugee, Muslim zealots burned a house belonging to his son-in-law, Mohammed Jeylani, also a member of his camp fellowship.

“It was on Oct. 28 when we saw smoke coming out of my house,” said Jeylani. “Some neighbors managed to salvage my two young children who were inside the house. The people managed to put out the fire before the house was razed. I have been contemplating reporting the culprits to the police, but I do fear for my life.”

Somali Christians cannot openly conduct their fellowship at the relief camps. They meet in their houses and at times at the Dadaab police post among friendly Christian soldiers and public servants.

“They have to be careful since they are constantly being monitored by their fellow Somalis,” said Moses Lokong, an officer at Kenya’s Department of Land Reclamation in neighboring Garissa town.

 

Death and Agony in Somalia

Somali refugees in Kenya commonly have loved ones in their home country who have suffered from violence. On July 18 a Muslim gang killed a relative of Mberwa, Nur Osman Muhiji, in Anjel village, 30 kilometers from Kismayo, Somalia.

The church in Dadaab had sent Muhiji to the port of Kismayo on June 15 to smuggle out Christians endangered by Muslim extremists there. Word became known of Muhiji’s mission, and on his way back a gang of 10 Muslim extremists stopped his vehicle, dragged him to some bushes and stabbed him to death.

Fearing for their lives, the Christians he was smuggling struggled to remain quiet as Muhiji wailed from the knife attack near Anjel village at about 6:30 p.m.

At the Dadaab refugee camp, Muhiji’s widow, Hussein Mariam Ali, told Compass, “Life without Osman is now meaningless – how will I survive here all alone without him? I wish I had gotten children with him.”

Another refugee in Dadaab, Binti Ali Bilal, recounted an attack in Lower Juba, Somalia. The 40-year-old mother of 10 children was fetching firewood with her 23-year-old daughter, Asha Ibrahim Abdalla, on April 15 in an area called Yontoy when a group from the Muslim insurgent group al Shabaab approached them. Yontoy is 25 kilometers (15 miles) from Kismayo.

For some time the local community had suspected that she and her family were Christians, Bilal told Compass. Neighbors with members from al Shabaab, believed to have links with al Qaeda, confronted them, she said.

“They asked whether we were Christians – it was very difficult for us to deny,” Bilal said. “So we openly said that we were Christians. They began beating us. My son who is 10 years old ran away screaming. My daughter then was six months pregnant. They hit me at the ribs before dragging us into the bush. They raped us repeatedly and held us captive for five days.”

The Muslim extremists left them there to die, she said.

“My daughter began to bleed – thank God my husband [Ibrahim Abdalla Maidula] found us alive after the five days of agony,” she said. “We were taken to Kismayo for treatment before escaping to Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya on May 5. My daughter gave birth to a sickly baby, and she still suffers after-birth related diseases.”

Bilal’s daughter told Compass that she still feels pain in her abdomen and chest. She was weak and worried that she may have contracted HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus.  

Report from Compass Direct News