Archive for the ‘Vaccinations’ Category


Gene gun, patches ‘to replace vaccine needles’

A University of Queensland professor says ‘gene guns’ and abrasive patches could soon replace needles as the preferred method of delivering vaccines.

Professor Mark Kendall won the annual Amgen Medical Research Award in Melbourne for developing the new technology.

He says needles do not work for all vaccinations and other methods, like the abrasive patch, are better.

“To the naked eye it just looks like any other patch but if you look at it very, very closely under a microscope you’ll see that it has thousands of little tiny projections that break the outer layer of the skin and put the vaccine to where it needs to go,” he said.

“We’ve already shown that that works considerably better than any other approach.”

Professor Kendall says he also developed a gene gun because using needles for diseases such as pandemic influenza vaccines is clumsy.

“It’s a hand-held rocket nozzle. We fire very, very small DNA-coated microparticles into the skin at about 1,500 miles per hour.

“I know that might sound a little bit out there but it’s actually a practical delivery device.


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Budget to support public, private health: Roxon

Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan and Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon emerge from a meeting

Extra pressure: Ms Roxon says her Government will invest in the public hospital system and continue to support the private health sector. (File photo) (AAP: Dave Hunt)

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The Federal Government says it has considered the extra pressure that might be placed on the public health system by the changes to the Medicare surcharge levy.

Tomorrow’s Federal Budget will include plans to increase the levy threshold to $100,000 for singles, and $150,000 for couples.

The private health insurance industry and the Opposition say the move will drive up premium costs, and put more pressure on the public health system.

But Health Minister Nicola Roxon has told The 7.30 Report, the Government has taken into account the extra burden the changes might put on public hospitals.

“Of course we’ve considered that, and of course a key approach of the Rudd Labor Government is making sure that we do invest sufficiently in our public hospital system and we continue to support the private health sector,” she said.

“We think a modern country like Australia needs both a strong public and private health system.”

‘A good Labor budget’

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says the Budget will be a “good Labor budget”.

He has outlined to Labor MPs the Budget’s four themes: good economic management during times of high inflation, looking after working families, investing for the future in areas of health, education and infrastructure and keeping last year’s election promises.

Mr Swan told his Labor colleagues he is proud of his first budget, but the test will come when he delivers it in Parliament tonight.

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Researcher to develop extra cervical cancer vaccine

The man who pioneered the cervical cancer vaccine is working on another one, to help women who already have the cancer or the infection that causes it.

Professor Ian Frazer developed the vaccine Gardasil, which is used to prevent cervical cancer, but it can only be given to women who do not have the human papilloma virus (HPV).

He told a vaccine conference in Canberra he is hoping that soon he will have a second vaccine for those with the virus.

“Our research work’s focused very heavily on cervical cancer, because there are a very large number of women in the developing world who have been infected with the papilloma virus that causes cervical cancer,” he said.

“And the vaccines that we have to prevent infection can’t help them.”

Professor Frazer says he is cautiously optimistic the new vaccine will be available within the next decade.

“We’re really hoping to develop vaccines that will be able to treat people who have either got cancer, or who are very much at risk of it because of infections they already have,” he said.

“These vaccines are very different from the vaccines that we have at the moment, which are designed to prevent infection, rather than treat something that’s already there.”

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School tuberculosis scare: 23 exposed

Seventeen students and several teachers have tested positive to tuberculosis exposure at a school in Sydney’s west.

The first case was identified in October last year in a female casual teacher working at Hassall Grove Primary School in Sydney’s west.

More than 100 students and teachers believed to have come into contact with the woman have since been screened for the highly-infectious lung disease.

The Sydney West Area Health Service says 17 children and six adults have tested positive to exposure, but none are contagious or showing symptoms.

Dr Vicki Sheppard from the service says this is common.

“All those ones that have a positive skin test, we then investigate further and implement appropriate management to stop it progressing to active tuberculosis,” she said.

The Department of Education says the casual teacher has been treated, and has returned to teaching duties.

Department spokeswoman Lindsay Wasson says good management has helped control a potential outbreak.

“We’re very confident that the process that we’ve undertaken with health has resulted in excellent management and the community is being well informed,” she said.

“We remain confident we have this matter well and truly under control.”


TB scare: Students ‘perhaps infected for months’

A leading infectious diseases physician says 17 students and several teachers who tested positive to tuberculosis at a school in Sydney’s west may have been infected for months without knowing.

A casual teacher at Hassall Grove Primary School was diagnosed with the disease in October last year. More than 100 students and teachers have since been screened.

Dr Peter Collignon, from the Australian National University’s medical school, says most people who test positive find the tuberculosis stays dormant and can be quite easily managed.

“They do [a] screening, which may be a chest x-ray or maybe just a skin test,” he said.

“If the skin test is positive, it’s called a Mantoux test. That implies that you’ve been infected with this germ recently, although you may have no symptoms at all.”

The Sydney West Area Health Service says it believes that with appropriate treatment, the disease will stay dormant in all 23 people who tested positive.

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More mosquitos found with killer virus

Health authorities are warning people to protect themselves against virus-carrying mosquitos in the western Riverina in southern NSW

Health authorities are warning people to protect themselves against virus-carrying mosquitos in the western Riverina in southern NSW. (AAP Image: Dave Hunt)

A second batch of mosquitos has been found in the western Riverina region, in southern New South Wales, with a disease that can be fatal to humans.

The result comes just over a week after the first positive test in the region for Murray Valley encephalitis, which can also cause permanent brain damage.

Greater Southern Area Health public health director Tracey Oakman says there is no cure or vaccine for the virus.

Ms Oakman is urging residents and visitors to protect themselves by avoiding being outdoors in the evenings, installing mosquito screens and wearing insect repellent and suitable clothing.

She says the symptoms of the virus include headaches, nausea, vomiting, neck stiffness and fever.

“There is no evidence of human infections to date,” she said.

“However, the mosquito monitoring results means there may be the potential for people to become infected if bitten by mosquitoes.”

The last human case of Murray Valley encephalitis in the Riverina was around 30 years ago.

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Roxon ready to come to table with states

Nicola Roxon says the Federal and State Governments are driven by what is best for patients.

Nicola Roxon says the Federal and State Governments are driven by what is best for patients. (AFP: William West)

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon insists she is optimistic about today’s meeting with the states and territories over the next healthcare agreement, despite serious tensions surfacing.

The states want an extra $3 billion a year over the next five years to address what they say was a funding shortfall under the previous government.

There is also disagreement over what conditions the Commonwealth might attach to any funding.

But Ms Roxon says there is nothing unusual about these arguments before such an important meeting.

“Of course there is going to be disagreement and argument, that’s what good negotiations are about,” she said.

“But we’re all driven by what will deliver the best outcomes for patients. That will be the measure.”

“And if we can convince the states that this is a measure that will help patients, if the states can convince us that some different investment from the Commonwealth will help patients, then those will be the things that will be on the table at the end of the day.”

Ms Roxon is not committing to a figure but says any money will come with strings.

“We will be making sure that there are serious performance monitoring measures attached to any money we provide,” she said.

New South Wales’ Health Minister Reba Meagher is demanding the Commonwealth lift its split of hospital funding from around 40 per cent to 50.

“Reform will only be successful if there is genuine investment in change,” she said.

But Tasmania’s Health Minister Lara Giddings is not hopeful.

“It’s starting to look like it will be unrealistic to have all the detail by June on a new healthcare agreement,” she said.

Ms Roxon says she will keep meeting with the states until agreement is reached.

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Tattoos may be tomorrow’s vaccines

The tattoo of the future may be good for your health rather than just your image.

German scientists say that work on mice showed that tattooing was a more effective way to deliver a new generation of experimental DNA vaccines than standard injections into muscle.

Using fragments of DNA to stimulate an immune response is seen as a promising way of making better vaccines for everything from flu to cancer.

However until now, the concept has been hampered by its low efficiency.

There are currently no approved DNA vaccines on the market, but several drug companies are conducting clinical trials and investing in the technology.

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