Archive for the ‘Vaccines’ 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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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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New anti flu campaign aimed at young

The WA Health Department's Paul Van Buynder.

Paul Van Buynder from the WA Health Department announcing anti-flu campaign for the young. (ABC TV)

Young children will be offered free flu shots as part of a study to try to ensure last year’s deadly flu season is not repeated.

Four Perth toddlers died from bacterial infections associated with last year’s severe influenza season.

The shots, provided free by drug companies, will be given to children six months to five years of age.

Doctors will then monitor the children to see how well the vaccine protects them from the flu and other infections.

Doctor Paul Van Buynder from the Department of Health says he hopes the trial is eventually made a permanent part of the vaccination program.

“The absolute objective of this study is to show that this is a a cost-effective program worthy of adding to the national vaccination schedule,” he said.

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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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Scientists closing in on hep C vaccine

By Jennifer Macey

There is progress in the development of a vaccine for the hepatitis C virus (File photo)

There is progress in the development of a vaccine for the hepatitis C virus (File photo) (Reuters: Dylan Martinez)

Scientists believe they are one step closer to developing a vaccine for the hepatitis C virus.

The main obstacle to a vaccine has always been the evolving nature of the virus, which affects around 200,000 Australians, and the different strains that can co-exist within the body to cause infection.

The majority of those infected by the virus have such a weak immune system that their bodies cannot naturally fight the disease.

Researchers in the United States planted human liver tissue in mice to test different antibodies and the study, published in the latest edition of the journal Nature, has identified antibodies that provide broad protection.

Chris Burrell, from the School of Molecular and Biomedical Science at the University of Adelaide, says efforts to find a vaccine for the virus have been frustratingly slow.

“Seventy per cent of patients who become infected have a weak immune response and a narrow immune response, and they don’t clear the virus,” he said.

“The other reason is that the virus exists as a mixture of closely related strains all infecting in the same dose.

“So this is always a chance that there’ll be a strain that escapes any immunity that might be there.”

Professor Burrell says once a person contracts hepatitis C, the virus evolves within the body and has up to 50 different strains that can cause infection.

But now researchers at the Scripps Research Institute in the US have managed to identify broad protection for these various strains after planting human liver tissue in mice.

“They’ve chosen the way to make the antigen quite well,” Professor Burrell said.

“They’ve then screened a lot of antibodies that are made against this and used very good ways to pick out the best antibodies, and then they’ve flooded the mice with high amounts of this antibody.

“So they’ve really tried to maximise the chance of it working, and it has worked, but obviously it’s still a very hard series of steps to move from that to showing protection in humans and being able to make the same type of vaccine to work in humans.”

Human trials

Professor Burrell says the study is a significant step towards developing a vaccine, but he warns a human trial is still five to 10 years away.

He says, in the meantime, those people already infected will benefit from greater access to anti-viral treatments.

“People can live with the disease and people can be cured of the disease by anti-viral treatment,” Professor Burrell said.

“But I guess the bad news is, I mean I’m talking about the lower percentage of people who progress, maybe 10 to 20 per cent, something like that.

“But if you multiply that by the number of people infected – 200,000 in Australia – you can see that leads to still quite a large pool of people who are going to end up in liver failure because of this virus.”

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