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Magazine Examines Efforts To Biologically Alter Bugs To Fight Human Diseases

Pacific Standard magazine examines efforts by researchers around the globe to biologically modify bugs to fight human diseases, such as dengue fever. “Biologically altering bugs isn’t entirely new; it’s been done for nearly half a century to protect crops. … It’s only recently, however, that scientists have begun experimenting with using this technology to combat human diseases,” the magazine writes, adding, “If they succeed, they could create an entirely new way of stopping not only dengue but other insect-borne scourges, such as yellow fever, West Nile virus, and malaria. And stopping these diseases has never been more urgent.”

Dengue Fever Vaccine 'May Be In Sight,' Reuters Reports

Reuters reports on efforts to develop a vaccine for dengue fever, writing that “victory over … the intensely painful ‘breakbone fever’ … may be in sight.” Paris-based firm Sanofi “hopes for positive results in September from a key trial among children in Thailand that would set it on course to market a shot in 2015, which would prevent an estimated 100 million cases of dengue infection each year,” the news service writes, noting, “Of 20,000 annual deaths, many are of children.” According to Reuters, “Results from that clinical study, in what is known as the Phase IIb of the international standard three-stage process of assessment, are expected in the third quarter” and “will also be presented for scientific scrutiny at the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in Atlanta in November.”

New Study Lessens Concerns About Dengue Vaccine Production Costs

“Research funded by the Dengue Vaccine Initiative (DVI) involving an economic analysis of producing a tetravalent dengue vaccine shows that the cost could be as low as $0.20 per dose with an annual production level of 60 million doses packaged in 10-dose vials,” a Sabin Vaccine Institute press release reports. The study, published in the July 6 issue of the journal Vaccine, “used data on a vaccine developed by U.S. NIH and the facilities of the Instituto Butantan in Sao Paulo, Brazil,” the press release notes, adding the findings “should provide confidence to ministries of health that they can aggressively plan for the inclusion of dengue vaccine in their immunization programs, as the vaccine should be available at a cost that even middle-income and developing countries can afford” (6/27).

Number Of Recorded Dengue Cases Up 36% Over Last Year In Costa Rica

“A total of 8,480 people have been affected by dengue fever in Costa Rica” so far this year, representing an increase of 36 percent, or 2,230 more cases than during the same period last year, according to a Ministry of Health report, Xinhua News reports. “Among all the cases so far, only nine people were affected by hemorrhagic dengue fever, which is a more serious and sometimes mortal type of dengue, the report added,” the news service writes (9/17). Health authorities are urging people to eliminate possible sources of reproduction for mosquitoes, including disposing of old tires, according to a health ministry press release (9/11).

Dengue Vaccine Initiative Launches Redesigned Website, New Blog

The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases’ “End the Neglect” blog reports that the Dengue Vaccine Initiative has launched a redesigned website, including a new blog that “will include regular posts about the disease, dengue in the news, the work of DVI and the development of a dengue vaccine” (9/17).

Clinical Trial Results Signal 'Promise, Unresolved Challenges' In Finding Effective Dengue Vaccine

The first-ever results from a dengue virus vaccine clinical trial aimed at showing effectiveness “provide signals rather than definitive answers, and a mixture of both promise and unresolved challenges,” Orin Levine, executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center, and Ciro de Quadros, executive vice president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, write in the Huffington Post “Impact” blog. “To date, these represent the most promising indications that a safe, effective vaccine to prevent dengue is technically feasible,” they continue, adding, “At the same time, the results on protection were inconclusive, somewhat inconsistent with the measured immune responses and uneven across the four strains included in the vaccine.”

Financial Times Features Special Report On NTDs

The Financial Times has published a special report (.pdf) on neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) featuring 10 articles examining issues including prevention, research, and treatment.

Leading Dengue Fever Vaccine Candidate 30% Effective In First Large Clinical Trial

“The leading candidate to become the world’s first vaccine against dengue fever was only 30 percent effective in its first large clinical trial, dealing at least a temporary setback to efforts to control a disease that threatens half the world’s population,” the New York Times reports. “Still, the study marked a milestone in the 70-year quest to develop such a vaccine, demonstrating that a safe and effective inoculation against dengue is feasible, researchers reported in a paper published online Monday in the Lancet,” the newspaper adds (Pollack, 9/10). “Tested among just over 4,000 children in rural Thailand who were badly exposed to the mosquito-borne fever, the vaccine had no side effects but only worked against three out of the four dengue strains,” Agence France-Presse writes (9/10).

WHO Releases Dengue Strategy Report, Sets Goal Of Cutting Related Deaths In Half By 2020

“Saying dengue virus infections and deaths have mushroomed in recent years, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently released a strategy report that sets a goal of cutting deaths in half and reducing cases by 25 percent over the next eight years,” CIDRAP reports. “The report, titled ‘Global Strategy for Dengue Prevention and Control,’ also sets a goal of estimating the true burden of dengue disease by 2015 — signaling how little is known about the global impact of the mosquito-borne illness,” the news service writes. “In general, the report says that the tools already exist to make a big dent in the dengue problem, but that better tools, particularly in the diagnostic realm, are urgently needed,” CIDRAP notes, adding, “Currently there is no licensed vaccine or specific treatment for dengue fever or its more serious complication, dengue hemorrhagic fever” (Roos, 9/4).

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