TAG: "Vaccines"

New vaccine may be stronger weapon against both TB and leprosy


Research finds variant of existing vaccine offers stronger protection against both diseases.

Antigen 85B structure

In many parts of the world, leprosy and tuberculosis live side-by-side. Worldwide there are approximately 233,000 new cases of leprosy per year, with nearly all of them occurring where tuberculosis is endemic.

The currently available century-old vaccine Bacille Calmette-Guerin, or BCG, provides only partial protection against both tuberculosis and leprosy, so a more potent vaccine is needed to combat both diseases. UCLA-led research may have found a stronger weapon against both diseases.

In a study published in the September issue of the peer-reviewed journal Infection and Immunity, the researchers found that rBCG30, a recombinant variant of BCG that overexpresses a highly abundant 30 kDa protein of the tuberculosis bacterium known as Antigen 85B, is superior to BCG in protecting against tuberculosis in animal models, and also cross protects against leprosy. In addition, they found that boosting rBCG30 with the Antigen 85B protein, a protein also expressed by the leprosy bacillus, provides considerably stronger protection against leprosy.

“This is the first study demonstrating that an improved vaccine against tuberculosis also offers cross-protection against Mycobacterium leprae, the causative agent of leprosy,” said Dr. Marcus A. Horwitz, professor of medicine and microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics, and the study’s senior author. “That means that this vaccine has promise for better protecting against both major diseases at the same time.

“It is also the first study demonstrating that boosting a recombinant BCG vaccine further improves cross-protection against leprosy,” he added.

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A key step toward a safer strep vaccine


UC San Diego gene discovery identifies molecular pathway to potential preventive treatment.

Electron micrograph, false color, of group A Streptococcus bacteria

An international team of scientists, led by researchers at the UC San Diego School of Medicine, have identified the genes encoding a molecule that famously defines Group A Streptococcus (strep), a pathogenic bacterial species responsible for more than 700 million infections worldwide each year.

The findings, published online in today’s (June 11) issue of Cell Host & Microbe, shed new light on how strep bacteria resists the human immune system and provides a new strategy for developing a safe and broadly effective vaccine against strep throat, necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating disease) and rheumatic heart disease.

“Most people experience one or more painful strep throat infections as a child or young adult,” said senior author Victor Nizet, M.D., professor of pediatrics and pharmacy. “Developing a broadly effective and safe strep vaccine could prevent this suffering and reduce lost time and productivity at school and work, estimated to cost $2 billion annually.”

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Potential lung cancer vaccine shows renewed promise


Tecemotide a potential maintenance therapy to prolong survival, improve quality of life.

Michael DeGregorio, UC Davis

Researchers at UC Davis have found that the investigational cancer vaccine tecemotide, when administered with the chemotherapeutic cisplatin, boosted immune response and reduced the number of tumors in mice with lung cancer. The study also found that radiation treatments did not significantly impair the immune response. The paper was published on March 10 in the journal Cancer Immunology Research, an American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) publication.

Though tecemotide, also known as Stimuvax, has shown great potential at times, the recent Phase III trial found no overall survival benefit for patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). However, further analysis showed one group of patients, who received concurrent chemotherapy and radiation followed by tecemotide, did benefit from the vaccine. As a result, tecemotide’s manufacturer, Merck KGaA, is sponsoring additional post-clinical animal and human studies, so far with good results.

“There aren’t any good options for patients with inoperable stage III lung cancer following mainline chemotherapies,” said UC Davis professor of medicine and lead author Michael DeGregorio. “We are looking at tecemotide as a potential maintenance therapy to prolong survival and improve quality of life.”

Tecemotide activates an immune response by targeting the protein MUC1, which is often overexpressed in lung, breast, prostate and other cancers. The vaccine stimulates production of interferon gamma and MUC1-targeted killer T-lymphocytes, which seek out and destroy MUC1 cancer cells.

The team, which included investigators from the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and the Department of Radiation Oncology, wanted to know if cisplatin/tecemotide treatments, along with radiation therapy, could boost the immune response and alter lung cancer’s trajectory, stabilizing the disease.

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Jonas Salk’s personal papers going to UC San Diego Library


Physician developed the world’s first successful polio vaccine.

Jonas Salk (left) with an unidentified man in front of the Salk Institute, during construction.

The UC San Diego Library has become the official repository for the papers of Jonas Salk, noted physician, virologist and humanitarian, best known for his development of the world’s first successful vaccine for the prevention of polio.

The papers — which constitute almost 600 linear feet (or nearly 900 boxes) — were recently donated to the Library’s Mandeville Special Collections by Salk’s sons, Peter, Darrell and Jonathan, all of whom, like their father, trained as physicians and are involved in medical and scientific activities.

While recognized worldwide for his significant contributions, Jonas Salk is particularly noted locally for his founding of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies adjacent to UC San Diego and the impact this had on the city’s metamorphosis into a major center for biomedical and scientific research and discovery. The institute will celebrate the Jonas Salk Centenary in the fall of 2014 and, as part of this notable milestone, the library will hold a major exhibition of the Salk Papers and collaborate with the institute on other celebratory events.

“It is a great honor for the library to be the official repository for Jonas Salk’s papers,” said Brian E. C. Schottlaender, The Audrey Geisel University Librarian at UC San Diego. “The UC San Diego Library’s Mandeville Special Collections houses the papers of some of the world’s most prominent and accomplished scientists, including Francis Crick, Stanley Miller and Leo Szilard, as well as Nobel laureates Harold Urey, Hannes Alfven and Maria Goeppert Mayer. The papers of Jonas Salk are an excellent complement to these materials.”

The Salk papers constitute an exhaustive source of documentation on Salk’s professional and scientific activities. The papers cover the period from the mid-1940s to his death in 1995; best documented are activities largely related to the development of the Salk polio vaccine in the mid-1950s to the early 1960s and the founding of the Salk Institute. The papers cover general correspondence, files relating to polio, his writings, photographs, artifacts — including two dictating machines — personal writings and various research materials.

The collection includes correspondence with a number of prominent scientists and others, including Basil O’Connor and officers of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis/March of Dimes; immunologists Thomas Francis and Albert Sabin; physicist and biologist Leo Szilard; mathematician and philosopher Jacob Bronowski; architect Louis Kahn and other important figures in the worlds of art, science, education, public administration and humanitarianism.

Salk came to La Jolla following a career in clinical medicine and virology research. After obtaining his M.D. degree at the New York University School of Medicine in 1939, he served as a staff physician at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. He then joined his mentor, Dr. Thomas Francis, as a research fellow at the University of Michigan. There he worked to develop an influenza vaccine at the behest of the U.S. Army. In 1947, he was appointed director of the Virus Research Laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, where he began to put together the techniques that would lead to his polio vaccine.

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Why parents should immunize their children


The importance of getting vaccinated against the measles.

Behnoosh Afghani, UC Irvine

Nearly half a century after the measles vaccine became routine for U.S. children, few people remember how dangerous the disease can be. But each year, the virus — which is spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes — still kills more than 120,000 people around the globe who haven’t been immunized.

Given today’s interconnected world of international travelers, it is vital for parents to get their children vaccinated against the measles, to ensure their health and everyone else’s, said UC Irvine Health pediatric infectious disease specialist Dr. Behnoosh Afghani.

“Measles is a deadly disease and one of the most contagious,” said Afghani, “It’s associated with serious complications. In addition to rash, diarrhea and high fevers, dehydration is very common.” About one patient in 20  who contract measles develop pneumonia; one in 1,000 measles patients develop encephalitis and one or two in 1,000 patients die, she added.

When at least 95 percent of a given population is immunized, the risk of measles spreading is very low. However, in recent years, unfounded fear that autism is linked to the measles vaccine or to combination vaccines has led to lower immunization rates in parts of the United States.

“Because of the decrease in vaccination rates, we are seeing more cases of the measles,” Afghani said. “Parents should look at the scientific evidence and sources rather than listen to hearsay. By not vaccinating, parents put their own child and other children at risk of getting the disease.”

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New clinic provides immunization information to Sacramento-area parents


Clinic at UC Davis Children’s Hospital will start Jan. 14.

Dean Blumberg, UC Davis

Dean Blumberg, UC Davis

UC Davis Children’s Hospital will open a new clinic this month to provide information and counseling to parents who are considering choosing not to immunize their children.

The Immunization Information Clinic will start Jan. 14 and will be open Tuesday mornings in the Glassrock Building, 2521 Stockton Blvd., Sacramento.

The clinic was created in response to the new state law, effective Jan. 1, 2014, which requires parents to get a medical practitioner’s signature to enroll their children in school without immunizing them.

Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis, started the clinic to assist parents without a primary care provider or those with a health provider who refuses to sign the form.

“Parents are making an important decision for their loved ones, and we want to offer them resources and let them know about the risks and benefits,” said Blumberg, who will be staffing the clinic along with pediatric nurse practitioner Lisa Ashley. “Having this dialogue with parents is valuable, even if the parent still opts to not immunize.”

According to the California Department of Public Health, the number of kindergarten students in the state who are not vaccinated due to a personal belief exemption has increased annually over the past decade.

To make an appointment, contact (916) 734-3112. Appointments must be scheduled in advance. The cost of a visit will be $25 per child, and health insurance will not be billed.

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Can a glass of wine a day keep the doctor away?


Moderate consumption of alcohol can improve immune response to vaccination.

Can a glass of wine a day keep the doctor away? (Photo credit: Wikimedia)

Can a glass of wine a day keep the doctor away? (Photo credit: Wikimedia)

It’s the time of year when many of us celebrate the holidays with festive foods and drinks, including alcohol. No better time then to ask if it is true, as is widely held, that moderate consumption of alcohol is beneficial to health.

A research team led by an immunologist at UC Riverside now has data that could put the question to rest. The researchers found that moderate alcohol consumption could bolster our immune system, and potentially our ability to fight infections.

The finding, to be published Dec. 17 in the journal Vaccine, can help lead to a better understanding of how our immune system works. It also can pave the way for potentially new interventions to improve our ability to respond to vaccines and infections, benefiting vulnerable populations, such as the elderly for whom the flu vaccine, for example, has been found to be largely ineffective.

“It has been known for a long time that moderate alcohol consumption is associated with lower mortality,” said Ilhem Messaoudi, an associate professor of biomedical sciences in the UC Riverside School of Medicine and the lead author of the research paper. “Our study, conducted on non-human primates, shows for the first time that voluntary moderate alcohol consumption boosts immune responses to vaccination.”

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Using microRNA fit to a T (cell)


Researchers show B cells can deliver potentially therapeutic bits of modified RNA.

A colored scanning electron micrograph of a human T lymphocyte. (Image courtesy of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease)

A colored scanning electron micrograph of a human T lymphocyte. (Image courtesy of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease)

Researchers at the UC San Diego School of Medicine have successfully targeted T lymphocytes – which play a central role in the body’s immune response – with another type of white blood cell engineered to synthesize and deliver bits of non-coding RNA or microRNA (miRNA).

The achievement in mice studies, published in this week’s online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may be the first step toward using genetically modified miRNA for therapeutic purposes, perhaps most notably in vaccines and cancer treatments, said principal investigator Maurizio Zanetti, M.D., professor in the Department of Medicine and director of the Laboratory of Immunology at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center.

“From a practical standpoint, short non-coding RNA can be used for replacement therapy to introduce miRNA or miRNA mimetics into tissues to restore normal levels that have been reduced by a disease process or to inhibit other miRNA to increase levels of therapeutic proteins,” said Zanetti.

“However, the explosive rate at which science has discovered miRNAs to be involved in regulating biological processes has not been matched by progress in the translational arena,” Zanetti added. “Very few clinical trials have been launched to date.  Part of the problem is that we have not yet identified practical and effective methods to deliver chemically synthesized short non-coding RNA in safe and economically feasible ways.”

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Reassuring findings for moms who have flu shot during pregnancy


National study gathers data on safety of flu vaccine during pregnancy.

Christina Chambers, UC San Diego

Christina Chambers, UC San Diego

Researchers from the UC San Diego School of Medicine and Boston University, in collaboration with the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI), have found evidence of the H1N1 influenza vaccine’s safety during pregnancy. The national study, which was launched shortly after the H1N1 influenza outbreak of 2009, is summarized in two companion papers published online on Sept. 19 in the journal Vaccine.

“The overall results of the study were quite reassuring about the safety of the flu vaccine formulations that contained the pandemic H1N1 strain,” said Christina Chambers, Ph.D., M.P.H., director of the nonprofit Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS) Research Center and lead investigator of UC San Diego’s team. “We believe our study’s results can help women and their doctors become better informed about the benefits and risks of flu vaccination during pregnancy.”

Despite federal health authorities’ recommendations that all pregnant women be vaccinated for influenza, it is estimated that less than 50 percent  of women follow this advice, largely because they are concerned about the effects flu vaccines might have on the developing baby.

Since it was anticipated that the 2009 H1N1 influenza season would be severe, a national study was launched by the Vaccines and Medications in Pregnancy Surveillance System (VAMPSS), a collaboration between UC San Diego School of Medicine and Boston University and coordinated by AAAAI to gather data on the safety of this vaccine during pregnancy.

The team from UC San Diego followed 1,032 pregnant women across the United States and Canada who either chose to receive an influenza vaccine or were not vaccinated during one of the three seasons from 2009-12.  Women were recruited through MotherToBaby, a service of OTIS.

Chambers’ team found that women vaccinated during pregnancy were no more likely to experience miscarriage, have a baby born with a birth defect or have a baby born smaller than normal compared with those who did not receive a vaccination. Although vaccinated women were more likely to have their babies before term, on average these infants were delivered three days earlier than those born to unvaccinated women.

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Novel vaccine approach to human cytomegalovirus found effective


Approach developed by team of scientists at UC Davis and UAB.

Meghan Eberhardt, UC Davis

Meghan Eberhardt, UC Davis

An experimental vaccine against human cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection, which endangers the developing fetus, organ transplant recipients, patients with HIV and others who have a weakened immune system, proved safe and more effective than previous vaccines developed to prevent infection by the ubiquitous virus.

The first-of-its-kind approach to preventing human CMV infection, developed by a team of scientists at UC Davis and the University of Alabama, Birmingham, induced broader immunological protection in an animal model. The research study will appear in the November issue of the Journal of Virology.

Development of a CMV vaccine has been ranked as the highest priority by the Institute of Medicine, an independent agency of the National Academy of Science, because of “the lives it would save and the disabilities it would prevent,” according to the CDC.

“We’ve completed the first step in developing a vaccine to protect people against CMV by interfering with the virus’s attempts to enter and infect cells in the body,” said Peter A. Barry, a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the UC Davis School of Medicine and lead author of the study. Barry also is a member of the faculty at the Center for Comparative Medicine and a staff scientist at the California National Primate Research Center at UC Davis.

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School-based vaccination programs could reduce flu cases, deaths among kids


Only about 40 percent of children received a 2012-13 flu vaccine.

Byung-Kwang Yoo, UC Davis

Offering flu vaccines at elementary schools could expand vaccination rates and reduce costs, according to a new study reported in the scientific journal Vaccine by researchers from UC Davis Health System; the Monroe County, N.Y,, Department of Public Health; University of Rochester Medical Center; and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The best protection against flu for children at least 6 months of age is the seasonal vaccine, yet vaccination rates among children are low, according to the CDC. Only about 40 percent of children received a 2012-13 flu vaccine, which is typically provided in a primary care setting.

“Primary care practices may not have the capacity to vaccinate all U.S. children against seasonal influenza,” said Byung-Kwang Yoo, an associate professor of public health sciences at UC Davis and lead author of the study. “If the CDC’s recommendations were followed, primary care offices would have to accommodate 42 million additional patient visits during the five-month window for each flu season.”

The vaccine can be lifesaving, especially for children, who are among those most at risk for the flu and its complications. The CDC reports that 90 percent of children who died from flu during 2012-13 were not vaccinated. This is why public health experts have made it a priority to identify cost-effective ways to broaden access to flu vaccines for children.

“The flu is a disease with high probability of reaching epidemic levels even though we have an effective vaccine,” said Yoo, who was with the University of Rochester when the study was conducted. “Our goal is to find ways to ensure that the best prevention is as accessible as possible.”

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Californians with regular doctor more likely to get preventive care


Patients in “medical homes” more likely to get flu shots, receive regular care.

Too many cooks may spoil a recipe, and too many doctors may give you the flu.

That’s the takeaway from a new study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research that found that Californians who jump from provider to provider rather than seeing a regular doctor who coordinates their care may be less likely to get the kind of preventive treatment that protects against the flu and flare ups in their chronic conditions.

Specifically, the study used data from the 2009 California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) to estimate whether the approximately 4.76 million California adults with chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma and heart disease had three key characteristics of “medical home” care. Those three characteristics are:

  • The patient saw a regular doctor over time rather than switching from provider to provider.
  • This regular doctor developed an individual treatment plan for the patient.
  • The doctor coordinated the patient’s care.

The result? Californians who had all three of these characteristics were the most likely to get a regular flu shot, compared with those without a usual source of care. They were also more likely to have seen their doctor five or more times in the past year and to have called their doctor with a question about their care. Additionally, they were the most confident about their ability to manage their health.

“Seeing the same doctor over time builds familiarity, trust and confidence for both provider and patient,” said Nadereh Pourat, the UCLA center’s director of research and lead author of the study. “And if that doctor takes a coordinated approach to their patients’ care, there seems to be a big payoff in terms of better health for their patients.”

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