Why We Need to Celebrate the Smallpox Vaccine

In light of brilliant breakthroughs like gene alteration for genetic disorders, nanomachines to cure cancer cells, minimally invasive treatment procedures for epilepsy — no, the smallpox vaccine doesn’t seem like a big deal. It obviously isn’t a new medical discovery. In fact, last May 8 commemorates the fact that the world has been free of the illness for 38 years. But the reason we need to celebrate it is precisely because of the many successes that followed the 1980s smallpox eradication. And the need to counter the threats to these successes.

William Foege, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has written a book in 2011 called House on Fire where he explains just how he made it possible. He and other health workers wiped out smallpox — “by dreaming, being savvy in politics and unafraid to break the rules, and devising the brilliant ring vaccination strategy.”

Foege and his colleagues found that instead of using the vaccine on entire populations, it was more effective to distribute it among the demographic most at risk, which were the contacts of the infected. After being proven true in the smallpox case, this strategy on immunization was replicated on the prevention of other diseases or viruses such as measles, polio, malaria, HIV/AIDS, Ebola, and others. Some have been nearly wiped out as well, while the incidence rates of some have significantly dropped.

However, a few decades later, people now face a dilemma. What about the now-debunked finding that vaccine causes autism? The anti-vaccine movement discredits the milestones of smallpox eradication and immunization. Does the use of vaccine actually pose more risk than benefit to humans? Well, it might be time to look back at history for answers regarding the progress of human health. William Foege, the man who developed the global strategy for vaccination, is still fighting for truth.

“I think vaccines are really the foundation of public health . . . By the early 1980s, [many of] our vaccine diseases had gone down to close to zero . . . So things were going quite well until Andrew Wakefield did his Lancet article [suggesting there’s a link between the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and autism] . . . He specifically said the MMR vaccine was the problem. He was disbarred in England because of the falsifications of his [data].”

Turns out, the research linking vaccines to autism is completely bogus that Wakefield even lost his medical license. But that hasn’t stopped parents all over the world from being paranoid. Foege understands that parents are only “trying to do the right thing,” but in doing so, they forget the risk of disease and focus on a completely false risk of the vaccine. This seems to make the anti-vaccine movement more of a health education issue, as people are just clearly misinformed.

38 years after smallpox eradication and other successes, vaccination has become a social problem more than a scientific one. In some countries, the public health debate even results in violence. But globally, more often than not, it results in the slower prevention and elimination of certain diseases. But Foege is still hopeful.

“I think we’re at the beginning of an eradication era — because of vaccines — and as we learn more and more about logistics, cold chains, how to develop vaccines that don’t require refrigeration, don’t require using needles and syringes, I think the future is very bright for disease eradication . . . You have to believe a disease can be eradicated . . . you have to put up with all the frustrations . . . you stick with your vision of what the last mile is.”

True enough, a disease can be eradicated. Smallpox is a testament to that. So celebrate the fact that you were born after it’s gone. Celebrate the fact that it led to much slimmer chances of measles in your lifetime. Now more than ever, we need to celebrate this feat, so that decades of medical history — thus, strong leads to medical progress — will not go down the laboratory drain.

--> Help make the world a better place by sharing this story with your friends:

Australia To Soon Eliminate Cervical Cancer Disease

After decades of rigorous clinical trials, it seems cancer may be seeing a slow and steady downfall. With the help of nanomachines and Hollywood stars, the planet’s top killer may finally be hitting the breaks. In Australia, anyway. With infection rates of cervical cancer having plummeted to 1%, the land down under may welcome the end of the epidemic in just 40 years.

“That’s contingent on a high coverage of vaccine. Australia is really in the lead here, [there’s been] really good coverage through the school-based free vaccine program.

“For example, the genital warts the vaccine protects against, already we’ve seen a reduction of over 90 per cent — that’s huge.”

Owing to new DNA screening tests and the national immunization program, cases will likely drop annually by the thousands. Improved Gardasil vaccines will roll out later in the year, to counter a 930-woman 2018 statistic.

“In the Pacific-Oceania and Asian region we have about half of the cases of cervical cancer in the world. We have a big job to do, but we have the tools to beat it,” [professor Suzanne Garland] said.

Considering a one-in-every-two-minute death globally, Australia is definitely onto something groundbreaking.

--> Help make the world a better place by sharing this story with your friends:

Liquid Biopsy Can Detect 8 Variations Of Cancer

In the past years, cancer treatments have flourished in abundance and effectivity. Experimental medications such as personalized vaccines and gene altering have made for smoother recoveries. At any rate, discovering such conditions remains tricky, if not for a simple blood test. The new method can detect eight common but evasive cancers.

“The sort of ultimate vision is that at the same time that you are getting your cholesterol checked when you are getting your annual physical, you will also get your blood screened for cancer,” said lead study author Joshua Cohen.

The test, CancerSEEK, sifts through cancer compounds that allow for early detection. It can even pinpoint cancers without current screening tests — that is, ovarian, stomach, esophageal, liver, and pancreatic. The process is a melting pot of new technologies such as artificial intelligence and algorithms.

“The test needs to be validated in a large-scale study that would evaluate tens of thousands of healthy individuals to confirm the sensitivity and specificity,” Cohen said.

Though CancerSEEK’s accuracy levels for early testing remain at 60%, it’s a step up from having no means of diagnosis to begin with. It’s a slow and steady affair that will hopefully, one day, win the race.

--> Help make the world a better place by sharing this story with your friends:

Startup Tests Personalized Cancer Vaccine

Yet to conjure up a cure for cancer, researchers are relying mainly on radiation therapy and implant technology to treat patients. Dietitians are even promoting unusual superfoods such as avocados, whose husks can treat harmful diseases. However, a breakthrough by Moderna may soon see individualized vaccines on the market.

With the right combination of letters, Moderna says it can hijack a cell’s protein-making mechanisms to create a drug within the body. If it works, mRNA could have many applications: The company also has programs for infectious diseases, cardiovascular disorders and rare diseases.

Testing the vaccine on a single patient, the research has a lot to prove. Moderna’s current tester vial is a result of meticulous work arranging DNA based on target proteins. While it seems promising, there are still a lot of risks to consider.

“The tumor has all kinds of tricks to fight back,” said Greg Lizee, an associate professor at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center who specializes in melanoma. “Cancers can reduce targets on the surface or secrete nasty stuff that’s toxic for the immune system.”

To play it safe, Moderna is experimenting with patients who are already clear of tumors. Though the stakes are high, the research may be worth (literally) a shot.

--> Help make the world a better place by sharing this story with your friends:

Pain-Free Flu Shots For People Who Hate Needles

We’ve all been there. Dreading our turn at the clinic for a vaccination. Sweating profusely at the sight of the needle, which looks much bigger than you expected. Struggling to keep still as nurses administer the shot. Well, fear no more because the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University have found a way to administer injections without the sting.

Instead of the usual injection, the researchers came up with a sticker patch that you can apply on yourself.

The patch comes with a hundred tiny hair-like microneedles located on its adhesive side. Unlike regular injections that go all the way through the muscle, the microneedles puncture and dissolve into the upper layer of the skin, delivering the vaccine in about 20 minutes.

The best thing about the microneedle patch is that you can do it yourself, which means you can kiss long lines goodbye! Administration is also quick and hassle-free.

“With the microneedle patch, you could pick it up at the store and take it home, put it on your skin for a few minutes, peel it off and dispose of it safely, because the microneedles have dissolved away,”

The microneedle patch is compact, easy-to-store, and portable, making it easily accessible to those in commercial and remote areas.

--> Help make the world a better place by sharing this story with your friends: