In a major relief to those suffering from Hepatitis B in India, the first homegrown Hepatitis-B Vaccine called Elovac-B has been launched by the Human Biologicals Institute (HBI). With India emerging as a global medical hub—world class health care is available here at an affordable price—this launch is yet another milestone towards cementing the country’s numero uno position in the sphere. The Andhra Pradesh Finance minister, Rosaiah said on the occasion while complimenting HBI that immunity has been made affordable with the launch of Elovac-B. “There’s a need to achieve 100 per cent immunization among children and for that the Government as well NGOs should come forward to eliminate such diseases.” The vaccine, which has been prepared by HBI at a state-of-the-art plant, offers best purity and ensures best protection. The purity of Hepatitis-B surface antigen exceeds the purity specification provided by regulatory authorities.
In neighboring China, the Ministry of Health has begun a yearlong nationwide survey of the Hepatitis B situation. The survey will run till September 2007, and involves collecting blood serum samples, conducting lab tests, filing archives and making reports for future control plans. With about 100 million people suffering from Hepatitis B in China (of these approximately 20 million are chronic patients), the situation is indeed grim. Further, the government has started a two-year program aimed at preventing the spread of Hepatitis B from mother to child in four counties of Shaanxi and Gansu provinces.
The program will be first carried out in rural areas for women of childbearing age. The USD 200,000 program aims to teach nearly 340,000 women of childbearing age and nearly 600 grassroots doctors in pilot counties how to prevent Hepatitis B.
Military scientists from the Shanghai Medical College No 2 of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have developed PfCP2.9, an indigenous malaria vaccine that will soon undergo human trials in Shanghai. The trial is being funded by Partnership for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH) and the Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI). In addition to the $2 million funding for the project, PATH will also provide technical support and data analysis. On the Chinese front, Shanghai-based Wanxing Biological Pharmacy Co Ltd is also engaged in the research and development of the vaccine.
Malaria is a deadly disease that affects more than a third of the world’s population. It roughly causes about 300-500 million infections worldwide and claims at least one million lives annually. The vaccine has been developed after about a decade of research and is aimed at the P Falciparum species, the deadliest of all the malaria forms. It targets the parasite at the initial stages itself thus inhibiting its further invasion.
Other initiatives being carried out elsewhere in the world are also producing results. Scientists working on a malaria vaccine in Australia reported that the vaccine showed favorable results when it was tested against animals. Human trails are scheduled to commence soon.
Research conducted by different teams in the US has identified a possible cause of memory loss, the first symptom of Alzheimer’s disease, in genetically manipulated mice. A worldwide phenomenon affecting 2–5 per cent people over 65, and 20 per cent individuals over 85, Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disease responsible for irreversible brain damage leading to intellectual impairment, disorientation and eventually death.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not the growth of brain-clogging proteins that causes Alzheimer’s but a mass of amyloid-b peptides that gather around the brain cells that cause memory loss. Research has shown that Alzheimer’s takes hold long before the proteins, called plaques and tangles, appear. Though the disease may be developing for years, early diagnosis is not yet possible. This research is restricted just to the rodents tested and if applicable to humans, it may be a decade before drugs will be available. However, it is a guiding light that will enable scientists to understand the memory loss protein better in order to be able to identify and diagnose patients who are at risk from the deadly disease.
Scientists at Military Academy of Medical Sciences, China, have started human trials for an indigenously developed HIV drug. The drug that has been developed by extracting a chemical compound from a Chinese herb called Inula Britannic has been found to be highly effective in curbing HIV as well as HBV (Hepatitis B Virus).
Research on the drug was initiated in 1993, with the team filtering out anti-HBV components from more than 100 Chinese herbs. Experiments on ducks and monkeys followed two years later. After finding the compound’s positive impact on
HBV, the team started testing it on HIV, as the two viruses have similar mutating behaviors. Studies have revealed that the drug is more successful than the cocktail therapy that is normally followed worldwide to cure HIV. Another positive impact is that the drug does not have any side effects even if the dosage is increased substantially or discontinued.
Human trials have been initiated on 200 volunteers for a six-month period and if everything goes smoothly, researchers are confident of launching the product within two years. This drug will be far cheaper than the current drugs available, as it can also be manufactured by synthesizing the constituent chemically instead of extracting it from the herbs. If it becomes a reality, this drug will be a huge boon to the millions of people suffering from the deadly disease especially in the developing countries of Asia and Africa.
Non-diabetic patients with chronic renal problems may be able to slow the progression of the disease with ACE inhibitors. Stage IV chronic kidney disease patients at Nanfang Hospital, Southern Medical University, and Guangzhou, China were treated with ACE inhibitor Lotensin (benazepril), along with conventional blood pressure treatment. The results revealed that this treatment reduced the associated risk of end-stage renal failure and death by about 43 per cent. According to researchers, this study foresees important implications for the development of new therapeutic guidelines.
According to report published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the study assigned patients with advanced chronic kidney disease but no diabetes into two groups. Group 1 included 104 patients with serum creatinine levels of 1.5 to 3.0 mg/dL administered with 20 mg of Lotensin. Group 2 included patients with creatinine levels ranging from 3.1 to 5.0 mg/dL. Of these, 112 patients were randomized to 20 mg of Lotensin and 108 to placebo. The patients were monitored for a period of 3.4 years. The results led to the conclusion that Lotensin was effective even in patients with serum creatinine levels exceeding 3.0 mg/dL. Moreover, Lotensin treatment also reduced the risk of proteinuria by 52 per cent and slowed the rate of renal decline by 23 per cent.
However, the study does not provide answers to key questions about the time after which the ACE inhibitors cease to be effective for people with advanced kidney disease. Also, the Chinese as a community, consume lower amounts of salt and protein, thus helping the kidneys push up the potassium levels.