Scientists Propose Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise

With over 40 million people worldwide currently living with HIV/AIDS and millions more becoming infected each year, a group of scientists is calling for a coordinated global HIV vaccine enterprise to speed up the development and testing of promising candidates. In an article in the June 27 issue of Science, the authors emphasize the urgent need for an HIV vaccine, and outline a plan to accelerate research. Without a vaccine, if current trends continue, 45 million new people will become infected by 2010 and 70 million people will die by 2020, the World Health Organization and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS predict.

SARS death rate lower in countries responding aggressively to initial outbreak

Three months after SARS began its spread out of southern China, it is clear that a country’s response to the epidemic can have a major impact on the percentage of infected people who die, according to epidemiologists at the University of California, Berkeley. An analysis accepted for August publication in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases indicates that countries that quickly initiated control measures against SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) saw a slower spread and a lower fatality rate.

Secretary Thompson, Chinese Health Minister Vow to Cooperate on SARS

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said the minister of health of the People’s Republic of China agreed today to increase cooperation with the United States and global health officials to combat and learn more about the spread and origin of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). In a 45-minute telephone conversation with Health Minister Zhang Wenkang, M.D., Secretary Thompson said the United States and HHS are “truly committed to this being a collaborative effort with China.”

Global cancer rates could increase by 50% to 15 million by 2020

Cancer rates could further increase by 50% to 15 million new cases in the year 2020, according to the World Cancer Report, the most comprehensive global examination of the disease to date. However, the report also provides clear evidence that healthy lifestyles and public health action by governments and health practitioners could stem this trend, and prevent as many as one third of cancers worldwide. In the year 2000, malignant tumours were responsible for 12 per cent of the nearly 56 million deaths worldwide from all causes. In many countries, more than a quarter of deaths are attributable to cancer. In 2000, 5.3 million men and 4.7 million women developed a malignant tumour and altogether 6.2 million died from the disease. The report also reveals that cancer has emerged as a major public health problem in developing countries, matching its effect in industrialized nations.

Antibody cocktail targets deadly foodborne germs

In the future, consumers may be adding a powerful “spice” to their food that could save lives. Researchers in Canada are developing a natural antibody cocktail that can help prevent the most common foodborne germs, including E. coli and Salmonella, which cause thousands to become sick or die each year in this country. Derived from freeze-dried egg yolk, the substance is nicknamed a spice because it can be sprinkled or sprayed onto meats, fruits and vegetables to complement existing sanitation protocols. The so-called spice does not alter the taste of food.<

WHO coordinates international effort to identify and treat SARS

WHO has today stepped up several activities aimed at strengthening the international response to the recent emergence of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). SARS is an infectious disease of unknown etiology characterized by atypical pneumonia. The disease is spread from person to person but only through close contact with a case. To date, almost all reported cases have occurred in health workers involved in the direct care of reported cases or in close contacts, such as family members. There is no evidence to date that the disease spreads though casual contact.

Gene that makes people vulnerable to leprosy discovered

An international research team has identified a gene on human chromosome 6 that makes people vulnerable to leprosy. The study will be published in the March 2003 issue of Nature Genetics. Leprosy, a chronic disease caused by infection with the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae, affects approximately one million people worldwide. While it is a rare disease in Canada and the United States, the World Health Organization has identified 91 countries in which leprosy infection is highly prevalent. Symptoms of leprosy include pigmented skin lesions, permanent nerve damage leading to numbness of the feet and hands and, if left untreated, the disease may result in gross disfiguration including loss of finger, toes, feet and hands.