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Rising number of mumps cases in England prompts vaccine call

28/05/2019

A significant rise in the number of mumps cases being confirmed in England in the first quarter of this year has led to calls for people to ensure they are vaccinated. In the first three months of 2019, there were 795 cases of mumps in England. This compares to 1,031 throughout the whole of 2018. Public Health England said that just one person missing their mumps vaccine was “too many”. Mumps is a contagious viral infection that used to be common before the MMR vaccine was introduced. It is perhaps best recognised by the swelling it causes on the side of a person’s face under their ears, resulting in the distinctive “hamster face” appearance. In rare circumstances, mumps can lead to viral meningitis and swelling in the ovaries or testicles. Most mumps cases are linked to teenagers going to university for the first time and the most prominent reason why it’s a problem right now is because many of the students who are attending university were born during the height of the MMR-autism scare. This has since been completely disproved, but it still caused a drop in vaccination rates at the time. Speaking about the situation, Mary Ramsay, the head of immunisation at Public Health England, said: “If you're going to university, now's the time to catch up if you missed out as a child.”

Landmark child malaria vaccine rolls out in three African countries

25/04/2019

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2017, there were an estimated 219 million cases of malaria in 87 countries, which resulted in 435,000 deaths – many of which were children. It remains one of the world’s leading killers, claiming the life of a child every two minutes. That’s why a new vaccine against the deadly mosquito-borne disease is being hailed as a landmark. The first vaccine of its kind, the RTS,S vaccine trains the body’s immune system to attack the malaria parasite. It is being given to children as part of a large scale pilot programme being conducted in Malawi. Previous, smaller trials showed that nearly 40% of 5-to-17-month olds who received the RTS,S vaccine were protected from malaria. The vaccine comes at a crucial time as malaria cases appear to be rising once more after decades of success in combatting the disease. Speaking about the pilot, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said: “Malaria is a constant threat in the African communities where this vaccine will be given. The poorest children suffer the most and are at highest risk of death. “We know the power of vaccines to prevent killer diseases and reach children, including those who may not have immediate access to the doctors, nurses and health facilities they need to save them when severe illness comes.” Malawi is the first of three countries, along with Ghana and Kenya, where the vaccine will be rolled out. The aim is to immunize 120,000 children aged two years and below. Malawi, Ghana and Kenya were chosen because despite operating large programmes to tackle malaria, including promoting the use of mosquito nets, they still have high numbers of cases. The RTS,S vaccine has been more than three decades in the making.

Italy starts enforcing ‘no vaccine, no school’ policy

14/03/2019

Children in Italy have been told not to go to school unless they can prove they have been properly vaccinated. Any children under six who cannot show that they have received mandatory vaccines will be turned away from school, while parents of older kids (six to 16) risk being fined up to €500 ($566) if they send their unvaccinated children to school. The policy comes as a worrisome decline in vaccines has been seen across Italy and a measles outbreak was witnessed last year. Speaking about the new policy, Health Minister Giulia Grillo said the rules were now simple: “No vaccine, no school.” She added that parents have had adequate time to ensure all their children’s vaccines were up to date by now. Under Italy’s so-called Lorenzin law, children must receive a range of mandatory immunizations before attending school. These include vaccinations for chickenpox, polio, measles, mumps, and rubella. Italian officials say the compulsory vaccine law has led to inoculation rates for measles reaching the 95% population coverage rate recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) – the threshold for “herd immunity.” The deadline by which children had to be vaccinated was March 10 (after a previous delay). And despite calls for it to be extended, the Health Minister has stood firm on the issue.

Commercial drone successfully delivers vaccine to remote island

20/12/2018

For the first time ever, a commercial drone has been used to deliver an important vaccine to a remote island. Unicef arranged for the drone to carry the vaccine 40km (25 miles) across rugged mountains in Vanuatu, a small Pacific island. The vaccine was given by local nurse Miriam Nampil to 13 children and five pregnant women. While it’s not the first time that a drone has been used to deliver medicine to remote areas, it is a first for a country to reach out to a commercial drone company to help with vaccine delivery. Approximately 20% of all children in Vanuatu do not receive vaccines because getting them there is too difficult. Following the successful trial flight at the beginning of December, Unicef now hopes that drones will play an important role in facilitating remote vaccination programmes going forward. “Today's small flight by drone is a big leap for global health,” said Unicef executive director Henrietta Fore. “With the world still struggling to immunize the hardest to reach children, drone technologies can be a game changer for bridging that last mile to reach every child.” Vaccines have to be kept cool, which presents several challenges when transporting them long distances. If undertaken on foot, the journey would have taken several hours. By drone, however, with the vaccine stored in a styrofoam box with ice packs and a temperature logger to monitor conditions, the delivery took just 25 minutes. Follow this link to Twitter to see some footage of the drone in action: https://twitter.com/UNICEFPacific/status/1070603704414298112

Trois français sur quarte sont favorable à la vaccination !

06/07/2018

Les vaccins destinés aux nourrissons sont très rarement remis en question mais ceux contre la grippe saisonnière et l’hépatite B suscitent des réticences. En 2016, trois Français interrogés sur quatre se sont déclarés favorables à la vaccination en général, selon une étude de Santé publique France rendue publique mercredi. L’enquête, menée en métropole en 2016 auprès de près de 15.000 personnes, montre toutefois que plus de 40% des personnes sont défavorables à une ou plusieurs vaccinations en particulier. Alors que 90% des personnes interrogées étaient favorables à la vaccination selon les enquêtes de 2000 et 2005, elles n’étaient plus que 60% en 2010. La vaccination avait ensuite retrouvé ses lettres de noblesses en 2014, année où 79% des Français étaient convaincus de son intérêt. Cette confiance s’est légèrement érodée dans les deux années qui ont suivi, puisque 75% des personnes interrogées en 2016 ont déclaré être favorables à la vaccination. Seulement 2,4% de la population interrogée est défavorable à la totalité des vaccins, un taux stable depuis 2010. La défiance, héritage des polémiques passées La vaccination contre la rougeole, les oreillons et la <a href="http://sante.lefigaro.fr/mieux-etre/vaccination-depistage/vaccination-contre-rubeole/quand-faut-il-se-vacciner">rubéole</a> (vaccin ROR), le<a href="http://sante.lefigaro.fr/sante/maladie/tuberculose/quest-ce-que-tuberculose-0"> BCG </a>et la vaccination contre la <a href="http://sante.lefigaro.fr/sante/maladie/diphterie/quest-ce-que-cest-0">diphtérie</a>, le<a href="http://sante.lefigaro.fr/sante/maladie/tetanos/quest-ce-que-cest"> tétanos </a>et la<a href="http://sante.lefigaro.fr/sante/maladie/poliomyelite/quest-ce-que-cest"> poliomyélite </a>(DTP) suscitent peu d’avis défavorables (moins de 2% des personnes). «Les réticences concernent très peu les vaccinations pour nourrissons, mise à part celle contre<a href="http://sante.lefigaro.fr/sante/maladie/hepatite-b/quest-ce-que-cest"> l’hépatite B </a>qui cristallise encore des réticences», relève le Dr Christine Jestin de l’agence sanitaire Santé publique France qui publie ce numéro du BEH consacré aux vaccinations. Par contre, la vaccination contre la grippe saisonnière est celle qui recueille le plus d’opinions défavorables (15% de l’ensemble des personnes interrogées âgées de 18 à 75 ans), devant la vaccination contre<a href="http://sante.lefigaro.fr/sante/maladie/hepatite-b/quest-ce-que-cest"> l’hépatite B </a>(13%) et celle contre les<a href="http://sante.lefigaro.fr/sante/maladie/hpv-papillomas-virus-humains/qui-faut-il-vacciner"> infections à papillomavirus </a>(5,8%). «En France, les différentes polémiques touchant certains vaccins au cours des deux dernières décennies - hépatite B en 1998, grippe A(H1N1) en 2009 et, dans une moindre mesure infections à papillomavirus humains (HPV) en 2013 - ont sans doute contribué à faire de la France un pays où l’innocuité des vaccins est mise en doute par la population», notent les auteurs de l’étude. Une confiance variable selon le type de vaccin Les avis défavorables à la vaccination contre l’hépatite B sont plus nombreux chez les 55-64 ans. «Le souvenir de la polémique autour des effets secondaires du vaccin contre l’hépatite B, qui avait notamment entraîné fin 1998 la suspension de la campagne de vaccination à l’école, pourrait expliquer ce résultat», indiquent les chercheurs. Concernant la vaccination contre les infections à papillomavirus humains, les réticences sont plus nombreuses chez les 18-24 ans, qui ont vécu la controverse de 2013. Les 25-34 ans y sont beaucoup plus favorables. «Il est possible que les femmes de cette tranche d’âge, qui ont commencé à bénéficier du dépistage du cancer du col, comprennent aussi beaucoup mieux les enjeux de cette vaccination», analysent les auteurs. L’étude montre que la confiance dans les vaccins diffère selon l’âge. Ainsi, les personnes les plus favorables à la vaccination sont les 18-24 ans, tandis que les jeunes adultes (25-34 ans) comptent la proportion la plus importante de personnes qui y sont défavorables. L’adhésion à la vaccination diffère également en fonction de la catégorie socioprofessionnelle. En 2016 comme en 2010, les personnes les plus défavorables sont celles avec les niveaux de diplômes et de revenus les plus faibles. Selon les auteurs, il est nécessaire de poursuivre «les efforts d’information et de pédagogie auprès de la population générale (...) pour que la vaccination demeure ce qu’elle a toujours été: une des meilleures interventions en santé publique pour améliorer la santé de la population.»  

Tuberculosis rates in England have fallen by a third in six years

02/04/2018

New figures show that rates of tuberculosis (TB) in England are at their lowest level in 35 years, having fallen by a third in the last six years. According to data from Public Health England, tuberculosis rates have declined by 38% since 2012. In fact, there was a 9.3% decline in 2017 alone, highlighting how the country’s efforts to eradicate the disease are proving effective. Improved diagnosis, treatment and awareness are being credited for the decline. However, despite the fall, England still has one of the highest rates of TB in Western Europe, with 5,200 people affected in 2017. Dr Sarah Anderson, head of the National TB Office at Public Health England, said: "People often think that TB is a Victorian disease that is no longer a problem in England, but in fact it still affects over 5,000 people a year and there is still a lot to do until the target to eliminate TB is met.” TB is a bacterial infection that primarily affects a person’s lungs and it is spread through coughs and sneezes. But despite its infectious nature, it is actually quite difficult to catch. Nevertheless, it can be fatal if left untreated. Another issue is that TB is becoming resistant to some of the major drugs used to treat it, which is why the BCG vaccine that offers protection against TB is recommended for babies, children and adults alike who are at risk of catching the disease.

Older cyclists have the immune systems of 20-year-olds

13/03/2018

Older individuals who do lots of exercise can prevent their immune systems from declining and protect themselves against infection, scientists say. For the research, scientists from King’s College London followed 125 long-distance cyclists, some of who were in their 80s. They found that some had the immune systems of much, much younger individuals. For example, Prof Norman Lazarus, 82, of King's College London, who co-authored the research and took part in it, was found to have the immune system of a 20-year-old. "If exercise was a pill, everyone would be taking it. It has wide-ranging benefits for the body, the mind, for our muscles and our immune system,” he said. Speaking about the research, Prof Janet Lord, director of the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing at the University of Birmingham and co-author, said people’s immune systems decline at a rate of about 2-3% a year from the age of 20. That’s why older individuals are more susceptible to infections, rheumatoid arthritis and, potentially, cancer. Because the cyclists were found to have the immune systems of much younger people, they have added protection against conditions that tend to affect older individuals. Furthermore, the researchers believe that physically active, older individuals respond better to vaccines, meaning they are also better protected against influenza. The good news is that you don’t need to be a competitive cyclist to reap the benefits. Just being more active and puffing yourself out from time to time can help.

Vaccine that lowers cholesterol could prevent heart disease

20/06/2017

A vaccine that helps lower cholesterol will now be trialled on humans following successful studies in mice. Researchers from the Medical University of Vienna will now test the safety of their experimental treatment – which stops fatty deposits clogging the arteries – on 72 volunteers. If the trials are successful, the vaccine would offer an alternative for people who currently take pills on a daily basis to reduce their risk of angina, stroke and heart attack. Writing about their cholesterol-lowering vaccine in the European Heart Journal, Dr Guenther Staffler and colleagues from The Netherlands Organisation of Applied Scientific Research say it will take many more years of tests before it is known whether the treatment is safe and effective in humans. In studies of mice, the treatment cut low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (bad cholesterol) by as much as 50% over 12 months and appeared to stop the build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries. Regardless of whether the vaccine becomes available in the future, the researchers were keen to stress that it should not be seen as an excuse for people to avoid exercise and eat lots of high-fat food. Nevertheless, the treatment could be useful for individuals who have high cholesterol due to an inherited condition called familial hypercholesterolaemia.

Kenya, Ghana and Malawi to get first ever malaria vaccine

24/04/2017

The world's first vaccine against malaria will be introduced in three countries - Kenya, Ghana and Malawi - starting in 2018; a move that the World Health Organisation (WHO) says has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives. The RTS,S vaccine, as it's known, trains the body's immune system to attack the malaria parasite, which is transmitted to people through mosquito bites. However, it is not yet known if the vaccine will be feasible to use in the poorest parts of the world where access to healthcare is often very limited. This is because the vaccine needs to be given four times over an 18-month period. The concern is that while the vaccine schedule could be followed in a closely-controlled and well-funded clinical trial, real-world situations may prove more difficult - especially in poorer countries. It's the primary reason the WHO is running trials of the vaccine in the three aforementioned countries. It is thought that high risk areas will be targeted first in each of the three countries, all of which already run large programmes to tackle malaria. The trial will involve more than 750,000 children aged between five and 17 months. In the clinical trial, the vaccine prevented nearly four in 10 cases of malaria in this age group. Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO regional director for Africa, said: "The prospect of a malaria vaccine is great news. "Information gathered in the pilot programme will help us make decisions on the wider use of this vaccine. "Combined with existing malaria interventions, such a vaccine would have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives in Africa."

Compound found in frog slime destroys flu virus

19/04/2017

A compound found in the slimy mucus from a particular species of frog in India destroys the influenza (flu) virus, according to a new study published in the scientific journal Immunity. Researchers from the Emory Vaccine Centre and the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology in India say the frog slime destroys the H1 variety of influenza viruses. It's hoped that the discovery will lead to powerful new flu remedies being developed in the future. The frog, called hydrophylax bahuvistara, is a type of fungoid frog which was first discovered in 2015 and lives in the forests of south west India. It has an eye-catching orange stripe down the back of its body. For the study, the researchers collected secretions from the frogs' skin before releasing them back into the wild. They then began analysing the different chemicals found in the slime. They managed to isolate small structures that act as "anti-flu peptides", which were used to successfully vaccinate mice against the swine flu virus (Influenza A of H1). The peptides were found to not only blow up the virus, but also leave healthy tissue intact. Speaking to NBC News, Dr Jacob, senior study author and associate professor in microbiology, said: "This peptide kills the viruses. It kind of blows them up. There's no collateral damage." The team decided to call the flu-destroying compound urumin, after an Indian whip-like sword used in martial arts in the south of India called an urumi.

Prototype chlamydia vaccine 'very promising'

21/07/2016

Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections in the world and, at present, there is currently no approved vaccine for human use, and condoms are the best form of protection. However, promising new research from Canada published in the journal Vaccine shows that a chlamydia vaccine prototype administered to mice helped the animals fight off the infection. The team of researchers from McMaster University in Ontario gave the mice two doses of the experimental vaccine via their noses. The animals were then exposed to chlamydia bacteria and the researchers found that the vaccinated mice had fewer instances replicating in their systems. Furthermore, the vaccinated mice were found to be less likely to get damaged fallopian tubes as a result of being infected with the bacteria. Prof James Mahony, from the Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine at McMaster University, said the results were "very promising". "We will trial the vaccine on other animal models before moving on to human trials," he added. In 2015, there were more than 200,000 chlamydia diagnoses in the UK alone, and over half of those were in young people aged between 15 and 24. Chlamydia often doesn't cause any symptoms, so many people do not even know they have it. If left untreated, it can lead to significant long-term health problems, including infertility, which is why this new prototype vaccine is such an exciting breakthrough.

Flu Vaccine May Protect Against Common Heart Condition

16/02/2016

Flu vaccinations may do a lot more than just reduce your flu risk, if the findings of a new study in Taiwan are anything to go by. That’s because the researchers responsible say that a flu shot can also protect people from a common heart rhythm disorder, which significantly increases the risk of stroke. The study of around 57,000 people in Taiwan found a significant association between the flu and atrial fibrillation (AF or A-fib); a condition that causes a person’s heart to be faster and more irregular. Research has shown in the past that AF increases a person’s risk of stroke by five times. During the study, the researchers discovered that people who had not had a flu shot and got the flu had an 18% greater risk of developing AF than those who did not have the flu. Published in the Heart Rhythm journal, the findings of the research showed that a person’s risk of developing AF was consistently lower when they had received a flu jab. Dr. Tze-Fan Chao and Dr. Su-Jung Chen, of Taipei Veterans General Hospital, who lead the research, said: "Influenza vaccination should be encouraged for patients, especially those who have a high risk of atrial fibrillation, to try to prevent the occurrence of atrial fibrillation and subsequent stroke. However, a further prospective study is necessary to confirm our findings.”  

World’s First Malaria Vaccine Approved by European Drug Regulators

28/07/2015

Malaria kills more than half a million people every year, most of whom are children in Africa. But now, a new vaccine, known as RTS,S, has taken the first step to becoming the first licensed Malaria vaccine. The quality, safety and efficacy of the vaccine have been assessed by the European Medicines Agency's (EMA) Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP), which has concluded that it should be given to children in Africa aged 6 weeks to 17 months. The World Health Organisation (WHO) will now review the vaccine further later this year and make a decision whether it should be recommended for use. Approximately 90% of all Malaria deaths each year occur in Africa and 77% of these are in children under five years of age. At present, the most effective preventative measures in Africa to protect against Malaria are bed nets and insecticides which lower the risk of being bitten by a mosquito. Artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs), which have to be administered within 24-hours of a fever appearing, are also used to combat Malaria. If it wins approval, however, the RTS,S vaccine could be used in conjunction with existing Malaria-prevention measures to further bolster Malaria defences. Sir Andrew Witty, CEO of GSK – which manufactures RTS,S - said: "While RTS,S on its own is not the complete answer to malaria, its use alongside those interventions currently available such as bed nets and insecticides, would provide a very meaningful contribution to controlling the impact of malaria on children in those African communities that need it the most."     Photo credit: The Wall Street Journal 

Experts say that Personal Cancer Vaccine Research is ‘Exciting’

07/04/2015

A ground-breaking new cancer vaccine, which is tailored for the individual and targets specific genetic errors in a patient’s tumour, has been developed in the US. According to a new report published in the journal Science, safety tests on three people showed that their immune systems could be ‘trained’ to fight skin cancer. The American team behind the findings say that the early results are a “significant step” towards developing personalised cancer vaccines. Harmful UV rays can turn otherwise healthy skin cells into potentially-lethal melanomas by damaging their DNA. The resulting tumours are a genetic mess, which differ from patient-to-patient and contain hundreds of random mutations. These genetic mutations were then analysed by the research team with the intention of predicting the new and unique flags that would be displayed by the cancer cells. These were then fed into a computer and an algorithm decided the best targets for a vaccine. The resulting personalised vaccines were then given to three test patients back in 2013 who all had advanced tumours and all of who had previously been treated with ipilimumab. One of the patients was in remission and has remained free from cancer; one still has tumours but they are stable; and the third’s tumours shrank after being given the vaccine before enlarging again but remaining stable. At this stage, the research was purely to see if the vaccines were safe and provoked an immune response. It has been hailed as successful on both counts.

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