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Ebola vaccine found safe and effective in human trials

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London, Dec 23:  In a large human trial led by the World Health Organization (WHO), an experimental Ebola vaccine was found highly protective against the deadly virus, promising an effective weapon against any future outbreak.

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The vaccine is the first to prevent infection from one of the most lethal known pathogens, according to the results published in The Lancet journal.

“While these compelling results come too late for those who lost their lives during West Africa’s Ebola epidemic, they show that when the next Ebola outbreak hits, we will not be defenseless,” said Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Health Systems and Innovation, and the study’s lead author.

In the most recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa that started in late 2013, more than 11,000 people lost their lives. The WHO removed the global emergency tag for the disease early this year.

The vaccine, called rVSV-ZEBOV, was studied in a trial involving 11,841 people in Guinea during 2015.

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Among the 5,837 people who received the vaccine, no Ebola cases were recorded 10 days or more after vaccination.

In comparison, there were 23 cases 10 days or more after vaccination among those who did not receive the vaccine.

The trial was led by the World Health Organization, together with Guinea’s Ministry of Health and other international partners.

The vaccine’s manufacturer, Merck, Sharpe & Dohme, this year received Breakthrough Therapy Designation from the United States Food and Drug Administration and PRIME status from the European Medicines Agency, enabling faster regulatory review of the vaccine once it is submitted.

Since Ebola virus was first identified in 1976, sporadic outbreaks have been reported in Africa.

But the 2013-2016 West African Ebola outbreaks, which resulted in more than 11,300 deaths, highlighted the need for a vaccine.

The trial took place in the coastal region of Basse-Guinée, the area of Guinea still experiencing new Ebola cases when the trial started in 2015. 

To assess safety, people who received the vaccine were observed for 30 minutes after vaccination, and at repeated home visits up to 12 weeks later. 

Approximately half reported mild symptoms soon after vaccination, including headache, fatigue and muscle pain but recovered within days without long-term effects.

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Two serious adverse events were judged to be related to vaccination (a febrile reaction and one anaphylaxis) and one was judged to be possibly related (influenza-like illness).

All three recovered without any long term effects, the study reported.

IANS

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Stem cells may help to stay strong in old age

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London, Feb 25: Researchers have found how an unexpectedly high number of mutations in the stem cells of muscles impair cell regeneration.

As we grow older, our muscular function declines. So, according to the researchers, this discovery may result in new medication to build stronger muscles even when in old age.

For the study, published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers investigated the number of mutations that accumulate in the muscle’s stem cells (satellite cells).

“What is most surprising is the high number of mutations. We have seen how a healthy 70-year-old has accumulated more than 1,000 mutations in each stem cell in the muscle, and that these mutations are not random but there are certain regions that are better protected,” said co-author Maria Eriksson, professor at Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet.

The mutations occur during natural cell division, and the regions that are protected are those that are important for the function or survival of the cells. Nonetheless, the researchers were able to identify that this protection declines with age.

“We can demonstrate that this protection diminishes the older you become, indicating an impairment in the cell’s capacity to repair their DNA. And this is something we should be able to influence with new drugs,” said Eriksson.

The study was performed using single stem cells cultivated to provide sufficient DNA for whole genome sequencing.

“We achieved this in the skeletal muscle tissue, which is absolutely unique. We have also found that there is very little overlap of mutations, despite the cells being located close to each other, representing an extremely complex mutational burden,” the researcher noted.

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Father’s stress linked to kids’ brain development

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New York, Feb 17: Fathers, take note! Taking too much stress may affect the brain development of your kids, a new study has claimed.

According to the researchers, the stress changes the father’s sperm which can then alter the brain development of the child.

This new research provides a much better understanding of the key role that fathers play in the brain development of their kids, the researchers said.

Previously, the researchers including Tracy Bale at the University of Maryland School, found that adult male mice, experiencing chronic periods of mild stress, have offspring with a reduced response to stress; changes in stress reactivity have been linked to some neuropsychiatric disorders, including depression and PTSD.

They isolated the mechanism of the reduced response; they found that the father’s sperm showed changes in a genetic material known as microRNA. MicroRNA are important because they play a key role in which genes become functional proteins.

Now, the researchers have unravelled new details about these microRNA changes.

In the male reproductive tract, the caput epididymis, the structure where sperm matures, releases tiny vesicles packed with microRNA that can fuse with sperm to change its cargo delivered to the egg, they said.

The caput epididymis responded to the father’s stress by altering the content of these vesicles, the researchers added.

The result of the study, presented at AAAS 2018 annual meeting in Austin, suggests that even mild environmental challenges can have a significant impact on the development and potentially the health of future offspring.

The researchers also noted that by learning more about links between a father’s exposure to stress and the risks of disease for his kid, we can better understand, detect, and prevent these disorders.

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How asthma may affect your chances of pregnancy

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Sydney, Feb 16: Certain asthma medication, especially the “quick-acting” relievers, may affect women’s ability to conceive, warns a new study.

The study of more than 5,600 women showed that asthma patients who only use these short-acting asthma relievers take longer to become pregnant than other women.

But those who use long-acting asthma preventers conceive as quickly as other women, said the study published in the European Respiratory Journal.

While the short-acting asthma relievers provide quick relief of symptoms, long-acting asthma preventers are used to control the condition instead of getting quick relief.

“This study shows that women using short-acting asthma relievers take longer to get pregnant,” said lead researcher Luke Grzeskowiak from the University of Adelaide in Australia.

“On the other hand, continued use of long-acting asthma preventers to control asthma seems to protect fertility and reduce the time it takes women with asthma to become pregnant. This could lead to a reduction in the need for fertility treatments,” Grzeskowiak said.

The results provide reassurance for asthmatic women that using inhaled corticosteroids to prevent symptoms does not appear to reduce fertility, he said.

The researchers examined the data of women expecting their first babies in the early stages of pregnancy.

The participants were from Australia, New Zealand, Britain and Ireland.

The researchers found no difference in fertility between women using long-acting asthma treatments and women without asthma.

Women using short-acting reliever medication (known as beta-agonists) took 20 per cent longer to conceive on average.

They were also 30 per cent more likely to have taken more than a year to conceive.

“As well as affecting the lungs, asthma could cause inflammation elsewhere in the body, including the uterus. It could also affect the health of eggs in the ovaries,” Grzeskowiak said.

“Inhaled corticosteroids suppress the immune system, whereas short-acting asthma treatments do not alter immune function. In women who are only using relievers it’s possible that while their asthma symptoms may improve inflammation may still be present in the lungs and other organs in the body,” he added.

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