Ebola vaccine trial stopped after causing joint pain

An Ebola vaccine has caused joint pains in the hands and feet of four out of the 59 volunteers in a clinical trial taking place in Geneva, and the trial has therefore been suspended. It is said that pharmaceutical firms Merck and NewLink will resume the trial on 5 January with up to 15 volunteers after checks to ensure that the joint pain symptoms were “benign and temporary”. The global vaccines alliance, Gavi, are ready and waiting to begin procurement as soon as the WHO recommends a vaccine for use after they have committed up to $300m (£192m) to buy Ebola vaccines.

Meanwhile, in Liberia, a treatment made from the blood of recovered survivors is reportedly being used on some Ebola patients. Named serum therapy, it contains anti-Ebola antibodies, and has already apparently been used on UK and US Ebola patients. The treatment will be monitored for safety and effectiveness at the ELWA hospital in Monrovia.

Is Polio making a comeback?

A health official confirmed another case of poliovirus in an 18-month-old boy in Chaman, in Qila Abdullah district, bordering Afghanistan. This latest case brings the total number of cases in Balochistan to 17 this year. An official from the Health Department said, “The child was administered five Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) doses through Supplementary Immunization Activities (SIA)”. This comes after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the spread of polio as an international public health emergency earlier this year, with WHO Assistant Director General, Bruce Aylward, saying that the outbreaks in Asia, Africa and Middle East were “extraordinary” and required a co-ordinated “international response”. Pakistan has also had one of its worst years for polio in recent times, with 276 recorded cases as of the 10th December 2014 compared with 74 at the same time the year before.

GM banana for Africa widely condemned

An open letter has been submitted to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr. Wendy White from Iowa State University and the Human Institutional Review Board of Iowa State University expressing fierce opposition to the human feeding trials taking place at Iowa State University involving genetically modified (GM) bananas. The letter was submitted by the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) which is a Pan African platform comprising civil society networks and farmer organisations working towards food sovereignty. Touted as a ‘Super Banana’ the GM banana has been genetically modified to contain extra beta-carotene, and is being tested on young female students from Iowa State University. More than 120 organisations from around the world support the letter in condemming the GM banana. Bridget Mugambe, a Ugandan and AFSA Policy Advocate, described them as “an insult to our food, to our culture, to us as a nation”, while Dr. Million Belay, AFSA Coordinator, said “Africa and Africans should not be used as justification for promoting the interest of companies and their cohorts. We do not need GM crops in this changing climate. What we need is the diversity in our crops and the knowledge associated with them”.

Gut bacteria link with Parkinson’s

A new study by the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research has suggested that Parkinson’s disease sufferers have a different microbiota in their intestines than their healthy counterparts. The study discovered 2 things of interest, patients with Parkinson's have much less bacteria from the Prevotellaceae family, and the amount of bacteria from the Enterobacteriaceae family in the intestine was connected to the degree of severity of balance and walking problems in the patients. The more Enterobacteriaceae they had, the more severe the symptoms. The researchers have yet to fully understand what these findings mean but DMSc Filip Scheperjans, neurologist at the Neurology Clinic of the Helsinki University Hospital (HUCH), commented on it being “an interesting question which we are trying to answer”. The researchers hope their discoveries could be used to develop a diagnostic method that would improve early diagnosis and ultimately find a way, by focusing on gut microbiota, to treat or even prevent Parkinson's.

Half of the UK is on drugs

A Health Survey for England carried out by the Health and Social Care Information Centre has shown that half of women and 43% of men in England are now regularly taking prescription drugs such as cholesterol-lowering statins, pain relief and anti-depressants. More than a fifth of men and nearly a quarter of women are taking at least three prescriptions, costing the UK's National Health Service (NHS) in excess of £15bn-a-year. Nearly a third of prescriptions were for cardiovascular disease with more than 65 million prescriptions for tackling high blood pressure, heart failure or cholesterol levels. One of the report's authors at University College London, Dr Jennifer Mindell, said: "This is the first nationally-representative study to report on the use of prescribed medicines taken by people in the community, not just those within the healthcare system. Stopping smoking, being a healthy weight, eating more vegetables and fruit, and being physically active reduce people's risk of these [heart] diseases, for people who want to avoid taking medicines". Sue Faulding, a pharmacist and programme manager of prescribing and primary care services at the HSCIC, commented "Obesity is often associated with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, joint pain and depression....this study shows that medicine use increases steadily with body mass index".

Traditional Medicine for Turkish hospitals

Comprehensive Turkish Health Ministry Regulation on “Traditional and Complementary Medicine”, came into effect on 27th October 2014 — the first of its kind in Turkey. It is said to have “paved the way for the use of traditional medicine in Turkish hospitals, overriding objections by professional organizations such as the Turkish Medical Association (TTB)”. The TTB argues that the treatments are not scientifically proven, and the news report begins with a mocking tone about treatments dating back to Seljuk and Ottoman times. However, the legislation will enable certified physicians and dentists to practice acupuncture, apitherapy, phytotherapy, hypnosis, homeopathy, chiropractic, mesotherapy, osteopathy, ozone therapy and reflexology.

Twenty-five million dollar, ‘neutral’ GMO study begins in 2015

A vast new, comprehensive study known as the “Factor GMO” project intends to look at the long-term effects of GM foods and associated pesticides on human health. A group of “globally respected” and “neutral” scientists are due to begin work next year on the twenty-five million dollar question (said to be the actual amount that will be spent on the project). The names of the scientists involved have not yet been released, but they will include experts from the US, Italy and Russia. A media advisory was received by Sustainable Pulse about the project’s launch in Central London on November 11th. Sustainable Pulse said that they were informed, “Factor GMO is the first long-term combined GMO/pesticide safety study that has involved full multi-generational, toxicology and carcinogenicity arms”.