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Archive for October 25th, 2012

Haemorrhagic fever

Posted by African Press International on October 25, 2012

The Marburg virus is from the same family as Ebola

NAIROBI, – Uganda‘s Ministry of Health is calling for calm as it tries to trace members of the public who may have had contact with people who have died from or been infected by an outbreak of the Marburg virus in south-western Uganda.
Marburg – a viral haemorrhagic fever from the same family as Ebola – causes severe headaches and malaise, followed by bleeding from multiple sites. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the fatality rate for Marburg is between 23 and 90 percent. The virus, for which there is no vaccine or specific treatment, is transmitted by direct contact with the blood, body fluids or tissues of infected people.
According to the UN World Health Organization, as of 21 October, nine cases and five deaths had been reported in the south-western district of Kabale. By 22 October, at least one case – a woman from Kabale – had been reported at Mulago Hospital in the capital, Kampala.
The Marburg outbreak comes hot on the heels of a July Ebola outbreak in western Uganda. IRIN has put together a brief history of Ebola and Marburg occurrences in the country:
1967 – Thirty-one laboratory workers in Germany and Yugoslavia handling African green monkeys from Uganda became infected with the Marburg virus; seven of the infected died.
2000 – An outbreak of the Sudan strain of the Ebola virus in northern and western Uganda affected more than 400 people and killed more than 220. According to the CDC, some of the major risk factors for acquiring the virus included: attending funerals of Ebola patients, providing medical care to patients without proper protective measures, and having contact with infected family members.
2007 – Four workers became infected with the Marburg virus in a lead and gold mine in western Uganda’s Kamwenge District; two of them died.
2007/2008 – The first reported outbreak of the newly identified Bundibugyo strain of Ebola – named for a western Ugandan district – infected 131 people and killed 42.
2008 – A US traveller who explored a cave in western Uganda’s Maramagambo Forest was diagnosed with Marburg upon returning to the US, but made a full recovery. Another traveller, this time from the Netherlands, also visited a cave in Maramagambo the same year, and was diagnosed with Marburg when she returned home; she died from the virus. It is believed they may have been exposed to the disease by bats, which host both the Marburg and Ebola virus.
2011 – In May, one person died of the Sudan strain of Ebola in the central district of Luwero.
2012 – In July, an outbreak of the same Ebola strain in the western district of Kibaale infected 24 people, killing 17. The country was declared Ebola-free on 4 October.
2012 – In October, the Marburg virus killed at least five people in the southwestern district of Kabale.

 
kr/rz

source http://www.irinnews.org

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Domestic fall-out results in death in Kenya

Posted by African Press International on October 25, 2012

By Jack Marwa, Naivasha, Kenya

Residents of Karagita Estate in Naivasha, Kenya were left in shock after a father of three children stabbed his wife to death following domestic fall out.

In the bizarre incident, the man stabbed the wife over five times as his three children aged between six and one year watched in horror.
And for over eight hours, the minors lay next to the lifeless body of their mother identified as Ida Wanjiku before help came in the morning.
Initially the suspect said to be a fish monger tied up the two older children and stuffed their mouths with an old cloth to avoid them from calling for help.
Emotions run high in the sprawling estate that houses mainly flower farm workers as a manhunt for the missing suspect started.
According to a witness Margaret Wanjiku, the couple fell out a few months ago with the woman who is a small-scale trader seeking her own house.
“The two were always fighting and the woman moved on until Monday night when the man paid her a visit,” she said.
Wanjiku said that according to information gathered from the minors, the man first hit the woman with a blunt object on the head before tying up the minors.
She said that after stuffing the mouths of the two minors with pieces of clothes he proceeded to stab the woman several times.
“He later dumped the body on the bed together with those of the minors and escaped to unknown place,” she said.
It was not until morning according to Samuel Njuguna that the grandmother peeped into the room and found the minors tightly tied up.
“The incident has left us in shock and we are calling on police to hunt down this man so that he can face the law,” he said.
Speaking on phone, Naivasha police boss Charles Kortok said that initial investigations pointed to murder.
“The suspect went into hiding after the incident and we have launched a manhunt for him while the body has been taken to the Naivasha district hospital mortuary,” he said.

Ends
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Two women unlock possible key to HIV vaccine

Posted by African Press International on October 25, 2012

A small step closer to developing an HIV vaccine

JOHANNESBURG, – Two South African women may have helped unlock the key to a vaccine to rid the world of one its deadliest epidemics, according to new research released by South African HIV experts.
In 2005, an HIV-negative woman from the city of Durban enrolled in a study of acute HIV infection conducted by the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA). Two years later, another HIV-negative woman in her early 20s, living in the rural township of Vulindlela, joined CAPRISA’s ground-breaking trial of the efficacy of an antiretroviral-based vaginal microbicide to prevent HIV infection.
Both women eventually contracted the virus and were placed on treatment. However, because they were part of large-scale clinical trials, researchers were able to follow them for years, discovering in the process that their bodies produce rare antibodies found in only one out of every five HIV patients, according to research published in the 21 October online edition of the journal Nature Medicine.
Antibodies
Everyone with HIV produces antibodies to the virus, but in most people these antibodies react only to the particular strain of HIV acquired. Wide variation in strains of HIV, caused by the virus’s ability to mutate, has been the biggest roadblock to vaccine development.
“HIV mutates incredibly fast, more so than perhaps any other virus,” lead researcher Penny Moore told IRIN/PlusNews. “The virus that infects one person is very different from the virus that infects another.”

''Sometimes we forget about [study participants], but I think they are also scientists in one way or another. Without contributions like theirs, even the best idea cannot be tested ''

The women studied by CAPRISA, however, produced what are called “broadly neutralizing antibodies”, which can kill a wide range of HIV types across different individuals, overcoming regional variations in the virus. Antibodies taken from these women killed up to 88 percent of all types of HIV found worldwide, according to the study.
While broadly neutralizing antibodies were discovered three years ago, CAPRISA’s research is the first to uncover at least one way in which these antibodies work.
According to the study, the virus formed a layer of sugars to protect itself from the common, strain-specific antibodies of the two women. However, this layer of sugar proved to be what Moore calls the virus’s “Achilles heel.” The women were then able to produce broadly neutralizing antibodies that targeted and bonded with specific sugars, blocking the virus from infecting healthy cells.
According to CAPRISA director Salim Abdool Karim, these antibodies could be the key to developing an HIV vaccine.
“The holy grail of HIV prevention is a safe, effective HIV vaccine,” he told IRIN/PlusNews. “This discovery provides new clues on how vaccines could be designed to elicit broadly neutralizing antibodies.”
Researchers caution that a vaccine based on these antibodies is still years away and may come to consist of a series of different vaccines mimicking HIV infection, its progression and the body’s response. “[We’d want to see] if we could trick immune system to go through the same arms race it went through in these two women, without HIV infection,” Moore said.
The study was co-funded by the US government and South Africa’s Ministry of Science and Technology. While the South African government has not decided to patent this discovery, it is in the process of securing patents on CAPRISA’s tenofovir-based microbicide. If the microbicide is successful in follow-up trials, the government plans to begin local production of its active ingredient to ensure affordability and reduce dependence on foreign importers.
A legacy
At the Johannesburg launch of the research, South African Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi congratulated researchers and acknowledged the women’s contributions.
“I wish to thank these women for allowing their experiences to be studied for the benefit of all us,” he told IRIN/PlusNews. “Sometimes, we forget about [study participants], but I think they are also scientists in one way or another. Without contributions like theirs, even the best idea cannot be tested.”
Unfortunately, the women’s antibodies have not delayed disease progression. One woman is doing well with HIV treatment, living with her partner and HIV-negative children in Durban. But the woman from Vulindlela died of extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) about a year ago, according to Karim, whose team hospitalized her for treatment.
XDR-TB is resistant to the most commonly used first-line TB drugs and at least half of the mostly commonly used second-line drugs. TB is the leading killer of HIV-positive people globally, and is one of South Africa’s leading causes of death.
“Such are the challenges we deal with on a daily basis in our country with HIV patients,” said Karim. “But her specimens, her virus, continue to inform our work and enable us to understand [HIV] so, in many ways, she’s left a lasting legacy.”
“Of the 34 million people living with HIV globally, two-thirds are in sub-Saharan Africa,” he added. “This is an African problem and… it’s unlikely that we’ll be able to eradicate this epidemic without a vaccine.”
llg/kn/rz

source http://www.irinnews.org

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