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September 26, 1996 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 1996-09-26

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8A - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, September 26, 1996

NATION/WORLD

U.N. finds new vaccines
too costly for poor nations

I

Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON - Medical science
is on the brink of developing newer and
more effective vaccines to prevent the
scourges of some childhood diseases,
but their cost may be too great for poor
nations to bear, a U.N. report warned
yesterday.
The study, released by the World
Health Organization and UNICEF, pre-
dicted that vaccines would be devel-
oped within 15 years for currently
unpreventable childhood killers, such
as diarrheal diseases, acute respiratory
infections and malaria. Also, it said
there would be vast improvements in
existing vaccines.
"But there is a catch, the report said.
"The new generation vaccines are
expected to be many times more expen-
sive than those in use today. Vaccines
are likely to cost not cents, but dollars a
dose from now on."
Moreover, the growing reluctance of
wealthier countries to donate money to
support vaccine programs in the Third
World threatens the lives of millions of
children, the report said.

It urged governments and others to
donate more money to fund the pro-
grams to support vaccines for those
neediest countries that cannot afford
them. Treatment for children who
develop preventable illnesses "will cost
a lot more, both in money and needless
suffering," than paying for immuniza-
tions, the report said.
The report asked manufacturers to
consider "tiered pricing," for poorer
nations, so they would be charged less.
"The 21st century is the century of
the vaccine," said Dr. Ciro de Quadros,
a top adviser on immunization at the
World Health Organization. But he
added, "The vaccine of the future will
be more expensive than the vaccine of
today."
More than 12 million children die
every year around the world, 3 million
of them before they are a week old, the
report said.
The report hailed the successes in the
global immunization program, noting
that the percentage of children immu-
nized against the most common child-
hood ailments has grown from 5 per-

cent in 1974 to 80 percent today.
Nevertheless, it said that lapses in the
current system cause the unnecessary
deaths of an estimated 2 million chil-
dren annually from diseases that could
be prevented by immunization.
These occur because current vac-
cines are not 100 percent effective, and
because about 20 percent of the world's
children each year are not fully immu-
nized during their first year against
diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough,
polio, tuberculosis and measles. Many
children fail to receive all the required
doses of a vaccine, sometimes because
of delivery problems, or failure to com-
ply with schedules for reasons that are
beyond their control, the report said.
In 1994, for example, more than I
million children died from measles,
nearly 500,000 from neonatal tetanus,
and almost 400,000 from whooping
cough.
"These were the children who
slipped through the ... net - among
them some of the poorest and most dis-
advantaged children in the world," the
report said.

l

.r AP PHOTO
Border problems
A Palestinian woman tries to stop an Israeli border police officer from arresting a Palestinian youth outside the Old
City's Damascus Gate In Jerusalem, yesterday.
New test detects mad cow
disease in cattle, humans

I"

The Washington Post
Scientists have devised a relatively
simple and accurate way to test for the
presence of brain-destroying maladies
such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
(CJD) in humans and "mad cow dis-
ease" in cattle.
If the test eventually becomes com-
mercially available, it could cut the
transmission rate of these invariably
fatal conditions by identifying conta-
gious hosts and, in people, by providing
a way to screen potential donors of tis-
sue, blood and organs.
The method was invented by
researchers at the National Institute of
Neurological Disorders and Stroke and
California Institute of Technology. They
found that the presence of a distinctive
protein in a subject's spinal fluid is a
reliable sign of one of a family of dis-
eases known collectively as transmissi-
ble spongiform encephalopathies
(TSE). So far, the test has proven accu-
rate about 96 percent of the time in
humans and 87 percent in animals.
Prior to that discovery, reported in

today's issue of The New England
Journal of Medicine, the only way to
test for CJD was to take biopsy samples
from the brains of patients - a risky
and frequently inconclusive procedure.
As recently as a year ago, few peo-
ple had heard of TSEs. Spongiform
encephalopathies (so called because of
the sponge-like, hole-pocked texture
of gray matter destroyed by the dis-
ease) are ordinarily quite rare in peo-
ple, striking one or two persons per
million worldwide every year. Animal.
forms, however, are fairly common,
particularly as a disease called scrapie
in sheep.
But human health concerns began
to rise this spring with the revelation
that between 1994 and 1995, 10
Britons developed a peculiar variant
of CJD, presumably from eating dis-
eased beef. Ten may not seem like a
large number, but it astonished
researchers for two- reasons. First,
nine of the patients were less than 35
years old, whereas the normal inci-
dence rate in all persons less than 45

years old is only five per billion per
year.
Second, all the patients suffered from
a peculiar form of CJD ostensibly
unique .to the British Isles - where,
over the last 15 years, hundreds of thou-
sands of cattle have been infected with
a bovine TSE popularly termed "mad
cow disease."
In addition, researchers knew that
TSEs could be transmitted by eating
flesh, thanks to studies of a cannibal
group in Papua New Guinea that
experienced an epidemic of a TSE
called kuru until the practice of eating
deceased elders was curtailed.
Further, laboratory experiments have
shown that, in some cases, the dis-
eases can be transmitted between
species; in fact, the use of sheep offal
as a supplement in cattle feed appar-
ently caused the British outbreak.
Health officials began to worry that
somehow the bovine form might be
spreading to humans - a connection
for which there is still no conclusive
evidence.

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