Report focuses on challenges to unlocking future promise of vaccines

10/07/05

Washington, DC October 7, 2005 Vaccines have helped eradicate and tame some of history's worst infectious diseases, but there are many more diseases out there that vaccines can help overcome. The challenges society needs to confront to unlock the future promise of vaccines against the plagues of the 21st century are the focus of a new report by the American Academy of Microbiology.

"The success of vaccines in controlling disease has been profound. Many diseases that formerly raged unchecked are now under control and others have been eliminated in parts of the world. Despite this success, infectious diseases continue to be public health problems particularly in developing countries where vaccines are unavailable, unaffordable, or both," says James Kaper of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, co-author of the report, Vaccine Development: Current Status and Future Needs.

The report is the outcome of a colloquium convened by the Academy in March 2005 to discuss vaccines, current infectious disease problems, the potential for new and better vaccines, vaccine safety, research issues surrounding vaccines, education, and training topics. Experts in vaccine research and development from academia, industry, and government deliberated and determined several recommendations for future progress in creating and applying vaccines.

The report identifies over 40 infectious agents that pose significant human health problems in the United States or abroad, the most significant of which is HIV. Of the infectious agents identified, only 12 currently have effective vaccines. In addition, the report also identifies a number of infectious agents that are relatively rare today, but are poised to emerge by either natural or terrorism-related means, like avian influenza, West Nile virus, and botulism toxin.

According to the report, research and development must continue the progress of the past to address those diseases that have eluded the development of effective vaccines, and existing vaccines must be improved. The report also provides recommendations to overcome obstacles that prevent the best use of existing vaccines.

"Vaccines are available for some diseases that continue to plague humans, but not for others. Even when a licensed vaccine is available for a given disease, numerous barriers can block its use, including technical, economic, cultural, and legal obstacles," says Rino Rappuoli of Chiron SpA in Siena, Italy, another co-author of the report.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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