AUSTRALIA

Australia Scientists Plan Measles-Modified Food

REUTERS, Friday January 28, 2000

By Wendy Pugh

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australian scientists are researching putting a measles gene into genetically modified food to provide an alternative to traditional vaccination against the virus.

Alfred Hospital infectious disease unit director Stephen Wesselingh said a research team had successfully created measles modified tobacco and was now putting the gene into lettuce.

“We started with tobacco just because it is very easy to work with and grows quickly, and we mashed up the leaves and fed them to mice. Now we are moving into lettuce and rice,” he told Reuters.

“We have been working on it for the past two or three years and we have been getting positive results for the last six months or so.”

Wesselingh said the research by the Alfred team and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) would provide a cheaper vaccine, that avoided using needles and which didn't need to be kept at cold temperatures.

“That is not a problem in Australia, but in the countries where measles is a big problem, in Africa etc, keeping the vaccine cold can sometimes be a major difficulty,'' he said.

The researchers are looking to use crops where existing genetically modified organism research has already been successfully conducted.

Wesselingh said in the tobacco experiments the H protein of the measles virus was placed in the plant.

“The plant is then making all its normal leaves and things, but it is also making this extra protein,” he said.

“When we feed the leaves of that plant to mice, those mice then develop antibodies against the H protein, which is part of the measles virus so those antibodies then protect against measles as well.''

Rice Offers Potential


Wesselingh said rice offered great potential as the measles vaccination could be used in rice flour milk produced for children who are not covered by the current measles vaccination.

Release of measles modified food was still a ``long way down the track,'' he said, with trials in people likely to start sometime in the next five years.

Wesselingh said the modified food would be treated as a medical product and would not be available for mass consumption.

“These crops wouldn't be generally released. You would make them in special areas and then distribute them in the same way you would distribute other vaccines,” he said. “I think that would allay a lot of the GM-type fears.”

Similar research has also been conducted in the United States for hepatitis B and cholera and the Melbourne-based team is starting to look at genetic modification for the HIV virus, which can lead to AIDS.

Wesselingh said the Melbourne research had focused on measles as it was still a major health problem in the developing world.

“About a million children still die of measles each year and most of those are under the age of one and the current vaccine doesn't work in very young children,” he said.

“We felt that an oral vaccine that could work in very young children might be a way to arrest that problem.”

BELGIUM

HEPATITIS B-VACCINE CRITICISED

A series of letters in the popular Flemish magazine HUMO provoqued a shock of conscience within the Belgian community. For the first time parents became aware of the seriousness of the side effects induded by the vaccine. Many victims finally found confirmation for what happened to them, too, and sent us letters about their desastrous experiences.

We encourage everybody who suffered side effects to inform their national groups about their experiences. For Europe, a standard form can be obtained for registration in a common European database system to be published in 2004.




NETHERLANDS

FARMERS SUE BAYER BECAUSE COWS DROP DEAD

Cow’s flu vaccine debacle

A completely redundant vaccine against cow’s flu, an innocent disease, has been developed by a Dutch enterprise, ID Lelystad. The rights to produce the vaccine were sold to the BAYER pharmaceutical holding. Good lobbying made sure the vaccine became mandatory. So, now, twice a year 4,5 million are being vaccinated against the disease, which allows Bayer to earn another 24,5 million Euro.

The cows, however, are not doing too well. Hundreds of cows farms were confronted with unequalled disease rates. Many cows suffered infections or diarrhoea, died or had to be slaughtered. Vets say there immune systems are wasting away.

In the end, it was proven that the vaccine was polluted with a different virus. A few cattle farmers were compensated for their losses, but hundreds of colleagues were not. Flourishing enterprises are now at the verge of bankruptcy. A disaster for the farmers who see the results of decades of hard work going down the ditch.

Of course, Bayer pleads innocent. They say the viral pollution was so minimal it could never be responsible for the damage. But the farmers are fighting back. A special bureau was installed which already lodged 1400 complaints.




NEW ZEALAND

NEW ZEALAND SIDS CONFERENCE

By Karin Rothville, WAVES vol.12 No.3, 2000, p. 8

On Friday, 11 February, I was privileged to be able to attend the morning session of Cot Death Conference 2000. The first session of the day was titled "Current Controversies" and was supposedly to air some of the less accepted theories regarding the cause of SIDS. Hilary Butler was the first to speak. Her paper was about the effect of vaccines on the baby's immune system and how this places babies at risk of cot death. Unfortunately, because of Jim Sprott's last minute decision to present a paper, Hilary's time was cut down to 10 minutes. She felt unable to present her paper in such a short time, so presented case notes from a child who had a vaccine reaction and challenged any clinicians to recognise and correctly diagnose such reactions. Following Hilary were two researchers presenting, of course, evidence that vaccination is not a risk for cot death.

A research chemist presented some information on the use of second-hand sheepskins and the production of poisonous gases from these, relating to the risk of cot death and this was followed by a researcher from the UK presenting some opposing evidence. Then came Jim Sprotts presentation. This was not received well and many of the medical professionals present did not act in a professional manner i.e. they constantly interrupted, made rude comments and walked out. To my mind, even if they did not agree with the hypothesis put forward, it was at least polite to listen quietly, as Jim Sprott did to their presentations.

One feeling I came away from the Conference with was that to many of the researchers or clinicians SIDS babies and their parents are just numbers on a piece of paper. This does seem to be the case with most research and is a real failing as assumptions are made which do not stand up to real life scenarios.

U.K.

Meningitis Jab Deaths 'Cover-Up'

This headline hit the front page of The Observer, 27/8/2000, followed by a report on the fact that the Government had been involved in a 'cover-up' over 11 deaths occurring soon after the Meningitis C jab. It mentions that since the introduction of the vaccine there have been more than 16,000 adverse reactions reported by GPs using the Yellow Card system. The DoH estimates that only between 10-15% of them are reported so the real figure is likely to be far higher. Additionally it stated that the Government had announced that the Men.C programme had reduced cases by 70% since its introduction.

An article in The Independent, 28/8/2000, stated that the DoH had said that two of the 11 who died had existing heart conditions, six died of cot death and one of a convulsion 10 days after being vaccinated. Although two deaths were attributed to "septicaemia menigococcal" - group B meningitis - it was a "completely different disease" from meningitis C. (Editor: What about the concerns that a vaccine against the C strain could make you more susceptible to the B strain?)

The following week, 3/9/2000, The Observer reported on how some medical experts acting as advisers for the Government, have outside interests with drug firms. Prof. Janet Darbyshire, a member of the Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM), had received support for academic research from Wyeth and Chiron, the 2 main producers of the men. C jab. Also, three members of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) had declared interests in vaccine manufacturers. One of them, Dr David Goldblatt of the Institute of Child Health, has served on an expert advisory panel for Wyeth and received research grants from Wyeth and North American Vaccines, which produces a third meningitis C drug to be introduced this year. The article also revealed that The National Meningitis Trust who are also sponsered by Wyeth refused to disclose how much money it received from the drug company.

During September a letter was sent out to all GPs from the chairman of the CSM and the chairman of the JCVI to reassure health professionals about the vaccine. The letter stated that before the licensing of Men. C vaccines in the UK their safety, efficacy and quality were assessed by the CSM. The vaccines were tested in approx. 8,000 children and young people in the UK and over 20,000 children and adults from abroad.

According to the letter 'each of the individual suspected adverse reactions is considered to be very rare according to WHO definitions, with less than 1 report of a specific reaction for every 10,000 doses distributed.' The letter ends by stating that 'the balance of risk and benefit is overwhelmingly favourable. There is no suggestion that this vaccine has led to any deaths. We strongly recommend that those due for vaccination should receive Men. C vaccine.'

In a DoH Press Release, 27/3/2000, the response to the question "Haven't the studies been too short to show the vaccine is safe? The answer was:

"Parents of children involved in the trial kept a 7-day written diary and each of them were followed up for 28 days afterwards by a nurse. This is the normal length of formal follow-up in safety studies. There is also on-going follow-up investigations in a cohort of infants who were enrolled in to the study in 1994. As part of this investigation the development of chronic conditions are being examined."

Source: The Informed Parent 3/2000 p. 1




USA

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