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A clinical trial testing the first ever vaccine to treat chlamydia has passed the initial round of testing, according to The Journal.

Scientists have now moved closer to a superior treatment for the STI after patients reacted well to a newly developed vaccine.

The Lancet journal have published a study which found that the first trial of the vaccine discovered it was safe and provoked the hoped-for immune system response.

Over 131 million people become infected by chlamydia annually, and the disease is undeniably a global issue. The highest number of new cases are discovered in teenagers and young adults.

Chlamydia is known as the 'silent' STI, as it usually fails to produce symptoms. Scientists are hopeful that a vaccine is the best way to fight the disease, which is reaching epidemic proportions.

National treatment programmes have predominantly failed to curb high rates, including testing and antibiotics. Those infected potentially develop partial or temporary immunity to the STI.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Researchers at Imperial College London and the Statens Serum Institiut, Copenhagen, were successful in their initial vaccine test.

The trial included 35 women, and two formulations of the vaccine were trialed. Scientists advice focusing on just one formulation going forward.

“A global unmet medical need exists for a vaccine against genital chlamydia,” said Prof Peter Andersen of the Statens Serum Institut, who called the extent of the disease an “epidemic”. 

One-in-six women experience inflammation of the pelvis due to chlamydia, which can lead to chronic pain, infertility or ectopic pregnancy as well as increasing susceptibility to other STIs.

“Although many more years of research are needed before this vaccine is marketed, we are planning the next stage of research,” said Helene B Juel of the Statens Serum Institut. 

Almost 8,000 cases of chlamydia were reported between 2017 and 2018 nationwide. Latest figures show that there was a 7 percent increase in sexually transmitted infections during those years.

Men made up a higher number of cases of STIs overall but for chlamydia, men and women were equally likely to become infected. 

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A pilot study has found encouraging results regarding ovarian cancer, namely, that a personalised vaccine for this particular type of cancer can nearly double the two-year survival rate.

This personalised vaccine reprogrammed the immune cells of the cancer patients so that they recognised the women's tumours and could thus combat cancerous cells.

The study involved 25 women and was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

78 percent of the women given the vaccine, along with immunology drugs, have survived for two years. Only 44 percent of women survived for two years when they were just given immunology drugs.

In order to make the vaccine, immune cells from the patient's blood were exposed to cells from the woman's tumour in order to train them to identify and then initiate an attack against cancerous cells.

The senior author of the study, Dr. Lana Kandalaft, told the Telegraph, “The patients who received the vaccine mounted an immune response against their own tumours.”

As well, the more anti-cancerous cells the patients' bodies produced after the vaccine, the longer the women survived.

Dr. Kandalaft explained: “Ovarian cancer is a silent killer which when diagnosed is usually in its advanced stage.

“A combination of chemotherapy and surgery is usually the standard of care in the primary setting, but 85 percent of patients recur and are left with few other curative options.

“It was demonstrated that about 55 percent of ovarian cancer patients have a spontaneous immune response, and this response actually correlates with better overall survival in these patients.”

After one year, all of the women who received the vaccine were still alive. Only 60 percent of the women who just received the immunology drugs were still alive at one year.

Dr. Kandalaft said that rolling out these personalised vaccines should be fairly straightforward, as the immunology drugs used alongside them are commonly used to treat ovarian cancer.

"We aren't giving patients any completely new drugs in combination with this personalised vaccine," she said.

"Bevacizumab and cyclophosphamide are routinely used to treat recurrent ovarian cancer. All we did was add the vaccine. This means that we should be able to easily integrate this personalised immunotherapy into the current standard of care for recurrent ovarian cancer."

This pilot study's results are welcome news, considering that ovarian cancer is the sixth most common cancer among British women. More than 7,400 new cases are diagnosed in the UK each year.

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Today, Sunday March 4, marks the first ever International HPV awareness day.

HPV is a family of very common and highly contagious viruses which is transmitted through any kind of sexual contact and is responsible for a number of cancers in both men and women.

Up to 130 men and women die from cancers caused by HPV (human papillomavirus) every year in Ireland, however, there is still a significant lack of knowledge and understanding among adults. 

Worrying new research, supported by the Irish Cancer Society and Marie Keating Foundation, shows that almost two-thirds (65 per cent) of Irish adult don't know that HPV can cause cancer. 

It also found that more than half (59 per cent) are unaware that there are vaccines available that prevent HPV infections that can cause cancer, while 87 per cent believe it's unlikely that they have or have ever contracted the virus. 

HPV is extremely common, so much so that almost all adult wil get it at some point in their lives. Most infections don't come with clinical symptoms, meaning that those who have it can unknowingly transmit the virus to others.

There are more than 100 different types of HPV, and while the majority of infections are harmless, the treat of cancer remains a major concern. 

Donal Buggy, Head of Services and Advocacy, Irish Cancer Society, said, “While it’s hugely encouraging to see more young girls receive a cancer-preventing HPV vaccine under the national immunisation programme, this research clearly shows we have much more work to do to ensure everyone has access to correct information about HPV vaccination.

“Awareness of vaccines to prevent cancers in men is particularly low. While 335 women are diagnosed with cancers caused by HPV each year, it is also important to note that 85 men in Ireland annually develop a cancer which could potentially be prevented by a simple vaccination. Irish Cancer Society believes it is time for Ireland to offer equal protection against HPV-caused cancers for boys and girls.”

According to the research, 38 per cent of Irish adults falsely believe that HPV cannot be passed on from one person to another. HPV can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact however it is possible to prevent infection from certain types of HPV that cause cancer if you have been vaccinated against HPV before becoming sexually active.

Liz Yeates, CEO of the Marie Keating Foundation said, “The lack of awareness of HPV and its link to cancer among Irish adults is concerning, however this research provides us with a good opportunity to educate parents and remind the Irish population at large on the public health benefits of protection against cancers caused by HPV.

“Parents in particular need to be reminded of the importance of ensuring that their daughters receive the HPV vaccination under the current National HPV Immunisation Programme. It is very concerning that uptake levels have dropped so considerably and are currently only at 62%. On International HPV Awareness Day it is really important that we all redouble our efforts until we see the levels back up to 87% and higher.

“Globally, 17 countries, including Canada, Australia, Switzerland, United States, Austria and Italy, immunise both boys and girls against HPV. In Ireland, it’s incredibly important for parents to realise that immunisation can help to protect their children from types of HPV that can cause cancers like cervical cancer and anal cancer.”

 The research was commissioned by MSD Ireland and carried out by Behaviour and Attitudes on a sample population of 1,000 adults in Ireland.

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According to a report in The Irish Times, the Health Service Executive has seen an increase in the number of girls availing of the HPV vaccine this year.

It is understood that the figure has risen from 50 percent to 61 percent – a welcome result following a successful campaign, backed by the World Health Organisation, to promote the vaccine.

Concerns regarding its safety resulted in a sharp drop in the number of school-age girls getting vaccinated, decreasing from 87 per cent in the 2014/2015 school year to 50 per cent last year.

In September of this year, following remarks made by Phonsie Cullinan, the Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, on the reliability of the HPV vaccine, two Ministers advised the Church to exclude themselves from current medical debate.

Highlighting Bishop Cullinane's lack of medical qualifications, Minister Simon Harris said: “I don’t want to get into a spat with anybody, bishop or no bishop, but at the end of the day the people qualified to give medical advice on vaccinations are doctors and, funnily enough, not bishops.”

Minister John Halligan made reference to the Church's hugely contentious reputation, saying: "Religion has no place in medical debate and the Catholic Church’s track record on the medical welfare of Irish women speaks for itself."

Today, Minister Harris took to Twitter to celebrate the work done by all those involved in the campaign, writing: "Proud to work with many dedicated people in @HSELive & HPV Alliance to bring this about."

Director general of the HSE, Tony O’Brien,called the increase in the number of recipients 'encouraging'.

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Some 850,000 doses of the flu vaccine have been purchased by the HSE in preparation for a feared epidemic this winter, with an extra 100,000 ordered as a “contingency” supply.

The news comes after reports from the NHS in the UK found that the jab is failing to protect vulnerable groups such as children and the elderly.

Dr Mai Mannix spoke to the Sunday Independent about flu season, “Those at risk include people aged 65 years and older, adults and children with a long-term medical condition.”

According to the paper, the vaccine currently being distributed by GPs and pharmacists is just 40 – 60 per cent effective, though the HSE has urged anyone who is eligible for the jab to avail of the service.

Medical professionals admitted that they are concerned about an epidemic breaking out after Australia experienced its worst flu season in over twenty years.

Australia’s health minister expressed her concerns about the epidemic, “People are not just getting the flu, they’re getting very, very sick with this flu. Don’t dismiss your symptoms. The reality is we can’t beat nature.”

People have been warned to be extra diligent. Doctors believe that knowing the symptoms can help catch the virus at an earlier stage.

The symptoms include a fever, body aches, a cough, headaches, exhaustion, slight congestion, a sore throat and diarrhoea and vomiting.

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Fears over side-effects have been blamed for a massive decline in the uptake of the HPV vaccine, used to prevent the development of cervical cancer.

Figures fell by 50 per cent in 2016, however the HSE have said uptake has stabilised somewhat this year after it warned parents about misleading information.

Over 230,000 girls have received the Gardasil vaccine since it became available in 2010, with approximately 1,000 of those reporting adverse side-effects including nausea, exhaustion and fainting.

Ahead of the new school year, the HSE will send 40,000 information packs to secondary schools around the country as medical teams prepare to offer the vaccine to first year girls.

Gardasil protects women against two forms of the sexually transmitted disease, HPV, which can cause cervical cancer and genital warts.

Given that Ireland has one of the highest rates on cervical cancer in Europe, the HSE are eager to educate young women on the potentially life-saving vaccine.

Professor Karina Butler, a consultant paediatrician and chair of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee, assured concerned parents that Gardasil has been safely administrated to millions of women around the world.

"Not one of these people anywhere in the world has been medically proven to have had a long term side effect from getting the vaccine," she said.

"This is a vaccine that can save lives. It works."

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The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) is currently considering making the HPV vaccine available to boys.

HPV (human papilloma virus) causes cervical cancer in women. Other cancers associated with the virus affect both men and women, including anal, genital and throat cancers. The virus can also cause genital warts in both woman and men.

Over 200,000 girls have been vaccinated since it was introduced. The vaccine has been available to girls since 2010 and prevents them from developing cervical cancer later in life. It is free and readily available from the HSE for all girls in the first year of secondary school. 

HIQA’s Director of Health Technology Assessment and Deputy Chief Executive, Dr Máirín Ryan, said on the HIQA website: “HPV infection is the most commonly acquired sexually transmitted viral infection. In most cases, it causes no symptoms and is cleared by the body’s immune system. However, persistent infection can lead to the development of cancer."

Dr Ryan continued: “The HPV vaccine has been proven to be safe. Additionally, it is highly effective at preventing infection with the HPV types most commonly linked with cancer and genital warts in both men and women.

"This HTA will investigate the clinical and cost-effectiveness of expanding the HPV vaccination programme to include boys, thereby extending them the opportunity to benefit from the vaccine and increasing HPV immunity in the wider population.

”HIQA’s assessment will also consider the wider implications of any proposed change to the vaccination programme, such as the budget impact, use of resources, and the ethical and societal implications.”

The vaccine has been available to both sexes in Australia since 2006, and has been linked with a 90 percent reduction in cases of genital warts in both sexes.

Last year, the vaccine was made available to gay men in Ireland.

The results of the health technology assessment are expected next year.

In May, the Irish Cancer Society wrote about the huge benefits of the vaccine. Dr Robert O'Connor, Head of Research at the Irish Cancer Society, said: “Young women and girls who have received the HPV vaccination are fully protected against the strains of HPV that cause seven in ten of all cervical cancers.   

“It is important to note that, while significantly less likely to develop cervical cancer, availing of cervical screening – whether that is through the HPV test or the current liquid-based cytology process – is still recommended for these women so that any signs of the cancer can be spotted early and treated before they become a threat to their lives." 

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The Irish Cancer Society are calling for additional efforts and investment to improve the uptake of the HPV (Human Papillomavirus) vaccination programme, after some controversial reports caused the amount of people choosing to get vaccinated to fall rapidly.

According to the society, the latest report from the National Cancer Registry, highlights an “urgent need for increased investment to prevent unnecessary deaths.”

Over 400 people are diagnosed with cancers caused by HPV in Ireland each year, and sadly, the disease claims up to 130 lives annually.

Donald Buggy, head of services and advocacy at The Irish Cancer Society is also calling for the programme to be opened to boys.

‘’85 men in Ireland annually develop a cancer which could potentially be prevented by a simple and safe vaccination.’’

“While boys can avail of the HPV vaccine through their GP, for a fee, The Irish Cancer Society believes it is time for the government to invest in the extension of the national HPV school vaccination programme to boys, so that as many lives as possible can be saved,” he said.

There have been a significant decline in the uptake of the vaccination among secondary school girls over the past two years with figures dropping from 87 per cent to as low as 50 per cent in some areas.

Donald added, ''If this worrying trend is not reversed, women will continue to die needlessly from HPV-caused cancers.''

Minister for Health, Simon Harris, recently hit out at anti-vaccine campaigners, who he believes are putting lives at risk due to the spread of misinformation.

The Minister admitted he was deeply concerned about the decline in the uptake of the potentially life-saving vaccine.

He said, ‘’There is no scientific evidence that the HPV vaccine causes any long-term illness. However, this misinformation has led to a significant drop in uptake rates of the HPV vaccine.’’

‘’This means that a large cohort of girls are now at risk of developing cervical cancer later in their lives.’’

The fresh calls for increased investment in the programme come after the Teachers’ Union of Ireland passed a motion asking for a review of the HPV vaccine programme is schools. 

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