Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Progress Reported On Meningitis A Vaccine

A vaccine against meningitis A will be tested and could be available in the next few years in Africa, where the disease kills thousands of people each year, researchers said.

The Meningitis Vaccine Project and the privately owned Serum Institute of India said Phase 1 trials of the vaccine have paved the way for tests in Gambia and Mali later this year after approval from regulatory authorities.

"If all continues to go as well in testing, the new vaccine, which will be priced at about 40 cents per dose, could be introduced in Africa within the next three to four years," F. Marc LaForce, the project director, said in a statement.

The project is a partnership between the World Health Organization and PATH, a nonprofit group that promotes good health around the globe.

Meningitis is an infection of the lining that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. It is spread from person to person by sneezing, coughing, and living in close quarters such as dormitories and military barracks.

Five to 10 percent of patients die from the illness, usually within 48 hours after symptoms begin, according to WHO.

The illness, which can be treated with antibiotics, can cause brain damage, hearing loss and learning disabilities.

Survey of Journals Finds Few Fraud Safeguards

Editors of scientific magazines have taken few steps to minimize the risk of publishing fake research, even after South Korean scientist Hwang Woo Suk was forced to retract two high-profile studies on stem cells, a new survey said.

Half of the 118 member journals that responded to a questionnaire had no published guidance for authors and almost two-thirds had no policy on pursuing research misconduct, a report today by the Committee on Publication Ethics found. The report also found that six out of 10 editors had no declared complaints procedure.

Science magazine was forced to retract two published studies after Hwang resigned from his post at Seoul National University in December, having admitted that his pioneering stem cell research was partly faked.

Biomedical journals often have few resources and many part-time editors, according to Fiona Godlee, editor of the British Medical Journal. Even so, complaints procedures and guidance should be standard minimum requirement, Godlee said in a statement.

Cypher Stent Better Than Taxus, Study Says

Johnson & Johnson's drug-coated stent prevents new blockages in heart arteries better than Boston Scientific Corp.'s competing product, according to a study presented at a cardiology meeting.

An international team of researchers analyzed 15 independent trials comparing J&J's Cypher stent with Boston Scientific's Taxus device. Doctors use the tiny mesh tubes to clear obstructions that may lead to heart attacks. Patients receiving the Cypher stent were less likely to need a second procedure to reopen a repaired artery, researchers found.

"We were able to demonstrate a clear superiority" of the Cypher stent over the Taxus, said lead author Giuseppe Biondi-Zoccai of Italy's Policlinico San Donato in a statement. "While cost is often a consideration in clinical decision-making, we believe the results of our study should be taken into account when deciding which stent to use on patients."

The details of the study were presented at the American College of Cardiology meeting in Atlanta.

-- From News Services

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