Tag Archives: Vaccines

What’s in the Needle? Part 3 – Chimpanzee Virus plus a mysterious ‘adjuvant’

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Ebola vaccine testing to begin on humans[T]he race to discover an effective yet lucrative Ebola vaccine commenced in earnest about 10 years ago. Most of the research was funded fully or in part by such auspicious entities like BARDA (Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority) wing of DARPA (Defense Advances Research Projects Agency), the NIH (National Institutes of Health), USAMRIID (United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases), or NIAID (National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases). However, private money has also found its way into laboratories across the globe, and major pharmaceutical companies like Merck have led the way.

In 2007, Merck spun off a biopharmaceutical company called Okairos for its ‘clinical-stage’ vaccines. One of the most prominent of these vaccine candidates includes a recombinant vector based on chimpanzee adenoviruses. A vector is simply a molecular truck that delivers a payload into a living system. Adenoviruses can infect humans and primates (the literature will say ‘non-human primates’, but since I believe in Creation, I consider primates and human entirely different species with no common ancestry).

Originally, numerous researchers explored the human adenovirus (HAdV) as possible vectors, but many of us already have been exposed at some time previously, which means we already carry antibodies against HAdV—in fact, it is often cultured from the throats of sick children. Our natural immunity to HAdV meant it could not be used as a vector, but non-human versions could. Hence, about ten years ago, research began using various serotypes of chimpanzee adenovirus (ChAdV, sometimes written CAdV). One of the leading candidates for an Ebola vaccine includes the number 3 serotype, CAdV-3. Okairos, the spinoff from Merck, has found a way to remove the dangerous genes from the DNA genome of the adenovirus and insert an Ebola Glycoprotein (EVD-GP) instead. This allows the viral vector to express the Ebola GP on its outer membrane, which makes it look just like an Ebola virus particle. Continue reading

H3N2 Influenza outbreak among vaccinated sailors

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Graphic depicting how influenza strains are named (Wikimedia Commons) Click to enlarge.

[T]his week’s MMWR (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report) from the CDC included a puzzling report concerning a US Naval minesweeper. In February of this year, 25 sailors from the 102 member crew aboard the USS Ardent, an Avenger class minesweeper, began to complain of fever, chills, and cough. Doctors conducted nasal swab PCR tests and diagnosed influenza, 20 of which were influenza A, and of those 20, 18 were H3N2. Here’s the other shoe: All but one of these men had been vaccinated against influenza A. Sequencing revealed that the strain infecting most of the men had a 99% similarity to A/Texas/50/2012, but 7 of the cases showed marked mutations with 5 amino acid substitutions in the HA1 protein.

So, what happened? Why did these men, nearly all of whom had been vaccinated about 3 months prior to the outbreak, become infected with influenza A? The report seems to imply that patient zero may have been a sailor who lived in San Diego, where the minesweeper was docked, who had developed vague symptoms in January. This sailor suffered from pyelonephritis (a kidney infection), so it had been assumed that his symptoms were somehow connected to his kidney ailment. In fact, a CT scan was performed of his lungs on the assumption that he had a pulmonary embolism! This CT scan showed nothing abnormal. The sailor in question had a roommate, who also served on the Ardent, so even though patient zero remained on shore due to his illness, the roommate reported for duty according to rotation, and it’s assumed that the disease was spread in common areas or through surface contamination (hand rails, etc.).

The sub was decontaminated thoroughly, we’re told, and all the sailors recovered nicely after a round of antivirals. The source of the vaccination failure is a mystery that may never be solved.

To read the entire MMWR report, go here.