Tag: Zika

Bioethics News

To Shrink Mosquito Population, Scientists Are Releasing 20 Million Mosquitoes

July 21, 2017

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This summer, scientists in California are releasing 20 million mosquitoes in an effort to shrink the population of mosquitoes that can carry diseases.

It sounds counterintuitive. But the plan is to release millions of sterile male mosquitoes, which will then mate with wild female mosquitoes. The eggs the females lay won’t hatch, researchers say.

The project is called Debug Fresno and it’s being undertaken by Verily, a subsidiary of Alphabet, Google’s holding company. It’s the company’s first field study involving sterile mosquitoes in the U.S.

Scientists say the goal is to cut the population of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes — the species responsible for spreading Zika, dengue and chikungunya. A. aegypti have been present in California’s Central Valley since 2013 and have been a problem in Fresno County.

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NPR The Two-Way

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Source: Bioethics Bulletin by the Berman Institute of Bioethics.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Zika Rewrites Maternal Immunization Ethics

July 20, 2017

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Ever since the shocking realization in 1961 that the morning sickness pill thalidomide caused shortened limbs in babies, doctors have been extremely wary of giving any medicine to a pregnant woman—and testing experimental drugs has raised even more concerns. But the recent discovery that exposure to Zika virus in utero can cause severe brain damage and other problems in children triggered an international effort to develop a vaccine for pregnant women. A new report written by an ad hoc group of prominent researchers, bioethicists, clinicians, and drugmakers concludes that pregnant women should be included in trials of Zika vaccines, once safety in animals and nonpregnant adults is demonstrated. The risk/benefit issues spelled out in the report also apply to experiments with maternal immunization for other diseases, which are winning increasing support.

Researchers have been too reticent to include pregnant women in clinical trials of vaccines, contends the working group behind the report. “Even for the vaccines we now recommend in pregnancy, pertussis and flu, the original trials did not include pregnant women,” says Carleigh Krubiner, a bioethicist at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics in Baltimore, Maryland, who is part of the group, which was sponsored by the London-based Wellcome Trust. “This project is trying to be more proactive.”

The half-dozen Zika vaccine trials now taking place only enroll women of childbearing age who are on contraception or have a sterile male partner. That is appropriate, according to the risk/benefit analyses spelled out in the report, as these early studies assess only safety and basic immune responses.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Another Milestone in the Cystic Fibrosis Journey

Caption: Two-year-old Avalyn is among the cystic fibrosis patients who may be helped by targeted drugs.
Credit: Brittany Mahoney

As NIH Director, I often hear stories of how people with serious diseases—from arthritis to Zika infection—are benefitting from the transformational power of NIH’s investments in basic science. Today, I’d like to share one such advance that I find particularly exciting: news that a combination of three molecularly targeted drugs may finally make it possible to treat the vast majority of patients with cystic fibrosis (CF), our nation’s most common genetic disease.

First, a bit of history! The first genetic mutation that causes CF was discovered by a collaborative effort between my own research lab at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and colleagues at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto—more than 25 years ago [1]. Years of hard work, supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, painstakingly worked out the normal function of the protein that is altered in CF, called the cystic fibrosis transmembrane regulator (CFTR). Very recently new technologies, such as cryo-EM, have given researchers the ability to map the exact structure of the protein involved in CF.

Among the tens of thousands of CF patients who stand to benefit from the next generation of targeted drugs is little Avalyn Mahoney of Cardiff by the Sea, CA. Just a few decades ago, a kid like Avalyn—who just turned 2 last month—probably wouldn’t have made it beyond her teens. But today the outlook is far brighter for her and so many others, thanks to recent advances that build upon NIH-supported basic research.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Why Zika Is Especially Hard On The Women Of Brazil

July 19, 2017

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It started with the task of keeping mosquitoes at bay — a task that often fell to the women and girls in a family. And it continues today with women shouldering much of the care for babies born with congenital Zika syndrome, which includes microcephaly, a birth defect characterized by a smaller than normal head and brain damage.

The government has not given women the support they need, says Margaret Wurth, a children’s rights researcher who worked on the study.

Wurth and her colleagues visited Brazil in 2016, a year after a state of emergency had been declared (it ended this May). They interviewed women (including mothers of children with microcephaly), men, officials from nongovernmental groups, medical service providers, researchers and others about their experiences related to Zika. They conducted interviews in Pernambuco and Paraíba, two states in northeastern Brazil particularly hard-hit by Zika.

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See Also: Pregnant Women and the Zika Virus Vaccine Research Agenda: Ethics Guidance on Priorities, Inclusion, and Evidence Generation

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NPR Goats and Soda

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Source: Bioethics Bulletin by the Berman Institute of Bioethics.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

The Zika Vaccine Research Agenda & Pregnant Women

The Ethics Working Group on ZIKV Research & Pregnancy provides recommendations to ensure that pregnant women are responsibly and equitably included in the Zika virus vaccine research and development agenda.

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Zika virus vaccine development is proceeding rapidly, with a number of vaccine candidates already moving into Phase II clinical trials. These are trials that are designed to look for evidence of efficacy.

As the public health community races to develop Zika virus vaccines, now is a critical time to ensure that research and development efforts adequately address the needs of pregnant women and their offspring. To this end, the Ethics Working Group on ZIKV Research & Pregnancy, an interdisciplinary group of international experts in vaccinology, maternal and child health, public health and ethics, has developed Ethics Guidance for including the needs and interests of pregnant women and their offspring in the Zika virus vaccine research and development agenda: Pregnant Women & the Zika Virus Vaccine Research Agenda: Ethics Guidance on Priorities, Inclusion, and Evidence Generation.

A vial of the NIAID Zika Virus Investigational DNA Vaccine, taken at the NIAID Vaccine Research Center’s Pilot Plant in Frederick, Maryland. Credit: NIAID

This Ethics Guidance argues that global concern about the devastating effects of Zika virus infection in pregnancy for normal fetal development, pregnant women and their offspring is not enough. Pregnant women and their babies should also be front and center in Zika virus vaccine development.

Unless specific actions recommended by the Working Group are taken soon, pregnant women and their offspring will not be able to share fairly in the benefits of whichever vaccines prove efficacious.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Zika Vaccines Protect Mouse Fetuses

With comments from our Ruth Faden: The first-of-its-kind study follows on the heels of ethicists’ urging vaccine developers to conduct clinical trials in pregnant women.

Source: Bioethics Bulletin by the Berman Institute of Bioethics.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Verily Has Built a Robot to Release 20 Million Sterile Mosquitoes in California

The company, an arm of Alphabet, is using mosquitoes infected with a sterilizing bacteria to test whether they can stop dengue and Zika

Source: Bioethics Bulletin by the Berman Institute of Bioethics.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Zika Vaccines And Pregnant Women: Here’s What Ethics Experts Say

July 10, 2017

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Avril Lavigne once sang, “Tell me, why’d you have to go and make things so complicated?” Since that was from her 2002 album Let Go, chances are she was not singing to the Zika virus…unless she knew something that we didn’t at the time. But nowadays her Complicated song could certainly apply to nearly everything about the Zika virus…including the Zika vaccines that are currently under development.

I’ve previously written about how the Zika virus has turned out to be a trickier than initially thought. But what’s so complicated about Zika vaccines besides the fact that vaccine development in general is complicated? Well, the biggest risk of Zika infection is to pregnant women, because the virus can cause devastating birth defects in the fetus. Therefore, pregnant women could certainly use a Zika vaccine for protection, but….  Don’t we usually avoid testing vaccines or other medications on pregnant women, because of potential risk to the fetus and the woman and the many changes a body undergoes while pregnant? A pregnant woman is not the same as a non-pregnant woman in many ways physiologically. A two-weeks pregnant woman is not the same as 2-months pregnant woman. One pregnant woman is not the same as another pregnant woman. These physiologic changes and ethical issues make Zika vaccine development and testing more…complicated, as Lavigne sang, “Uh huh, uh huh. That’s the way it is.” Time to call in the ethics experts.

That’s what the Wellcome Trust did in supporting the formation of the “Ethics Working Group on Zika Virus Research & Pregnancy.” Consider this a Justice League of ethics, vaccine, infectious disease, Zika, and OB/GYN experts that included Ruth Faden, PhD, MPH, Founder and former Director of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics and the inaugural Philip Franklin Wagley Professor of Biomedical Ethics at Johns Hopkins UniversityAnnie Lyerly, MD, MA, Professor of Social Medicine at the University of North Carolina, and Maggie Little, BPhil, PhD, Director of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics and Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

The Case for Testing Zika Vaccines on Pregnant Women

July 6, 2017

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Zika is a disease whose burden falls most heavily on pregnant women. In most people who come down with it, the virus is symptomless, and passes through the body with the person none the wiser. When symptoms do bloom, they are unpleasant, but not particularly dangerous to most. If someone who’s pregnant gets Zika, however, the consequences for the fetus can be devastating. The virus causes underdevelopment of the head and brain, known as microcephaly, and a hodgepodge of other symptoms, like eye damage and clubfoot, which are loosely categorized as Congenital Zika Syndrome.

For this reason, a working group made up of bioethicists, OB/GYNs, vaccinologists and others recently released ethics guidelines for Zika vaccine development, in which they recommend that pregnant women should be included in clinical trials for Zika vaccines.

So there are consequences, generally, of the exclusion of pregnant women from medical research. “And with Zika—because pregnant women [are] really at the heart of the concerns around the Zika epidemic, it was something that really couldn’t be overlooked,” says Carleigh Krubiner, a member of the ethics working group that put out the guidance, and a research scholar in bioethics at Johns Hopkins University.

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The Atlantic

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Source: Bioethics Bulletin by the Berman Institute of Bioethics.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Paris is Burning

June 30, 2017

by Sean Philpott-Jones, Chair, Bioethics Program of Clarkson University & Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Paris is Burning

Earlier this month, President Trump finally honored one of his many (often contradictory) campaign promises. He formally withdrew the United States from the 2015 Paris Climate Accord. America is now one of only three countries in the world who are not party to this landmark agreement, joining Syria and Nicaragua in refusing to work collaboratively to combat the threat of global climate change.

Designed to slow and eventually reverse the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the Paris Agreement calls upon the 195 signatory nations to stabilize carbon emissions by 2030; while nearly 55 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide would still be released into the air every year, the near exponential increase in annual emissions would cease. The accord also calls for nations of the world to start reducing the overall amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by 2050, offsetting anticipated emissions with compensatory sequestration and reforestation efforts. Should these ambitious goals be met, the estimated increase in the global average temperature would be limited to a manageable 1.5 – 2.0° Centigrade (2.7 – 3.6° Fahrenheit) above that of the pre-Industrial era.

Climate change is one of the most important yet, sadly, one of the most neglected problems that we face. According to the vast majority of climate scientists (over 97% of them, to be precise), mankind is irrevocably altering the environment as the result of industrial production and agricultural activity. One consequence is increasing global temperatures, but we can also expect to see changing rain and snowfall patterns, and more extreme weather events like heat waves, droughts, floods and blizzards over the coming years.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.