Get vaccinated now (photo grabbed from wikinoticia)

“Have you been vaccinated for Hepatitis B? Have you been infected with Hepatitis B before and now immuned to the disease?  If you are not sure with your answer, consult your doctor now and be checked for hepatitis B infection,” warns Dr. Jane Campos, Liver and Gastrointestinal Disease Specialist during the general assembly of the Yellow Warriors Society in Quezon City last 18 February 2012.

“Today, there are 16 million Hepatitis B carriers. You may be the next carrier if you will not protect yourself with Hepatitis B vaccination,” said Dr. Campos.

The Philippines is one of the highly endemic areas for Hepatitis B wherein 12% to 16% of the population is infected with the disease. The increasing number of infection is worsened by Hepatitis B carriers that are unaware that they may transfer the disease to family members.

“That is why it is important to visit your doctor and be checked for Hepatitis B. If you are not infected, consider yourself lucky and get hepatitis B vaccination now,” emphasized Dr. Campos.

“If you are aware that you are a Hepatitis B carrier, this is a significant step – to make necessary actions. These include protecting family members against future Hepatitis B infections by consulting with experts about disease screening and undergoing medications or treatments depending on doctor’s assessment to avoid complications such as liver cancer and cirrhosis,” explained Dr. Campos.

“Why put yourself at risk if the disease can be prevented? Remember, prevention is far better than treatment.” Dr. Campos also stressed that there is no complete cure for the disease. Although there are available medicines for treatment, it has no guarantee to cure the disease. Treatments only reduce the progression of the disease by slowing down the virus to prevent further Hepatitis B complications.

“Treatment for hepatitis B is a life-long and tedious experience. Aside from physiological discomfort in undergoing regular medications, the cost of healthcare is also a burden to patients,” added Dr. Campos.

Hepatitis B vaccine, however, will cost only around Php800-1200 pesos per shot. “So get vaccinated now and be protected against the disease.”

 


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To track health researches, the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (PCHRD-DOST) is developing the Philippine Health Research Registry (PHRR), a publicly accessible database for all health researches and clinical trials being conducted in the country.

The defining feature of the registry is that it is prospective, researchers themselves register and update their research information, hence research details will be known even before the start of actual research. This will enable researchers, funding agencies, policymakers and planners to track health researches. Thus, duplication of researches will be avoided and allocative efficiency for health research funding will be improved.

The registry also conforms to the World Health Organization (WHO) - mandated clinical trial data field requirements. This is a 20-minimum data fields accessible to all levels of users. This feature will ensure equal opportunity for everyone who wants to participate in clinical trials and help companies recruit the most number of patients in a shorter period of time.

Part of the data field requirements is the inclusion of universal identification and secondary identification numbers that will serve as identifier for every clinical trial registered and conducted in different countries. According to Dr. Manju Rani of the WHO, this feature is very important to account clinical trials from different countries as part of the ASEAN Harmonization for GCP (Good Clinical Practices) and the ASEAN Network for Clinical Trials.

To encourage registration to PHRR, the Philippine National Health Research System (PNHRS) core agencies composed of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Department of Health (DOH), Commission on Higher Education (CHED), and the University of the Philippines Manila (UP Manila) will come up with a policy making registration to PHRR a pre-requisite to the release of funding for health R&D projects funded by these agencies.

A leptospirosis vaccine holds the promise of immunity from acquiring leptospirosis. However, as of present, scientists are still looking for the perfect vaccine for leptospirosis, one that can provide longer lasting immunity and will be effective regardless of the serotypes present in an area.

Leptospirosis is a disease caused by infection with Leptospira bacteria. It is commonly transmitted to the victim when unhealed wounds, the eyes, or the mucous membranes come into contact with objects or environment that has been contaminated with the infected animals’ urine.

The most common types of vaccines for the prevention of leptospirosis that we see now are made from attenuated bacteria. This and the fact that there are countless of Leptospires serotypes in existence prove to be the Achiles’ heel of the available leptospirosis vaccines today. Attenuated vaccines do not last long and they are only useful for certain serotypes. Dr. Sharon Villanueva of the Kyushu University (KU) Department of Bacteriology explained, “Inactivated or attenuated vaccines in one country cannot be used in another because the prevailing Leptospira serovars is different from each country.”

To solve the problems in the existing leptospirosis vaccines, Dr. Villanueva and other researchers started the study, Pathogenicity Studies of Four Leptospira Isolates from the Philippines and Cocktail DNA Vaccination Trial Using Golden Syrian Hamster. Under the collaborative support of the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (PCHRD-DOST), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), World Health Organization (WHO), University of the Philippines Manila (UPM), and KU, the research experimented with Golden Syrian Hamsters using proteins that have been suspected as virulence factors of leptospirosis.

Dr. Villanueva said, “The challenge now is to develop a safe vaccine that will elicit longer lasting immunity, a vaccine that is effective against multiple Leptospira serotypes. Our study aims to develop a universal vaccine, so to speak.”

Dr. Jaime C. Montoya,Executive Director of the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (PCHRD-DOST) presented the government roadmap for the development of science-based herbal products for health and wellness during the roundtable discussion.

On February 15, 2012, Dr. Jaime C. Montoya, Executive Director of the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (PCHRD-DOST) led the roundtable discussion entitled “Strengthening the Science-Based Herbal Industry in the Philippines: Issues, Challenges and Solutions” at the Traders Hotel in Manila, organized by the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST).

The discussion focused on the challenges involved in the development of science-based herbal products for health and wellness in the Philippines. Action plans to resolve issues were also highlighted in the presentations.

Dr. Montoya presented PCHRD’s drug discovery and development program which includes the utilization of natural substances from terrestrial and marine sources that can be developed up to the pre-clinical stage for common infectious diseases and lifestyle related disorders.

According to Dr. Montoya, the drug discovery process takes time and requires huge amount of research funding.

“Out of 10,000 compounds screened, only five compounds reach clinical testing and only one compound makes it as a drug. This process takes up an average duration of 12 to 15 years and costs $1.2 to $1.6 billion,” Dr. Montoya said.

Though this is the case, he pointed out that confidence in the use of natural products cannot be underestimated. “The analysis of drug origins from 1981-2002 showed that 28% of new chemical entities (NCE) launched in the market were natural products and 24% were synthetic or natural mimic compounds. The combined 52% of new chemical entities suggests that natural products are important sources of new drugs or lead compounds suitable for further modifications during drug development,” he explained.

Dr. Montoya proposed the following options to consider in improving the program: 1) development or outsourcing of expertise; 2) identification of other options for conducting other pre-clinical assays, 3)consideration of medium throughput versus high throughput screening; 4) establishment of centralized facilities; and 5) conduct of pre-clinical screening only.

Progression of chronic hepatitis B (photo grabbed from hopkins.org)

Like any other diseases, understanding hepatitis B - its nature, symptom, transmission, prevention and management - is the best shield to prevent and manage the disease, said Dr. Gerald Belimac, program manager of the Department of Health’s National AIDS STI Prevention and Control Program.

Hepatitis B is a serious public health issue. In a phone interview, Dr. Belimac said, “Hepatitis B is 100 times more contagious than the AIDS virus. It is also the most common cause of liver infection leading to liver cancer - the principal cause of cancer death in many parts of Africa, Asia and the Pacific Region.”

Hepatitis B has two major stages of infection, the acute infection which occurs during the first six months of encounter with the disease and the chronic infection or severe hepatitis B infection.

Acute infection is bearable to healthy adults. According to the Hepatitis B Foundation, 90% of healthy adults are able to develop antibodies against HBV and become immuned to the disease during the acute hepatitis B infection stage. Unfortunately, this is not true for babies and young children. About 90% of babies and 50% of young children become chronic hepatitis B carriers.

Persons with chronic hepatitis B infection have greater risk of developing serious liver disease. According to the Hepatitis B Foundation, the disease is very dangerous because it shows limited or no symptoms. The person with chronic hepatitis B infection can even live for decades without having any symptoms, while the virus can quietly and continuously attack the liver which may lead to cirrhosis and eventually liver cancer.

Hepatitis B can be transmitted through contact with infected bodily fluids such as blood transfusion, unprotected sex, use of non-sterile needles, sharing of inanimate objects such as razors, toothbrushes, nail-clippers and earrings. It can also be transmitted through prenatal exposure to an infected mother, body piercing, tattooing and acupuncture.

Though everyone is at risk of getting hepatitis B, experts have identified individuals who have higher risks because of their job and life choices. These include healthcare workers, emergency personnel, residents and staff of jails and group homes, illicit drug users, people with multiple sex partners, people who get tattoos or body piercing and people with close contact to infected family members.

Certain medical conditions such as people with kidney disease or those who need kidney dialysis, people who need blood for medical reasons, and people diagnosed with sexually transmitted disease also have higher risks of getting infected with hepatitis B.

“At the moment, there is no complete cure for hepatitis B. Though there are treatments to reduce the progression of liver disease by slowing down the virus, there is no guarantee for the total removal of the virus,” said Dr. Belimac.

Vaccination is necessary to protect everyone, especially infants and children. However, vaccines are not for infected patients. They are designed to protect individuals not yet infected with the disease by helping the body develop antibodies against hepatitis B.


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