New book predicts a "vaccine century"

A new book published by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) predicts that the 21st century will become the "century of vaccines" thanks to rapid developments in the field of immunization.

In a series of essays written by leading experts in vaccinology and public health, the book, Vaccines: Preventing Diseases and Protecting Health, notes that the number of vaccines currently in development is unprecedented and that progress in this area is keeping pace with the growing threat of emerging and re-emerging diseases.

Among new candidates in the pipeline are vaccines against HIV/AIDS, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), West Nile virus, Ebola hemorrhagic fever, dengue and anthrax.

In the book's opening chapter, Anthony S. Fauci, director of the United States' National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, describes how his institute funded a fast-track private-sector project to create a chimeric vaccine against West Nile virus. The disease first appeared in the United States in 1999 and has since spread widely and rapidly. The proposed vaccine is currently entering phase 1 trials.

Other promising new candidates include three different vaccines against SARS and a tetravalent vaccine for dengue, which targets the four distinct viral types that cause that disease.

New vaccines are also in development for older diseases including malaria, tuberculosis, cholera, typhoid and hookworm. Even chronic diseases are being targeted, for example, with vaccines against Helicobacter pylori (which causes stomach ulcers and can lead to gastric cancer) and human papillomavirus (the cause of cervical cancer).

The PAHO book also discusses new concepts in vaccine development, such as the use of adjuvants and new delivery systems, including DNA vaccines and oral vaccines derived from transgenic plants. It also examines vaccines against pathogens that could be used in bioterrorist attacks, such as the smallpox virus and anthrax bacterium.

The book's editor, Ciro A. de Quadros, currently director of international programs at the Albert B. Sabin Vaccine Institute, was for several decades chief of PAHO's immunization programs. Other notable contributors include D.A. Henderson, C.J. Peters and José Esparza.

Vaccines: Preventing Diseases and Protecting Health is available for purchase in English at PAHO Bookstore. A Spanish version of the book is expected to be available in August.

The Newsletter of the Pan American Health Organization

This article is reproduced under an agreement with the Pan American Health Organization.

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