Tag Archives: vaccine

Horseshoe crabs: Saving lives, all in a day’s work

pixabay horseshoe crabIf you have ever taken medication, received a vaccine, or had a surgical implant, you should thank a horseshoe crab. These prehistoric-looking animals are actually really important to modern medicine. But why?

It’s all about their blue blood. Mammals have hemoglobin in their blood, which contains iron- hence the red color. But horseshoe crabs transport oxygen through their bodies via hemocyanin, which contains copper, making their blood blue.

Even more interesting is a compound in the crab’s blood called Limulus Amebocyte Lysate, or LAL. LAL binds to bacteria, viruses and fungi and acts to protect the animal’s system from infection. It’s worked pretty well- horseshoe crabs have been around since about 100 million years BEFORE the dinosaurs, and they’re still going strong!

This ability to bind endotoxins makes horseshoe crab blood incredibly useful- and valuable. LAL is the worldwide standard screening test for bacterial contamination, and it’s used to test drugs, vaccines and surgical implants. LAL can detect endotoxins as low as .1 parts per trillion!

The best part is that harvesting horseshoe crab blood doesn’t require the animals to be killed! The crabs are caught, blood is drawn, and they are put back into their environments, where their blood volume is replenished within about a week. Watch this video to see how it’s done, and read more about it here:



Bone cancer vaccine gives hope to dogs AND humans

iStock_000016358177XSmallA trial at the University of Pennsylvania’s school of veterinary medicine is introducing a groundbreaking treatment for dogs suffering from osteosarcoma. Dogs in the trial are receiving an experimental vaccine that trains the immune system to recognize tumor cells and to kill them- and it’s working!

More than 10,000 dogs are diagnosed each year with osteosarcoma, which is an aggressive type of bone cancer. Most dogs die within a year of diagnosis, but in this trial, many of the dogs in the study have survived for more than two years. Check out this video to see an update on Denali, a therapy dog enrolled in the trial.

The biology of canine osteosarcoma is the same as the biology of these tumors in children, so the information gained from this study could one day help children with osteosarcoma. There are also types of breast cancer that have similarities to osteosarcoma, so the human benefits aren’t limited to one type of cancer.

Researchers are looking for more dogs with osteosarcoma to participate in this trial. Does your dog qualify? If so, check out the link here for more information.

Canine melanoma vaccine coming soon!

jackrussellpixabayThe first therapeutic vaccine for cancer has been conditionally licensed by the USDA! And man’s best friend will benefit from it. This vaccine is intended as a treatment for dogs with stage II or stage III oral melanoma, and hopefully, it will dramatically improve the quality of life for pets suffering from this type of cancer.

Canine oral melanoma is very aggressive and can be difficult to treat. Melanoma tumors contain a protein called tyrosinase, and the vaccine works by introducing human tyrosinase into the dog’s body, which stimulates an immune response against the protein.

Because canine oral melanoma affects a small percentage of the dog population, using a vaccine as a treatment instead of a preventative seems to be the best option at this point. But if veterinarians were able to determine certain breeds or populations of dogs that were at risk, it’s possible that this treatment could be modified for use as a preventative vaccine.

By starting with a vaccine treatment for oral melanoma, it’s possible that this could lead to the development of vaccine treatments for other types of cancer. Interestingly, this development first began with basic animal research, moved into research in human treatments, and now it’s back to animals by benefiting man’s best friend! Who knows- this may lead to the development of human melanoma treatments. Read more about it here:


A single-shot cure for cancer

healthcareThat’s the goal: “a single-shot cure for cancer.” For Stacy Erholtz, a 49-year-old cancer patient battling multiple myeloma, a heavy dose of the measles virus put her in complete remission!

Mayo Clinic researchers injected patients with an engineered measles virus that is similar to the measles vaccine. But this wasn’t your normal vaccine; the virus was engineered to make it toxic only to cancer cells, and Stacy was given enough to vaccinate 10 million people.

The measles virus makes cancer cells group together and explode. This gets rid of the cancer cells and triggers the immune system to react against them. For Stacy, it worked. One other patient in the trial experienced a reduction in bone marrow cancer and tumor growth, but cancer returned after 9 months.

While success in one patient doesn’t prove that researchers have found this single-shot cure, it’s definitely a proof of concept. The virus killed cancer cells while leaving other body cells unharmed, and while cancer patients have been treated with viruses in the past, this is the first time that a patient with full-body cancer has experienced remission after virotherapy.

Virotherapy has been tested in animal models in the hope of developing treatments for breast cancer, endometrial cancer, gallbladder cancer, and even canine cancer. A single-shot cure for cancer could revolutionize treatments for our loved ones and pets! Read more about this particular study here:


Measles outbreak traced to vaccinated patient

Sick boy child 2A measles outbreak traced back to a person who was fully vaccinated against the disease shows that nothing is foolproof. Birth control pills prevent pregnancy 99% of the time, your GPS system is about 95% accurate, and only 62% of people read an entire article after they’ve clicked on it. Stay with me- this one’s worth reading.

The measles vaccine is over 95% effective, which is pretty good, but still not perfect. The biggest cause for concern with recent measles outbreaks is the lack of vaccinations. That’s why delaying or avoiding vaccines is even more dangerous than you may think. As the percentage of people choosing not to vaccinate due to personal beliefs increases, the number of people who could potentially carry the disease also increases dramatically. This particular outbreak may prompt a different surveillance strategy, which is good for everyone, but the biggest harm still comes from vaccine refusal.

And we are seeing the results- so far this year, the number of reported measles cases in California is twelve times higher than it was at this time last year. This coincides with an increased number of personal vaccine exemptions filed in the state.

Still not convinced? Watch this to hear parents who found out about the dangers of NOT vaccinating the hard way. Research in humans and animals has shown vaccine safety time and time again- so please, make sure that your loved ones don’t become statistics! Now, are you in that 62%? If so, share this article with your friends!

Nanovaccines: Little particles with big possibilities

syringeMost vaccines are injectable or inhaled solutions- needing refrigeration- that contain killed viruses or fragments of viruses that the body’s immune system will recognize. But researchers are working on creating nanovaccines, which also contain killed viruses, but in really small synthetic particles (think 1/1,000,000th of a millimeter) instead of suspended in solution like traditional vaccines. These particles are designed to be thermally stable, so they can be stored at room temperature for 6-10 months and still be effective. The goal is to maximize these vaccines so they can be delivered via nasal spray in only one dose, eliminating follow-up boosters! Nanovaccines have been effective in rodents, and studies in larger animals are already underway.

This could make a huge difference to EVERYONE receiving vaccines by reducing inconveniences associated with refrigeration, maximizing efficiency of nasal delivery, and eliminating the need for follow-up boosters. In 2012, only about 1/3 of teenage girls in the United States actually received all three doses of the HPV vaccine. In 2011, only 9% of children worldwide received all three doses of the rotavirus vaccine. Vaccine compliance could be dramatically increased by eliminating the need for booster shots, and availability could be greatly improved by eliminating the need for refrigeration! Let’s hope that researchers can create effective nanovaccines that will work in humans!


Lyme Disease vaccinations- but they’re not for you…

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERALyme Disease is a tick-borne illness that affects over 300,000 people in the United States alone each year. Infected blacklegged ticks can transmit the disease to humans. Lyme Disease is no joke; untreated infections can damage the heart, joints, and nervous system. And although many people think that deer are the main cause of the spread of the disease (blacklegged ticks are commonly called deer ticks), the most common carrier of Lyme Disease is the white-footed mouse.

Currently, there are no human vaccines for Lyme Disease. So researchers are trying to tackle the problem in a different way- by vaccinating mice! They developed an oral vaccine, mixed it into an oatmeal pellet, and baited plots of land with these pellets. The theory is that ticks feeding on vaccinated mice would ingest the antibodies made in the mouse’s body, thus killing any bacteria carried by the ticks, and preventing them from transmitting the disease to humans. And it works- researchers saw a 76% decrease in infected ticks on the treated plots of land.

Right now, scientists are working on USDA approval for the vaccine pellets. If approved, hopefully this will make a big difference in reducing the number of cases of Lyme Disease in humans- and as an added bonus, it won’t hurt the animals or the environment!


Vaccines, autism, and the link that doesn’t exist

Little baby get an injectionEvery once in awhile, stories start circulating about a link between vaccines and autism. And parents everywhere start to freak out. It’s not surprising that this issue evokes such strong feelings- I would freak out, too, if I hadn’t done my research.

Back up- a bit of history. In 1998, Dr. Andrew Wakefield claimed to have found a link between autism and the MMR vaccine. Read more about it here. Turns out, he was being paid by lawyers who were trying to sue vaccine manufacturers, his work was never able to be replicated, and he misrepresented or altered the medical histories of all 12 patients in his study. Wakefield was stripped of his medical license in 2010, and his work was considered fraudulent.

But the damage had been done. Parents everywhere freaked out; as soon as Wakefield started promoting his results to the media, vaccination rates in the U.K. dropped dramatically, and Europe faced a measles epidemic in 2008.

There has been plenty of credible, scientific research to show that vaccines aren’t linked to autism. And it should make you feel better that scientists continue to work with mice and rats to determine vaccine safety. Bonus- rats are actually extremely helpful in understanding autism, as well.

Moms, I get you- the last thing you want to do is jeopardize your child’s health! But in order to make the best decision for your family, listen to the science behind the arguments. Before you circulate articles meant to sway someone towards a medical decision that could impact THEIR child’s health, make sure you know what you’re talking about first!

Do you agree? Then SHARE this on social media! One biased, anti-vax article with no scientific evidence can get 10,000 shares. If you like this post, please share, share, share, and let’s get the word out there!


Vaccinating your pet’s tail?

iStock_000004262922XSmallVaccinating your pet is extremely important for your pet’s health as well as your own. The diseases that vaccines prevent can be deadly, expensive to treat, and could potentially affect you and your family (think rabies). But occasionally, there are side effects to these vaccines. Specifically, in cat vaccines, a small percentage (about 1 in 10,000 cats) can develop a tumor at the vaccine site. 

Veterinarians have been able to improve vaccines in many ways to reduce the risk to your pets. A new research study shows that vaccinating cats at the ends of their tails can be just as effective as traditional vaccine sites- and in the event that the cat has an adverse reaction and develops cancer at the injection site, a tumor at the tip of a cat’s tail is more easily treated than tumors at other locations.

While the diseases that these vaccines prevent certainly cause more damage than the low percentage of cats who have adverse reactions to the vaccine itself, it is always important to keep our pets as safe as possible! Check out the link below for more information. 


Cervical cancer protection in one shot

iStock_000027350736XSmallCervical cancer kills approximately 4,000 women in the U.S. each year. And about 85% of all cervical cancer cases occur in developing countries, where routine screening is not a standard of care. Currently, only a small percentage of American women receive the series of vaccinations- and physicians are definitely interested in increasing this number.

Gardasil and Cervarix, the two cervical cancer vaccines currently available, require three doses within a six-month period. But a vaccine that could be effective after only one dose is highly desirable. One dose, given during a yearly physical, would be a much easier ‘sell’ than a vaccine requiring two more follow-up visits. Vaccination would also be more affordable.

After looking at immune responses in women who had received one, two, or three doses of the vaccine, researchers found that even after only receiving one vaccine, lasting effects were seen. While long-term research is definitely needed to determine whether or not these effects are enough to be considered protective, it’s definitely looking promising that current vaccine recommendations may be able to be altered in a way that would be more efficient. Read more here: