A Cuban vaccine against cholera is in its advanced second clinical trial phase, according to Dr. Rafael Fando, of the National Center for Scientific Research (CENIC for its Spanish initials).
Speaking to Cubaplus during a scientific seminar at the Havana University Faculty of Law, Fando explained that this is an oral attenuated live microorganism vaccine. The researcher said that the proposed vaccine has proved effective in protecting individuals against cholera and, more importantly, from intestinal colonization. Scientists from CENIC, the Pedro Kouri Institute of Tropical Medicine and the Finlay Institute are working on this new vaccine which, in the expert´s view, may not only prevent the illness, but inhibit the spread of the causal pathogenic entity.
He emphasized that it might serve to both protect the individual and the general population and those with whom they interact.
According to the expert, people protected by the vaccine could in turn contribute to the immunization of those not yet vaccinated.
The Cuban researchers hope that it can be administered in one single dose. Fando added that most of the vaccines presently available throughout the world require two doses.
Nevertheless, Dr. Fando cautioned on the need to gradually create increased production capacity because there is not as yet enough to obtain a sufficient number of doses to demonstrate that the vaccine is as promising as results indicate so far.
He commented that “this product still has some way to go, we need to continue the research, enhance capacity and submit the collected data for approval by the World Health Organization (WHO) experts who ultimately decide if the vaccine can be administered.”
There have been seven cholera pandemics in the world to date and according to WHO, there are 3.6 billion people globally at risk of contracting this acute diuretic infection, caused by the ingestion of water or food contaminated by the Vibrio Cholerea bacterium which affects both adults and children and can prove fatal within hours if untreated. According to WHO estimates, there are between 3 and 5 million cases of cholera infection leading to between 100 and 120,000 deaths per year.
The brief incubation period, which varies between two hours and 5 days, adds to the potentially explosive nature of epidemic outbreaks.
Cuban efforts are not solely in the field of research, as its nurses and doctors also lend invaluably supportive solidarity to nations afflicted by the illness.
Recently the chief coordinator of the United Nations Cholera Response in Haiti, Pedro Medrano, described the work of the Cuban medical brigade combatting the illness in the Caribbean nation as both heroic and impressive. In a interview with the Prensa Latina news agency, Medrano said that “I am a witness to this, I have visited the doctors on the ground and been impressed by the way they work, how they organize the tracking of infection from community to community, preventing and educating and always treating the affected.”
For the assistant to the U.N. General secretary, the foremost concern is that the October 2010 outbreak that has led to 725,000 suspected cases and 8,813 deaths may be forgotten in the context of so many other global emergencies.