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Medicine Biotech Science

Gates Foundation Funds "Altruistic Vaccine" 259

QuantumG writes "The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded a $100,000 grant to the University of Queensland, Australia to develop a vaccine against dengue fever, a disease spread by mosquitoes. Unlike other vaccines, the 'altruistic vaccine' doesn't specifically protect the individual being bitten, but instead protects the community by stopping the transmission of the pathogen from one susceptible individual to another. The hope is to do this by effectively making their blood poisonous to mosquitoes, either killing them or at least preventing them from feeding on other individuals. Professor Paul Young explained how his work fell outside current scientific traditions and might lead to significant advances in global health — he said he could envision the vaccine being used around the world within 10 years, and it would be designed to be cheap and easy to implement."
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Gates Foundation Funds "Altruistic Vaccine"

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  • by 3.5 stripes ( 578410 ) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @04:08AM (#27948513)

    in Distraction?

    Made genetic modifications to the humans to make their blood poisonous to the mosquitoes..

  • Useless (Score:5, Interesting)

    by matria ( 157464 ) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @04:10AM (#27948529)

    This won't do much good unless all warm-blooded suppliers of the mosquitoes are so treated. A handful of humans killing/disabling a few thousand mosquitoes every year won't put a dent in the total population. This kind of thing tends to have unfortunate side effects as well. A similar treatment for dogs and cats to kill fleas has been around for years, and I don't see any reduction in the flea population. I have had a couple of really sick animals as a result of the treatment before I gave it up, though.

  • Problem (Score:2, Interesting)

    by __aarvde6843 ( 1435165 ) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @04:17AM (#27948563) Journal

    I believe that for this to work, a very, very high % of the population would have to be inoculated.

    I hope we are not risking creating a "strand" of mosquitoes that can "smell" the poisonous blood from a human and prefer to feed on the next one that is safe.

  • The Giving Plague (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kaseijin ( 766041 ) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @04:22AM (#27948581)

    Is this a vaccine that prevent you from getting infected with that anti-captialist altruistism?

    Hey, altruism is serious business [].

  • by KibibyteBrain ( 1455987 ) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @04:40AM (#27948661)
    The Gates foundation tends to give results-driven grants, so they will probably get more if they come up with something promising.
  • by michaelmanus ( 1529735 ) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @04:45AM (#27948677)
    Oh yeah - Poisoning the Well [].
    An enzyme is developed to make the wraith (blood sucking aliens) get sick and die when feeding off humans injected.
    I know this makes me the worst kind of nerd for knowing this offhand...
  • by maccallr ( 240314 ) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @04:57AM (#27948729) Homepage Journal
    You have the money for a year (so $100k is quite a lot) and then, IIRC, if you can prove that your big idea has worked, there is more money to follow.
  • by Carewolf ( 581105 ) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @04:58AM (#27948737) Homepage

    I don't know, mosquitos has many other food sources than humans. Resistance to humans might not be important enough to give potentially immune mosquitos an evolutionary advantage.

  • by iamacat ( 583406 ) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @05:02AM (#27948749)

    Typically there are many more animal than human hosts, since the former usually do not go to hospitals or use cloth/house/DEET to protect themselves from mosquitos. So your altruism will likely protect a chimp or an antelope rather than another human. But mass vaccination of wildlife through baits dispersed from planes can really make a difference.

  • Repercussions? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by grasshoppa ( 657393 ) <skennedy AT tpno-co DOT org> on Thursday May 14, 2009 @05:07AM (#27948775) Homepage

    I'd be terrified of the possible repercussions from this. In the more immediate, what does this do to your liver? Longer term, what impact might this have on other insect populations? And will this impact negatively effect human populations?

    This approach is dangerous.

  • by eugene2k ( 1213062 ) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @05:19AM (#27948815) Homepage
    Problem is, for mosquitos to stop feeding off humans would mean developing some sort of mechanism to differentiate between a human and an animal. So far they don't. So the more probable evolutionary path would be for mosquitos to feed and die until only the ones that survive after feeding off humans are left.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 14, 2009 @05:56AM (#27948973)

    I think this idea is as dangerous as it seems. Killing or disabling the mosquitoes to pass on dengue fever is not an act meant to kill the population of mosquitoes but rather to kill or disable the ones who has the disease.

    However with any vaccine comes there is danger of evolving the disease, hurting the one getting the vaccine, and this case we have the added risk of hurting the mosquito population.

  • Re:Will this help? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ralph Spoilsport ( 673134 ) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @07:46AM (#27949463) Journal
    oh bullshit.

    I don't live in the USA, and I don't live in Israel. If they "got ahold" of some nukes, how many does Pakistan have? Last I read, about 60, and they aren't all on missiles, and the military people in PAK have enough sense to no let these lunkheads get access to the codes. So, they would have to use them as something put on a boat and floated into a harbour. Let's pretend that they do get some missiles with nukes, do you think they're going after Western Civ first? No. They'll go after Western Civ's proxy, India (IND). Let's further pretend that they get as many as 20 (roughly 1/3 of the stockpile) in usuable order on missiles, which AFAIK, is extremely unlikely even for PAK today.

    So, they use some nukes on IND first. Bombay, New Dehli, a few other big cities disappear. Grossly wounded, there are still hundreds of millions of Angry Indians left, and they collectively march across the border and commence slaughter, with the approval and sanction of the UN. Game over. Did Western Civ end? No.

    So, let's say they go for another Western Proxy, Israel. Let's say they dump all 20 on Israel, somehow (even though they don't have a delivery system). What happens? A devastated Israel responds with its own nukes and it has dozens more than PAK and PAK is reduced to a glowing parking lot. Game over. Did Western Civ end? No.

    So, let's say they go for the gusto, and somehow get all twenty - fuck it - ALL SIXTY nukes into the USA and set them off. The USA military responds and with one submarine turns PAK into a glowing parking lot. Millions die, in the USA and PAK. But not in Europe or Japan, or Germany or France or Italy or Finland or Russia. Did Western Civ end? No.

    So, kindly quit with the fear mongering bullshit.

    The apocalypse is NOT a year away. There will be no apocalypse. There is way too much money to be made and too much power to grab for something as self-absorbed and self-indulgent as an apocalypse to occur.

    The USA is bankrupt, and will have to retreat from unipolar status fairly soon. When that happens, it will become less of a target.

  • Re:Useless (Score:3, Interesting)

    by moj0e ( 812361 ) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @08:00AM (#27949527) Journal
    Actually, mosquito control isn't useless. I grew up in Brazil where there was a dengue outbreak in the 80's. They worked hard at making sure the mosquito didn't have an environment to grow and until this year, I hadn't heard of any dengue outbreaks. My concern with this method is that people who are infected by dengue might be transmitting the disease (through the mosquito) before they even realize that they are sick. If this is the case, the infection cycle wouldn't be completely broken. Unfortunately, this year we did have an outbreak and I got Dengue :/ (very painful). I was actually back in the US before I realized that I had dengue. Anyway, those are my 3 cents (please account for inflation)
  • by elnyka ( 803306 ) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @09:26AM (#27950119) Homepage
    1.) Did he steal billions? From whom?

    2.) Assuming that he really doesn't care about malaria? So what?

    Do you actually know what it is to live in poverty? With malaria and other infectious diseases around you? I HAVE. If help (medical or monetary) were to come my way, however little and in whatever form, I would accept it. I would not care the ulterior motives.

    Now, as for you, as you feel so grand and awesome for the diatribe against the evil Bill, what are you doing? If you are so disdainful of what you call 'false charity', what are you doing about it? I mean, besides posting provocative posts, what sort of tangible help are you producing for those who might be on the receiving end of evil Bill's charitable money?

    You really want to feel like you are achieving something, then do something. Talk is cheap, and if that's the only way for you to feel like a just and accomplished dude, then more power to you.

  • by Abcd1234 ( 188840 ) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @09:41AM (#27950293) Homepage

    Problem is, for mosquitos to stop feeding off humans would mean developing some sort of mechanism to differentiate between a human and an animal.

    Uh, how did you infer that was the goal from the GP's post? The point isn't that mosquitos will evolve to avoid humans. The point is that they probably *won't* evolve a resistance to this "vaccine" because it won't act as a sufficient evolutionary pressure to select mosquitos with that resistance, as the ability to feed on humans isn't sufficiently advantageous. The corollary is precisely the opposite of what you're inferring: similarly, the vaccine wouldn't act as a sufficient pressure to select mosquitos that would avoid humans in the first place.

    On the flipside, I'm not sure I buy the argument. Human populations are non-trivial in size, and it may be that they act as a significant food source for mosquitos in large parts of the world.

  • by elnyka ( 803306 ) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @12:43PM (#27952691) Homepage
    Uh, how the hell does one decade of *supposedly* windows-related loss of productivity (which is only localized to the 15-20% of the population in the developed world) have anything to do with the established and entrenched centuries-old poverty that grips the rest of the world?

    I know that you are trying to find for a cause to rally and be angry and display some angst and shit. But if you really want to have a true cause, go where poverty is and do something... and let me know how you quantify that poverty in the majority of the world in terms of Windows usage in the cozy and warm world you grew up in.