Could A Malaria Vaccine Be On The Way?

malaria
USAID and the President’s Malaria Initiative support the distribution and use of bednets to protect against malaria. Bednets are important for children and pregnant women who are most vulnerable to the disease. Photo: Alison Bird/USAID

The UK drug company GlaxoSmithKline is applying for regulatory approval of the world’s first malaria vaccine, the BBC reports.

The move comes after tests that the company said were promising. For the past several years, GlaxoSmithKline has conducted tests of its vaccine on almost 15,500 children in seven African countries. The company reports that 18 months after vaccination, there was a 27 percent reduction in malaria cases in infants aged 6-12 weeks and a 46 percent reduction in children aged 5-17 months.

Now it’s applying to the European Medicines Agency to start marketing the vaccine. GlaxoSmithKline’s research was supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the company says it will make the vaccine affordable for poorer nations.Ninety percent of the world’s malaria cases are in the poorer regions of sub-Saharan Africa where the vaccine was tested. Globally, malaria kills 800,000 people a year. It’s also a major hazard for adventure travelers. While antimalarial pills are generally effective, they can have serious side effects. A vaccination would go a long way to easing the burden on people who choose to visit the tropics.

Approval for the vaccine could come in 2014. Unfortunately, the percentages the company is quoting do not indicate that it will be as effective as many of the vaccines we are used to. Other measures are still needed like the education of the public of the dangers of standing water and the need to use mosquito netting. More innovative methods for fighting the disease like infecting them with bacteria are also being studied.

Hopefully GlaxoSmithKline’s vaccine will be just the first generation of a series of improving vaccines that will one day relieve the world of a dangerous disease.

How Did So Much Cocaine Wind Up On This Flight?

A couple of passengers departing Caracas, Venezuela for Paris, France checked 31 articles of luggage on the flight, all of which were tagged under false names. Upon investigation, authorities discovered that the bags were filled with 2,866 pounds of pure cocaine. Suspicions were apparently only raised when the passengers who checked the bags didn’t actually board the plane. The flight date was on 9/11 no less, a date we all know for extra precautions at airports, at least in the United States. The unaccompanied bags of cocaine were eventually detained at the Charles De Gaulle airport.Several people have been arrested in France regarding the incident — three are Italian and three are British. Venezuelan authorities have arrested three officers of the National Guard and have said that they expect more arrests to come. According to Minister Miguel Rodriguez, Venezuelan authorities are also suspicious of the airline workers involved in this flight. While we don’t have any further details regarding just how this much cocaine wound up on this plane, it’s pretty clear that with National Guard members and possibly airline workers aiding in the transport of the drugs, a massive coverup and/or coercion may have been present. Most drug rings wouldn’t risk this much cocaine on a single flight unless they felt success was inevitable, a presumption that is contingent on corruption.

$270 Million Worth of Cocaine Found on France Flight

No Longer Deadly, Mazatlan Returns To Cruise Itineraries

Photo – Chris Owen

Cruise lines have stayed away from Mazatlan, Mexico for several years, largely due to concerns the cruise experience might include a visit from a dangerous drug lord. With crime rates down in Mexico, west coast cruise ship itineraries are now retuning to Mazatlan.

Cruise lines had steered away from the port because of safety issues. There was no way that they would endanger the lives of their passengers by dropping them off at an unsafe place. The move was primarily a precaution as drug lord activity was happening far to the north of Mazatlan.

“We understand that travel agents and providers have a duty to inform their customers, but we feel as if we have been unfairly singled out as an unsafe destination,” said Julio Birrueta, spokesperson for the Mazatlan Tourism Trust, according to Caribbean News Digital.

Indeed, I walked the streets of Mazatlan at 3 a.m. with no problem on a recent trip. We explored the area during the Day of the Dead stroll and festivities in 2011, at the height of drug lord mania in the travel world. Held in Mazatlan’s old historic district, the centuries-old tradition, also called All Souls Day, honors those who have died with a Mardi Gras-like walking procession through town.

“We didn’t just sit around hoping they would return,” said Frank Cordova, secretary of tourism for the state of Sinaloa. “We made a lot of changes to upgrade security and to improve the visitor experience.”

Holland America Line’s Veendam will return to Mazatlan on November 9. Norwegian Star starts arriving December 22 and Azamara Quest returns on December 29.

Ziplining in Mazatlan, Mexico

Venice To Toughen Canal Rules After Tourist Dies On Gondola Ride

Venice Canal
Victor Hugo Marques, Flickr

Venice is one of the few remaining car-free cities in the world, but the famous canals may soon be treated more like roadways following the tragic death of a tourist earlier this month.

A German man died after the gondola he was traveling with his family in was crushed between a dock and a vaporetto, one of the city’s many waterbuses. The vaporetto, which was reversing at the time, didn’t realize anything was wrong and sailed off without a second glance.In response, the city’s mayor has announced a battery of measures aimed at controlling Venice’s chaotic waterways. The canals will soon be treated much like a street for motor vehicles, with plans to ban cell phone use while operating boats, drug and alcohol tests for drivers and more stringent rules when it comes to turning or overtaking other boats. Plans to station police officers with whistles and signs at various points along the Grand Canal are also one of the 26 measures that have been proposed by the city.

For tourists, the new rules could mean more restrictions on when and where they can take a gondola ride. Gondolas will likely be banned from the Grand Canal before mid-morning, to make room for delivery boats. Gondolas sailing from one side of the Grand Canal to the other may also be forced to cut back.

Venice Gondoliers Should Take Breathalyzer And Drug Tests, Their Chief Says

Venice
Wikimedia Commons

The president of the gondolier association of Venice says all boat operators in the watery city should be screened for alcohol and drugs, the BBC reports.

Nicola Falconi suggested this after a video was posted on YouTube showing a hazing incident of a new assistant gondolier who was ordered to strip naked and jump in a canal. This was just the latest of numerous reports of inappropriate, boozy behavior.

We can add this to the other scandals hitting Italy’s tourism industry, including a group of tourists being charged $84 for a few ice cream cones, dozens of baggage handlers arrested for stealing bags at several Italian airports, and the continuing decay of many of the nation’s underfunded ancient monuments.

On my recent trip to Venice, the gondoliers I saw were all behaving professionally. I have heard a few secondhand stories, however. Have you been to Italy? What was your experience there? Tell us on the comments section!