US, Hungarian scientists win Nobel Prize for research that led to Covid vaccines
Scientists Katalin Kariko of Hungary and Drew Weissman of the United States respectively won the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discoveries enabling the development of mRNA Covid-19 vaccines, the award-giving body has announced.
“The 2023 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to Katalin Kariko and Drew Weissman for their discoveries concerning nucleoside base modifications that enabled the development of effective mRNA vaccines against Covid-19,” the body said on Monday
The prize, among the most prestigious in the scientific world, is selected by the Nobel Assembly of Sweden’s Karolinska Institute Medical University and also comes with 11 million Swedish crowns (about $1 million).
Kariko was senior vice president and head of RNA protein replacement at BioNTech until 2022 and has since acted as an adviser to the company. She is also a professor at the University of Szeged in Hungary and adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.
Weissman is professor in vaccine research at the Perelman School.
Kariko found a way to prevent the immune system from launching an inflammatory reaction against lab-made mRNA, previously seen as a major hurdle against any therapeutic use of mRNA.
Together with Weissman, she showed in 2005 that adjustments to nucleosides, the molecular letters that write the mRNA’s genetic code, can keep the mRNA under the immune system’s radar.
‘Major impact on society’
“So this year’s Nobel Prize recognises their basic science discovery that fundamentally changed our understanding of how mRNA interacts with the immune system and had a major impact on society during the recent pandemic,” said Rickard Sandberg, member of the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institute
The medicine prize kicks off this year’s awards with the remaining five to be unveiled in the coming days.
The prizes, first handed out in 1901, were created by Swedish dynamite inventor and wealthy businessman Alfred Nobel, and are awarded for achievements in science, literature and peace, and in later years also for economics.
The Swedish king will present the prizes at a ceremony in Stockholm on Dec. 10, the anniversary of Nobel’s death, followed by a lavish banquet at city hall.
Last year’s medicine prize went to Swede Svante Paabo for sequencing the genome of the Neanderthal, an extinct relative of present-day humans, and for discovering a previously unknown human relative, the Denisovans.
Other past winners include Alexander Fleming, who shared the 1945 prize for the discovery of penicillin, and Karl Landsteiner in 1930 for his discovery of human blood groups.
Health ministry says 2,000 people died from heart disease in past 18 months
The Ministry of Public Health said on Sunday at an event to mark World Heart Day that 2,000 people in the country died from heart disease in the 18 months.
According to officials, up to 6,000 people are diagnosed with heart disease every year.
Non-communicable cardiovascular disease is considered one of the ten deadly diseases in the world.
Ministry of Health officials say; from March 2022 to October 2023, more than 6,000 people have been diagnosed with heart problems and that 2,000 people died in this time.
“In the past year, 26,946 people with heart disease have come to us, and these patients have been provided with in- and out-patient services, and nearly 2,000 people with heart disease who were elderly or had high blood pressure and other diseases, died,” said Sharaf Zaman Amarkhel, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Health.
According to doctors, the main causes of cardiovascular diseases are smoking, alcohol, unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, and obesity. This can lead to high cholesterol, and high blood pressure, officials said.
“Unfortunately, in our society, people use a lot of oil and salt, and we still don’t exercise alongside it,” said Haider Khan Haider, Director General of Disease Prevention and Control of the Ministry of Public Health.
However, officials of the Association of Cardiovascular Doctors say that the institution performs up to four heart operations daily.
“Keeping the heart healthy is not a one-day job, but requires a long-term commitment. Our message is clear; have a balanced diet, be active and take care, and let’s prefer drinking water over other soft and energy drinks,” said Abdulwahid Siddiqi, the head of the Afghan Cardiovascular Doctors Association.
Cardiovascular disease affects millions of people around the world and an estimated 20 million people die from it annually.
Nationwide polio vaccination campaign kicks off, target is 11 million children
The Ministry of Public Health of Afghanistan says that the Ministry in cooperation with the relevant United Nations agencies started a nationwide polio vaccination campaign on Monday.
According to the ministry, the aim of the campaign is to vaccinate more than 11 million children under the age of five against the wild polio virus.
The ministry added that vitamin A capsules are also given to children who are between the ages of 5 and 6.
“Unfortunately, 5 positive cases of polio have been recorded in 2023, which is very worrying for us,” read the ministry’s statement.
“We are committed to eradicating polio in Afghanistan with the cooperation of our partners. The recent positive cases of polio are worrying and we will continue polio vaccination campaigns and basic health services until the complete eradication of this disease,” said Dr. Qalandar Ebaad, Minister of Public Health.
Ebaad further added: “The support of all Afghans, especially the elders of the areas and religious scholars is important in the eradication of polio. They need to participate in the fight against polio.”
Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus. It invades the nervous system and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours.
The virus is transmitted by person-to-person. Initial symptoms are fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness of the neck and pain in the limbs. One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis (usually in the legs). Among those paralyzed, 5–10% die when their breathing muscles become immobilized.
Polio mainly affects children under 5 years of age. However, anyone of any age who is unvaccinated can contract the disease.
There is no cure for polio, it can only be prevented.
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