We receive a number of vaccines when we’re young to prevent diseases like polio, chickenpox, and measles. Within the next 10 years, researchers hope to develop vaccines to prevent more types of illness — everything from STDs to malaria to cancer. Here are the diseases we may one day be able to prevent thanks to advancing medicine.
Like other opioids, heroin quickly binds to receptors in your brain located in areas involved in feeling pain and pleasure and controlling your heart rate. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, long-term heroin use can damage your kidneys, liver, and lungs, as well as alter your brain. The drug is also highly addictive, and people build up tolerance over time, increasing their overdose risk.
According to Live Science, a vaccine to prevent heroine addiction would train the immune system to resist the drug molecules as if they were a virus. Defending the body against this new threat, antibodies would block heroin from entering your system — eliminating the “high” the drug produces. Researchers hope this could discourage users from overusing heroin for these purposes.
While many sexually transmitted diseases are treatable, antibiotics won’t always remain an option. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gonorrhea’s growing antibiotic resistance puts the world’s reproductive health at risk. Scientists are turning to the possibility of a vaccine to avoid the spread of the STD and its potential long-term consequences.
A 2017 Lancet study showed a vaccine given to patients in sexual health clinics reduced gonorrhea diagnosis rates, opening up new possibilities for further development in the future. Until that happens, Healthline urges the practice of safe and responsible sexual activity as a means of prevention. Use protection, get tested regularly, and discuss your sexual health with any and all partners.
According to Malaria No More, this mosquito-transmitted blood disease takes the life of another child every two minutes. Over half the world is at risk, despite many public health initiatives to prevent it. Efforts to distribute nets and spray for disease-carrying pests simply aren’t enough. A vaccine may be the next and one of the most significant steps to preventing thousands more malaria deaths worldwide.
Because malaria is a parasitic disease, the Malaria Vaccine Initiative says developing a vaccine is an expensive and complex, yet necessary approach to stopping the disease from spreading. Scientists are learning all they can about the body’s immune system and how exactly it responds to such a devastating parasite.
Zika virus is transmittable through mosquito bites, sexual contact, and pregnancy (transferred from mom to unborn baby), says the CDC. Contracting Zika during pregnancy puts babies at risk for multiple brain and other birth defects. It also may cause a nervous system disorder in some affected areas of the world. Currently, protecting yourself against mosquitos and using protection during or abstaining from sexual activity are the only means of prevention. That could change soon.
According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, like they’re doing with malaria, scientists are investigating the relationship between immune responses and the Zika virus. Since researchers have studied other mosquito-borne illnesses before, they hope to develop a similar, safe and effective vaccine that protects people around the world.
According to Mayo Clinic, norovirus is a gastrointestinal infection that can be — but isn’t always — fatal. For middle-aged people in developed countries, norovirus is unpleasant, but not usually life-threatening. However, excessive diarrhea, vomiting, and fever put children under five and adults over 65, especially in less developed regions, at risk.
The journal Vaccine notes that while norovirus isn’t as severe as rotavirus, which there’s already a vaccine for, the resulting gastrointestinal consequences pose a public health risk in underdeveloped areas. A vaccine would protect against infection in the same way the rotavirus vaccine does, targeting a wider number of strains than a flu shot, which you typically get once a year.
Ebola virus, according to Healthline, causes fever and excessive bleeding, which are often life-threatening. It’s transmitted from animals to humans, and likely came from bats. The 2014 Ebola crisis was the largest outbreak since the virus’s discovery. But it ultimately led to the development of a vaccine treatment to prevent future outbreaks.
Science Magazine says though the vaccine has proven successful in clinical trials, as of 2017, it isn’t yet licensed for widespread use. The Ebola vaccine consists of a harmless virus mixed with a protein extracted from the Ebola virus. This substance trains the immune system to protect your cells against any contact with that protein in the future.
The Cancer Statistics Center estimates nearly 5,000 people are newly diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. every single day. Over 600,000 people likely lose their lives to cancer annually. While many types of cancer respond well to treatment, many more don’t. Researchers continue to develop treatments that target the immune system to combat cancer cell growth. This could mean vaccines to both prevent and treat certain types of cancer could also prove effective.
Technically, several cancer-related vaccines already exist. The National Cancer Institute says HPV and hepatitis B vaccines are readily available to prevent possible resulting cancers. However, researchers hope to develop vaccines that equip your immune system to eliminate cancer cells before they make you sick.
It’s possible to have human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) without AIDS, but without treatment, the infection will usually progress into a life-threatening medical condition. Medical News Today says the HIV virus attacks the immune system, which can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) in its more advanced stages. AIDS causes the immune system to shut down, putting those with the disease at major risk for infection and death.
More recent HIV treatment allows many more people with the disease to live long, healthy lives than ever before. Unfortunately, it’s still spreading worldwide. An HIV vaccine could help officials get this under control as they continue developing new, more effective treatment options. According to HIV.gov, clinical trials are underway, based on earlier research that a vaccine may be able to prevent the viral infection.