According to a press release issued by the Sabin Vaccine Institute, the Sabin Vaccine Institute Product Development Partnership (Sabin PDP) at Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital recently launched a new vaccine discovery initiative with generous support from the Dr. Gary K. Michelson, M.D. Charitable Foundation, Inc. The initiative will seek to advance lead candidate antigens for ascariasis (roundworm) and trichuriasis (whipworm) infections.. The larger goal is to incorporate them into existing hookworm and schistosomiasis vaccines currently under development at the institute in order to create a “master” vaccine that would work against all four major human helminth infections.
Dr. Peter Hotez, the president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, director of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development and dean of Baylor College of Medicine’s National School of Tropical Medicine, and a favorite of BioNews Texas, has long argued the need for an increased effort in the development of vaccines for these four parasitic worm infections. He commented recently that, “This new initiative opens a potential way forward to alleviate the suffering of millions of people living in extreme poverty worldwide. A vaccine to prevent ascariasis and trichuriasis would be a significant public health advancement, particularly when co-formulated with hookworm and schistosomiasis antigens in a pan-anthelminthic vaccine.”
Dr. Hotez, other members of the team at Sabin, and countless others worldwide, have long argued that infections that fall under the designation of “neglected tropical diseases,” or NTDs for short, have a devastating effect on less-developed nations, and contribute significantly to keeping them in a state of poverty, isolation, and suffering. For example, ascariasis, which is an infection that occurs in the small intestine, affects between 800 and 900 million people worldwide, and causes acute intestinal obstruction in young children with high worm loads who contract the infection. As a result, thousands of children die from the infection each year. Other infections, such as the large intestine infection Trichuriasis, may not kill those that it infects, but afflicts approximately 500 million people throughout the world and is the primary cause ofinflammatory bowel disease in the developing world. Even if NTDs don’t lead to death, they still lead to physical and cognitive growth in children, social stigmas, and deformities, all of which lower life expectancy, productivity, and many other factors that contribute to the growth and well-being of both individuals and society at large.
Dr. Hotez recently testified on Capitol Hill on the importance of an increase in funding and awareness about NTDs — a mantle that Sabin PDP is putting into practice with this new vaccine initiative.
The new vaccine project at Sabin PDP will be comprehensive, including discovery, preclinical evaluation, and early feasibility studies of Ascaris and Trichuris candidate antigens, with the aim of eventually being able to add them to the hookworm and schistosomiasis vaccines, which are currently under development at the institute.