The first industrially produced vaccine against porcine cysticercosis is eagerly anticipated as a result of a new partnership between GALVmed, Indian Immunologicals Limited (IIL) and the University of Melbourne.
The tapeworm Taenia solium is a human parasite with the intermediate host being the pig. Globally, the parasite is estimated to cause 50 million human cases of taeniasis (infection with adult tapeworms) and cysticercosis, and 50,000 deaths a year in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
In people, the tapeworm eggs develop into cysts and when located in muscles this can cause cysticercosis which presents as muscle swelling and later progresses to atrophy and fibrosis. When located in the central nervous system, these cysts cause neurocysticercosis which is considered to be the most common parasitic infection of the human nervous system and the most frequent preventable cause of epilepsy in the developing world.
Neurocysticercosis is characterized by seizures, psychiatric disturbance, hydrocephalus, other neurologic conditions and sometimes death.
Taeniasis/cysticercosisis is one of only a handful of diseases that are considered to be potentially eradicable. Nevertheless, it is on the list of the World Health Organisation (WHO) neglected diseases because in most endemic countries there is inadequate information and awareness about the extent of the problem, lack of suitable diagnostics and management capacity, and limited availability of appropriate prevention and control tools and strategies.
GALVmed, the Edinburgh-based charity that works toward making animal health products available and accessible to livestock keepers in the developing world, has announced the signing of an agreement that brings together the University of Melbourne and Indian Immunologicals Limited (IIL) in a work programme to develop industrial production processes and produce a pig vaccine for porcine cysticercosis based on the TSOL-18 antigen.
TSOL-18 was identified by a group led by Professor Marshall Lightowlers, Principal Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne, in the late 1990s. It is a protein in the oncosphere of T. solium and has been shown to be very effective as a vaccine antigen for pigs. Trials around the world including Mexico, Peru and Cameroon have demonstrated a high efficacy in protecting pigs against infection with the parasite.
Professor Marshall Lightowlers commented:
A trial of the TSOL-18 vaccine in a region of Cameroon that is highly endemic for T. solium achieved the complete elimination of the parasite’s transmission, suggesting that the vaccine could play a vital role in controlling the parasite and reducing the incidence of human neurocysticercosis.
The partnership between GALVmed, IIL and the University of Melbourne means that for the first time, the vaccine can be commercially developed and produced on a large scale.
K V Balasubramaniam, Managing Director of IIL said:
Although India is not a real market for swine vaccines, we agreed to partner on this project as an expression of support to GALVmed to develop affordable vaccines for orphan diseases in the developing and the least developed world.
GALVmed is proud of bringing those partners together as part of its cysticercosis programme, currently funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK Government’s Department for International Development.
Dr Baptiste Dungu, GALVmed’s Senior Director of Research & Development explains:
“This partnership is a good of example of GALVmed’s approach: building on the most promising research leads and leveraging the expertise and facilities of the veterinary pharmaceutical industry to bring products to the market that meet the needs of poor livestock keepers. We are delighted to have brought these partners together: they are leaders in their field of expertise, and are showing their commitment to addressing the issues related to poverty alleviation.”
Notes for Editors:
GALVmed (the Global Alliance of Livestock Veterinary Medicines), aims to protect livestock and saving human lives and livelihoods by making livestock vaccines, diagnostics and medicines accessible and affordable to the millions in developing countries for whom livestock is a lifeline. It is a UK-based charity with regional offices in Africa and India and is principally funded by the UK Government’s Department for International Development and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Indian Immunologicals Ltd is one of the top three players in the Indian animal health market, and the market leader in veterinary biologicals. As a subsidiary company of the National Dairy Development Board, IIL is involved in the research and development of vaccines for diseases in the developing world and markets them at truly affordable prices. IIL operates one of the largest plants in the world for Foot & Mouth Disease and other veterinary vaccines.
University of Melbourne
The University of Melbourne has been an international leader in research, teaching and learning for more than 150 years. Ranked 37th in the world by the Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings, Melbourne is the highest ranked university in Australia. At Melbourne, more than 6500 staff support a vibrant student community of more than 49,000, including about 12,200 international students from 129 countries.