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Global Collaboration to Help Prevent Epilepsy

by 5m Editor
14 November 2011, at 11:34am

GLOBAL - 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 in 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.

5m Editor