First hookworm vaccine enters clinical trials

Hookworms are not good things to have--they arrive through the skin and leave via the gut, and while they are around, they lead to malnutrition and blood loss. As I said, not good. The Infectious Disease Research Institute (IDRI) is working with the Sabin Vaccine Institute on the first clinical trial of a hookworm vaccine to protect people at risk of infection.

Hookworms are small parasitic roundworms that get into the body through the skin, causing itching and skin damage, and then travel through the blood to the lungs, climb up the windpipe (or get coughed up), are swallowed, and then travel down through the gut to the small intestine, where they attach and feed on human blood. They then exit the body via the feces and go on to infect someone else.

The Sabin Vaccine Institute has developed a vaccine, based on the Na-GST-1 antigen, and IDRI has contributed its proprietary GLA-AF adjuvant, which could potentially improve the immune response and reduce the amount of vaccine required, keeping costs low. The trial is under way in Brazil, conducted by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (FIOCRUZ) of the Brazilian Ministry of Health.

"After more than 10 years of research and development work and with the help of Sabin's PDP partners, especially our partners in Brazil, we are about to show that it's possible to produce a vaccine candidate using a relatively low-cost model. We are filling a gap to produce a vaccine for underrepresented populations, where no traditional commercial market currently exists," said Peter Hotez, president and director of the Sabin Vaccine Institute.

Hookworms are most common in the tropics and subtropics in Africa, Asia and Latin America, which include regions already struggling with disease and malnutrition. Combating hookworms with a simple vaccination could help to free up funding for investment into infrastructure and reduce dependence on international aid.

- read the press release