Mandi: Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Mandi have designed a protein-based vaccine against Pork Tapeworm (T. solium).
T. solium is responsible for both intestinal infections and the more severe brain infection that leads to seizures. The World Health Organisation (WHO) identifies the pork tapeworm as a major cause of foodborne deaths, causing substantial disability-adjusted life year losses.
It contributes to 30 per cent of epilepsy cases in developing nations, rising to 45 -50 per cent in areas with poor hygiene and free-roaming pigs.
While the mass administration of deworming drugs such as Albendazole and Praziquantel has been a common approach, it has encountered challenges, including reduced public participation and an increased risk of drug resistance. As a result, this method has not achieved the desired results.
In the paper, published in the Journal of Cellular Biochemistry, the researchers emphasised the urgent need for a vaccine to protect people against the pork tapeworm.
The team also proposed a new method to produce the vaccines that is faster and more effective than the traditional approach.
Traditionally, tapeworm vaccines have been developed using products or antigens derived from tapeworm eggs or larvae. However, these methods are not always reliable and can be time-consuming.
Injecting the entire tapeworm or parts of the tapeworm to kick start the body’s immune system is not a safe or practical approach.
A better and safer method is to inject only specific protein fragments from the tapeworm into the human. This approach minimises side effects and prevents the tapeworm from developing resistance to the vaccine. But, the identification of the right protein fragment with strong vaccination potential is a painstaking and time-consuming process.
To expedite progress, IIT Mandi researchers used a combination of protein studies and bioinformatics to develop a method of selection.
The researchers discovered that the vaccine interacts effectively with immune receptors and should stimulate the body’s defence system efficiently. This research establishes a foundation for developing vaccines against neglected tropical diseases caused by similar parasites in the future.
Further animal and clinical studies are needed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of this promising vaccine candidate.
“First, we identified specific antigens from the cyst fluid of the tapeworm that trigger an immune response by testing them with the blood serum from patients. Then, we analysed these antigens using immune-informatics tools to find safe and effective protein fragments,” said lead author Dr. Amit Prasad, Associate Professor, School of Biosciences and Bioengineering, IIT Mandi, in a statement.
“We combined these fragments to create a multi-part vaccine, taking into account factors such as size, stability, and compatibility with the immune system,” he added.
The amalgamation of protein studies with bioinformatics is a groundbreaking approach for identifying potential protein-based vaccines in a cost-effective and timely manner.
This concentrated effort may provide a new tool for healthcare workers to combat neurocysticercosis and could serve as a model for addressing other neglected tropical diseases.