Côte d’Ivoire: Onchocerciasis vaccine tested in five years, say researchers

Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire (PANA) – Researchers at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, could in five years test the first vaccine against onchocerciasis, says a communiqué received by PANA on Monday.

The researchers have reached an important milestone in the development of the vaccine against onchocerciasis (river blindness), which affects about 17 million people all over the world, the communiqué said.

Tests have enabled them to identify the three components of the potential vaccines which could offer protection against the parasite responsible for river blindness. Scientists hope to submit at least one of the potential vaccines for security tests in 2020, then tests on its efficiency in 2025.  

The current fight against onchocerciasis is based on the mass distribution of a single drug called Ivermectin, also known as Mectizan, which has succeeded in reducing the prevalence of the disease everywhere it has been used.

However, children under-five years, including 20% of the population in the endemic regions, are excluded from the Ivermectin treatment.

The researchers hope to be able to administer a vaccine to children within the framework of national vaccination programmes.

More than 90% of the cases of river blindness, listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as neglected tropical disease, are reported in West and Central Africa.

About 10% of the victims have problems with their eyes, 1% become blind and 70% show very severe cutaneous diseases that can lead to social exclusion.

River blindness is an infection caused by the Onchocerca parasite worm volvulus and is transmitted by black flies which develop in rivers.

The research initiative, the anti-onchocerciasis vaccines in Africa (TOVA), was launched in response to the London Declaration on neglected tropical diseases which require eradication of river blindness in Africa.

TOVA is the result of 30 years of researches carried out by university professors and Edinburgh University in Africa, Europe and the United States and brings together 15 organizations in five countries.

The partners are Liverpool University, Imperial College of London, Glasgow University, Cameroon’s Sciences Academy and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana.

The main researcher, Professor David W. Taylor, in 1981 undertook researchers on the causes of river blindness.

He said that the new knowledge on the way which the parasites regulate the immune responses guided the development of experimental vaccines.

"A vaccine against river blindness would come and increase the existing treatments and improve significantly the perspectives to eradicate that disease in Africa," he said.
-0- PANA BAL/JSG/MSA/MA 11Jan2016

11 january 2016 10:30:58

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