The Sabin Vaccine Institute Product Development Partnership and a European consortium of partners is testing the first-ever hookworm vaccine in Gabon.
Human hookworm infection is one of the leading causes of iron-deficiency anemia (IDA), especially in impoverished countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia and Oceania. Hookworms are parasitic worms that attach to the inside of the intestines of children and women, extracting blood.
In 2013, IDA took more lives worldwide than ovarian cancer, according to the institute.
The Sabin Vaccine Institute is working with the HOOKVAC consortium to deliver the vaccine.
Based at the Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development, HOOKVAC is funded by the European Union, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Michelson Medical Research Foundation.
Through HOOKVAC, the vaccine is now in clinical testing in Gabon where more than 25 percent of the population is infected with hookworms.
Several factors contribute to IDA, including dietary deficiencies and iron losses through menstruation and pregnancy. Although treatments are available to remove hookworms, the medicines do not always work well. Even when they do work, they do not prevent hookworm reinfection.
In addition to clinical trials, the HOOKVAC consortium has been identifying partners in the pharmaceutical industry that can take on the production of the human hookworm vaccine, some of which are in India, Brazil and other middle-income countries that have rapid technology growth.