The World Health Organization (WHO) has considered tuberculosis (Tb) a global emergency for 15 years. Tb claims a staggering 1.7 million lives and newly infects 8.9 million people every year, making it the leading cause of mortality by an infectious disease, after HIV. In New Zealand there are approximately 350 notifications of Tb cases per year.
Hookworm is a leading cause of maternal and child fatalities in developing countries. Once in a host, hookworms suck blood voraciously from the walls of the small intestine causing significant risk of anaemia, a decrease in red blood cells, and loss of iron and protein in the gut. The current approach to controlling hookworm involves frequent use of anthelmintic drugs in school-age children. However, high rates of re-infection occur soon after treatment and there is evidence of emerging drug resistance.
How the Malaghan Institute is tackling TB and human hookworm
Highly lethal outbreaks of extensively drug resistant tuberculosis (TB) and evidence of emerging drug resistance in hookworm control, have highlighted the need for more effective therapies to control these diseases.
The Malaghan Institute's Parasitology team, led by Prof Graham Le Gros, believe the only long-term solution to controlling infectious disease is through vaccination, and are using well established models of parasite infection in combination with cytokine and cell knockout mouse models to achieve this goal.
Complementing this research is a TB drug discovery platform involving Dr Bridget Stocker's Immunoglycomics Group.
The knowledge and technologies emerging from these research programmes will provide valuable insight into which cytokines and cells need to be targeted both for vaccine design and testing of vaccine efficacy in the field.
This work represents an important New Zealand contribution to the global vaccine initiatives against tuberculosis and human hookworm.
Foundation for Research, Science & Technology, Health Research Council of New Zealand, Maurice Wilkins Centre, New Zealand Lottery Health Research, The Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden Fund, University of Otago, Wellington Medical Research Foundation