Sabin Vaccine Institute (Sabin) today announced receipt of a four-year, €5.9 million grant from the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs to support the development of a vaccine to combat human hookworm infection.

Hookworm infection, an intestinal parasitic disease most commonly found in sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America, affects an estimated 600 million people.

The disease is caused by adult hookworm parasites in the intestines that produce blood loss leading to iron-deficiency anemia. Hookworm infection is regarded as a significant contributor to the global burden of iron-deficiency anemia, which disproportionately affects children, women of reproductive age and pregnant women, and results in 841,000 deaths and 35 million disability-adjusted life years lost annually.

“Developing a hookworm vaccine should be a priority for the entire global health community. The association between hookworm infection and impaired physical and cognitive development of children, adverse pregnancy outcomes, and reduced economic output, is enormous,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, President of Sabin and Distinguished Research Professor at The George Washington University. “Hookworm is one of the most devastating infections affecting the world’s poorest people and I thank the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs for their commitment to improving the lives of the world’s most vulnerable populations through development of a human hookworm vaccine. We deeply appreciate this support in addition to critical co-funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Brazilian Ministry of Health.”

The current approach to the control of hookworm infection, which is the best tool available until a vaccine is developed, relies on mass drug administration with one of two benzimidazole anthelminthic drugs —albendazole or mebendazole—but data indicate that annual deworming with benzimidazoles may be less effective for hookworm than for other intestinal parasites. In addition, high rates of mebendazole drug failure have been reported and repeated administration of mebendazole in the same population can lead to diminished efficacy against hookworm, thus raising concerns about the emergence of resistance to this drug.

“Current therapies to treat hookworm infection will aid the global health community in the short-term but given some concerns, development of a vaccine to prevent the onset of infection is our imperative, long-term goal,” said Dr. David Diemert, Director of Clinical Trials at Sabin.

The hookworm infection vaccine that is under development is a recombinant protein-based vaccine for the prevention of disease due to Necator americanus, which accounts for 85% of hookworm cases throughout the world. Children under the age of 10 living in endemic regions will be the principal targets of vaccination because they are at greatest risk of the severe growth, developmental and cognitive impairments that result from the iron-deficiency anemia that is associated with hookworm.

Because hookworm occurs exclusively among the world’s poorest people and there is no traditional developed market for a vaccine, the hookworm vaccine is being developed through an international product development partnership (PDP) called Sabin Vaccine Development. The PDP is comprised of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, The George Washington University, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz, James Cook University, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and Instituto Butantan, among other key collaborating organizations.

Sabin Vaccine Development is focused on creating safe, effective, and low-cost vaccines for tropical infections in developing countries, including hookworm, schistosomiasis, and malaria. The Human Hookworm Vaccine Initiative (HHVI), which aims to reduce human suffering caused by human hookworm through research and development, timely dissemination of results, innovation, and advocacy, is Sabin Vaccine Development’s founding program.

“This generous grant from the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs will allow us to move ahead with product development, manufacture, a preclinical toxicology study, and clinical testing of our hookworm infection vaccine antigens, all necessary steps to ensuring that a low-cost vaccine for human hookworm infection is available and accessible to those who need it most,” said Dr. Ami Shah Brown, Director of Vaccine Operations at Sabin.

About Sabin Vaccine Institute
Sabin Vaccine Institute is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organizations of scientists, researchers, and advocates dedicated to reducing needless human suffering from infectious and neglected tropical diseases through prevention and treatment. Sabin works with governments, academic institutions, scientists, medical professionals, and other non-profit organizations to provide short and long-term solutions for some of the globe’s toughest health care challenges. Since its founding in 1993 in honor of the oral polio vaccine developer, Dr. Albert B. Sabin, the Institute has been at the forefront of global efforts to eliminate, prevent and cure infectious and neglected tropical diseases by developing new vaccines, establishing international networks, and advocating for effective and efficient delivery of preventions and treatments to the world’s poor.

Contact: Eteena Tadjiogueu, Sabin Vaccine Institute, +1 (202) 265-6517, [email protected]