Vaccine and drug research aimed at ticks and mosquitoes to prevent disease transmission

Dec 02, 2008

Most successful vaccines and drugs rely on protecting humans or animals by blocking certain bacteria from growing in their systems. But, a new theory actually hopes to take stopping infectious diseases such as West Nile virus and Malaria to the next level by disabling insects from transmitting these viruses. Research to be presented at the 57th American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) annual meeting in New Orleans, explains how vaccines and drugs may not only be able to stop disease transmission, but also prematurely kill the vectors carrying these diseases; such vectors include ticks, sand flies and mosquitoes – the insects responsible for most deaths world wide.

"In order to successfully slow the transmission rate of these potentially fatal diseases, we need to reduce the lifespan of the vector, or block them from becoming infected in the first place," explains Brian Foy, Ph.D., at Colorado State University. "One of our goals is to curtail the spread of mosquito-borne diseases through strategic use of compounds, known as endectocides, to target hosts. This new strategy will make blood meals from humans lethal to mosquitoes so they die before they can transmit a disease." Endectocides are currently mass administered to human populations to control the worm parasites that cause river blindness and are widely used in animals for worm control.

Professor Foy says that thanks to new technologies using genomics, scientists can now sift through vector genomes to more quickly and accurately find protein targets, which can then aid in the development of more specified drugs and vaccines.

A vaccine developed using functional genomics is already in early stages for cattle, whose production is greatly affected by tick-borne diseases. Katherine Kocan, Ph.D., at Oklahoma State University, concentrates her research on tick vaccines and anaplasmosis, a tick-transmitted disease of cattle that infects the red blood cells, causing mild to severe anemia and often death. "Even if the cow doesn't die," explains Professor Kocan, "the bacteria serve as a continued source of infection for cows and ticks. We are working on a vaccine to target tick-protective genes, so when ticks feed on immunized cattle, the vaccine antibodies interfere directly with the biology of the tick and its feeding pattern which results in reduced tick populations." The vaccine model being developed for cattle, which we call a dual target vaccine approach because both ticks and tick-borne pathogens are targeted, will likely be applicable to other ticks and the bacteria that they transmit.

According to Professor Foy, this theory of vaccine and drug development would offer many advantages over currently-used mosquito and tick-borne disease control measures: it would be more targeted than environmental spraying of insecticides; proper application would kill older frequently-biting insects and interrupt disease transmission; resistance would be slower to develop; and there may be little cross-resistance from agricultural applications.

Source: American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene

Explore further: US orders farms to report pig virus infections

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Ticks kill sheep

Nov 13, 2013

In some lamb herds, a mortality rate of 30 percent has been recorded, albeit, no predators have been involved in these losses. The situation is so serious that the sheep industry could be under threat. It ...

Recommended for you

US orders farms to report pig virus infections

14 hours ago

The U.S. government is starting a new program to help monitor and possibly control the spread of a virus that has killed millions of pigs since showing up in the country last year.

Foreigner dies of MERS in Saudi

14 hours ago

A foreigner has died after she contracted MERS in the Saudi capital, the health ministry said on announced Friday, bringing the nationwide death toll to 73.

Vietnam battles fatal measles outbreak

18 hours ago

Vietnam is scrambling to contain a deadly outbreak of measles that has killed more than 100 people, mostly young children, and infected thousands more this year, the government said Friday.

New clues on tissue scarring in scleroderma

19 hours ago

A discovery by Northwestern Medicine scientists could lead to potential new treatments for breaking the cycle of tissue scarring in people with scleroderma.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Treating depression in Parkinson's patients

A group of scientists from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging has found interesting new information in a study on depression and neuropsychological function in Parkinson's ...

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...