SYDNEY, Oct. 26 (Xinhua) -- Researchers from the University of Queensland have discovered a new orally-administered vaccine to prevent hookworm infection, a parasite which has caused millions of deaths globally.
The report, released to the public on Tuesday, showed initial trials of the vaccine were twice as effective as existing treatment methods.
Professor Istvan Toth from University of Queensland's School of Chemistry and Molecular Biology said the main draw point of the vaccine would be the fact that it can be delivered as a tablet, liquid or powder, meaning it could easily be distributed to developing countries.
"Our vaccine candidate can be orally self-administered, bypassing the need for trained medical staff, and means there's no requirement for special storage, enabling it to reach large, isolated populations," said Toth.
It is estimated that around half a billion people worldwide are infected with some form of hookworm parasite, primarily people living in tropical and subtropical areas such as sub-Saharan Africa, the Americas, China and East Asia.
Its harm is exacerbated in developing nations where water quality, sanitation and hygiene are lowest.
Research from Stanford University estimated that the disease is responsible for 65,000 deaths every year, but the brunt of its impact is in its stunting of children's development and instances of miscarriage in women.
Initial trials of the new vaccine being developed by UQ showed a 94 percent reduction in worm levels in mice, compared with 30 to 50 percent reduction delivered in current treatments.
"Our vaccine produces antibodies against the hookworm enzymes responsible for the digestion of blood - they simply stop being able to eat properly," said co-author on the paper Dr Mariusz Skwarczynski.
Dr. Toth told Xinhua that while the vaccine's development has not been a priority due to COVID-19, he and his team hopes to move to human trials as soon as possible.
He said that once on the market, the vaccine's compound is likely to be one of the cheapest and most accessible treatments available.