IIT Mandi researchers propose a protein-based vaccine against pork tapeworm

The team has combined protein studies and bioinformatics to identify safe and effective protein fragments for the vaccine

Indian Institute of Technology Mandi researchers, led by Dr Amit Prasad, Associate Professor, School of Biosciences and Bioengineering, has made strides in the development of vaccines against the pork tapeworm (T. solium).

This tapeworm is responsible for both intestinal infections and the more severe brain infection that leads to seizures. Their research, conducted in collaboration with scientists from Dayanand Medical College and Hospital in Punjab and the CSIR-Institute for Himalayan Bioresource Technology in Himachal Pradesh, presents a novel, faster, and more effective approach to producing vaccines for challenging infectious diseases.

Traditionally, tapeworm vaccines have been developed using products or antigens derived from tapeworm eggs or larvae. However, these methods are not always reliable and can be time-consuming. Injecting the entire tapeworm or parts of the tape worm to kick start the body’s immune system is not a safe or practical approach. A better and safer method is to inject only specific protein fragments from the tapeworm into the human. This approach minimises side effects and prevents the tapeworm from developing resistance to the vaccine.

The identification of the right protein fragment with strong vaccination potential is a painstaking and time-consuming process. The IIT Mandi researchers used a combination of protein studies and bio-informatics to develop a method of selection.

Elaborating on their research, Dr Prasad said, “First, we identified specific antigens from the cyst fluid of the tapeworm that trigger an immune response by testing them with the blood serum from patients. Then, we analysed these antigens using immune-informatics tools to find safe and effective protein fragments. We combined these fragments to create a multi-part vaccine, taking into account factors such as size, stability, and compatibility with the immune system.”

The researchers discovered that the vaccine interacted effectively with immune receptors and should stimulate the body’s defense system efficiently. This research establishes a foundation for developing vaccines against neglected tropical diseases caused by similar parasites in the future. Further animal and clinical studies are needed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of this promising vaccine candidate.

The amalgamation of protein studies with bioinformatics is a novel approach for identifying potential protein-based vaccines in a cost-effective and timely manner. This concentrated effort may provide a new tool for healthcare workers to combat neurocysticercosis and could serve as a model for addressing other neglected tropical diseases.

brain infectionCSIR-Institute for Himalayan Bioresource TechnologyIIT MandiIndian Institute of Technologyinfectious diseasesneurocysticercosispork tapewormpork tapeworm vaccinetapeworm vaccines
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