Schistosomiasis vaccine development: approaches and prospects.
Mounting evidence for acquired immunity to schistosomiasis in humans supports the case for immunological intervention. On the other hand, rapid reinfection poses a threat to younger age groups due to the slow maturation of natural resistance. However, rational approaches, based on advances in immunology and molecular biology, have substantially increased the odds of producing an effective vaccine. Since the parasite cannot replicate in the human host and serious morbidity generally occurs only after a relatively long period of heavy worm burden, complete protection against infection is not essential. The chances of success would increase if more than one of the various host/parasite interphases were targeted, for example reducing morbidity through decreased worm loads as well as through suppression of egg production. Several promising schistosome antigens have now reached an advanced phase of development and are currently undergoing independent confirmatory testing according to a standardized protocol. A few molecules are being contemplated for scaled-up production but, so far, only one has reached the stage of industrial manufacture and safety testing. Since schistosomiasis cannot realistically be controlled by a single approach, vaccination is envisaged to be implemented in conjunction with other means of control, notably chemotherapy.
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