By Barry Eitel
SAN FRANCISCO (AA) – Scientists announced Tuesday they would begin human trials of a vaccine that protects against mosquito saliva and as a result might ward off all diseases carried by the insects.
If successful, the vaccine could prevent diseases ranging from the Zika virus to malaria to dengue fever to West Nile.
The investigational AGS-v vaccine was created by the London-based pharmaceutical company SEEK. The phase 1 clinical trial will be conducted in Maryland by The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) —part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The first study will follow as many as 60 healthy adults aged 18-50 and scientists are currently seeking participants.
“Mosquitoes cause more human disease and death than any other animal,” NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci said in a statement. “A single vaccine capable of protecting against the scourge of mosquito-borne diseases is a novel concept that, if proven successful, would be a monumental public health advance.”
AGS-v works by targeting the saliva of mosquitoes as opposed to a specific disease. Each injection includes four synthetic proteins that mimic those found in the saliva.
Theoretically, the manmade proteins will cause the immune system of vaccinated patients to create antibodies that will ward off infections transmitted via a mosquito bite.
The World Health Organization estimates millions of victims die each year from diseases transmitted by mosquitoes.
“In 2015, malaria alone caused 438,000 deaths,” according to a statement from Michelle Rose, the principal consultant at Halloran, which provided regulatory advice to SEEK. “Outbreaks of Zika virus disease have been reported in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific. Since 2015, 62 countries and territories have reported mosquito transmitted Zika virus.”