Global initiative to advance river blindness vaccine

Global initiative to advance river blindness vaccine

A cross-section of an adult female worm containing the larvae that causes river blindness.

Researchers at the University of Liverpool, together with UK and international partners, have launched a new global initiative to advance the development of a vaccine for river blindness.

Onchocerciasis, or river blindness, is a parasitic disease caused by a nematode worm and transmitted through the bite of blackflies. An estimated 17 million people are infected with more than 99% of these cases spread through 31 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Infections can lead to blindness, but over 70% of infected individuals will suffer from an eruptive skin disease which can be severe and debilitating, with a particularly serious negative impact on the lives of women.

Over 30 years of research

The new partnership, called The Onchocerciasis Vaccine for Africa Initiative (TOVA), involves 14 international organisations, including the University of Edinburgh, the University of Glasgow, Imperial College London and the Sabin Vaccine Institute Product Development Partnership.

The Initiative builds on over 30 years of research by partner laboratories in Africa, Europe and the United States. This involved the development of preclinical models, as well as detailed immunological investigations of human infections, which ultimately led to the identification of several protective antigens as lead vaccine candidates.

Dr Benjamin Makepeace, from the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Infection and Global Health, said: “As part of this important global initiative, we plan to take one vaccine candidate to a phase one safety trial by 2017 and phase two efficacy trials by 2020.

“Following successful trials, this would be the world’s first vaccine for this long-neglected disease and will help us eradicate the parasite from the African continent.”

Future plans

The longer-term plan is to administer an onchocerciasis vaccine to children as part of national immunisation programme.

Vaccination aims to complement the current use of a drug called ivermectin, particularly in regions where mass drug administration cannot be implemented for safety reasons, and could make a major contribution to eliminating one of the most serious public health risks for African communities.

More information on TOVA can be found in an editorial by Dr Benjamin Makepeace and colleagues and on the TOVA website.

Researchers to evaluate local green health programme

Researchers to evaluate local green health programme

Local green healthA green health and well-being programme launched in Liverpool, St Helens and Sefton will be evaluated by researchers at the University of Liverpool.

The Mersey Forest Nature4Health programme, funded by the National Lottery, plans to use the power of nature to help improve people’s minds and bodies.

The programme will include woodland walks, therapeutic gardening and practical conservation sessions to increase heart rate. It will also offer the evidence-based taught meditation technique of mindfulness in a natural setting.

Key recommendation

Dr Catrin Eames, from the University’s Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, who is part of the evaluation team, said: “Time spent in natural environments can improve physical and mental health, and is a key recommendation of the 2014 All-Party Parliamentary Group on Wellbeing Economics to improve health and wellbeing within our cities.

“By exploring the natural environment as therapeutic interventions, we can evaluate their benefits in reducing the impact of health inequality, chronic ill health and stress.

“Nature4Health is an innovative programme, with real impact within communities in accessing and developing local green space as wellbeing hubs.

“We will be working with MerseyForest to evaluate the benefits of the programme in terms of mental health and wellbeing, and particularly evaluating mindfulness-based interventions within the natural environment in enhancing and maintaining positive change and outcome. “

Healthier and happier

Paul Nolan, Director of the Mersey Forest, said: “There’s a wealth of evidence that being out in woodlands and green spaces makes us healthier and happier. This programme will enable people to enjoy their local green spaces and get fitter at the same time.”

Physical Activity Exchange at Liverpool John Moores University will also study the new programme to see how it impacts on people’s health.

Nature4Health sessions will be available in Colliers Moss, St.Helens; Mab Lane, Liverpool; Dam Wood, Croxteth Park, Liverpool; Bootle South Recreation Ground, Sefton; Rimrose Country Park, Sefton with further venues to be announced.

World’s biggest veterinary parasitology conference comes to Liverpool

World’s biggest veterinary parasitology conference comes to Liverpool

Parasitology conference liverpoolThe world’s biggest veterinary parasitology conference will be hosted by University of Liverpool researchers this month, which will see delegates from more than 56 countries travel to the city.

In its 25th year, the WAAVP 2015 conference has more than 30 sponsors, exhibitors and university suppliers in attendance. It will be co-chaired by the University’s Professor Diana Williams and Emeritus Professor Lord Sandy Trees.

Delegates will hear from some of the most influential individuals within the field of veterinary parasitology with plenary speakers including Lord Robert May, Professor Janet Hemingway, Professor Wendy Brown and Professor Tim Anderson.

‘Looking to the future’

Professor Williams said: “The overarching theme of this year’s conference is ‘looking to the future’, a theme which enables us to highlight new technologies and scientific approaches and consider how they can be applied to some of the intractable problems veterinary parasitologists face.”

The conference, which takes place at ACC Liverpool, has 11 themes running through the five days, including drugs and drug resistance, climate change and epidemiology and novel technologies.

The opening ceremony will be held on Monday 17th August with a keynote address from Lord Robert May who will discuss ‘Parasites in a Changing World’.

For full details of the conference please visit

Food Standard Agency reveals Campylobacter in third of supermarket chicken

Food Standard Agency reveals Campylobacter in third of supermarket chicken

Poultry value chainPaul Wigley, Professor of Avian Infection and Immunity at the University of Liverpool, said: “The results of the FSA study are of little surprise. Campylobacter infection is endemic in chicken production and similar levels are found in other EU countries with large poultry industries.

“Although the FSA and poultry producers take the problem seriously, the biology of this bug makes its control extremely difficult. Whilst a few hundred bacteria can make someone ill, chickens may carry many millions of the bug with relatively little disease.

“Our understanding of the behaviour of the bacterium in the environment and how its spreads into chicken production are poorly understood and despite its importance we know surprisingly little of how it behaves in the chicken.

“The controls that have been very successful in reducing Salmonella levels in chicken including good hygiene practice and biosecurity are less effective for Campylobacter. Most importantly we do not have a vaccine for Campylobacter, something which has been key to the reduction of Salmonella in chicken production over the last 20 years.

“We clearly know the extent of the problem and that the bug is common in all forms of chicken production including organic and free range production.  Whilst some of the solutions, such as surface chilling, may be beneficial in the short term, longer term we need investment in more effective controls, such as vaccines.

“In the meantime the advice on handling and cooking poultry from FSA should be followed to reduce the risk from this nasty bug.”

Full article can be viewed by clicking here

Genomic data reveals emergence in Africa of drug resistant strain of typhoid

Genomic data reveals emergence in Africa of drug resistant strain of typhoid


The University of Liverpool and Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, in partnership with the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, have revealed the emergence of a novel strain of Typhoid fever in Malawi, Africa.

The team has completed two genomics studies on the tropical disease, a condition that is estimated to cause up to 30 million illnesses and over a quarter of a million deaths globally each year.

The first study, published in the journal Nature Genetics, suggests that the H58-strain, which is likely to have emerged in Asia approximately thirty years ago, is now rapidly spreading across Africa, where it has been introduced on several separate occasions. A key feature of this strain appears to be its ability to acquire resistance to commonly available antibiotics.

Genetic package

Dr Melita Gordon, from the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Infection and Global Health, said: “Importantly, the antibiotic resistance genes, which have previously been carried on a separate genetic package, have now been incorporated into the main chromosome of the bacteria itself, which is likely to make it easier for the Typhoid strain to retain these resistance genes.”

Data from the microbiology laboratory at the Malawi-Liverpool-Wellcome Trust Major Overseas Programme, where bloodstream infections have been monitored for 18 years, show that an epidemic of Typhoid fever began in Malawi in 2011.

In a related study, published in the journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, the team has investigated the epidemic and the re-emergence of the disease in Malawi by studying the genomes of the bacteria.

Large epidemic

Genomic data from the Malawi strains reveals that up until 2009 no H58 strains were found, and other local strains of Salmonella Typhi were fully sensitive to the antibiotics used locally.

After 2010, a large number of different strains, however, appeared in Blantyre, competing for dominance. H58 emerged as the most successful strain, triggering a large epidemic in which up to 800 cases occurred per year, with a 3% case fatality.

Dr Nick Feasey, from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine said: “The rise of antibiotic resistance among Salmonellae in Africa is a major threat and concern. Not only does it mean that individuals cannot always be effectively treated, but it also appears to make global spread and large epidemics more likely.”

Liverpool scientists are now conducting further work at the Malawi-Liverpool-Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Programme, funded by a £4 million Strategic Award from the Wellcome Trust, as part of a team led by the University of Oxford Vaccine Group, to investigate the best ways to use future vaccines to halt the spread of multidrug resistant Typhoid fever in Africa.

View this article at the IGH News section by clicking here

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