Tapeworm vaccine helps pigs and humans

17 March 2010

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Category: Research & medical benefits

invitro–tapeworm.jpgA new vaccine successfully blocks tapeworm infection in pigs, helping to break the cycle of infection between pigs and humans.

Tapeworm is a parasite that can grow up to 10 metres, and can live inside the human body for several years. However, the tapeworm eggs, which hatch in the intestine and travel to the brain, can cause the brain disease neurocysticercosis. This disease may make a person more prone to seizures and epilepsy.

Scientists developed the pig vaccine based on the cycle of infection between humans and pigs. They saw that pigs became infected when they came into contact with human faeces containing the parasite. Humans would then feed on undercooked pig meat resulting in a repeat infection. Developing countries with poor sanitation are particularly vulnerable to this cycle, as humans and pigs can often live in close contact.

The team of researchers first treated 240 piglets with drugs that killed off any parasites from before the study. They introduced the vaccine into half of them, and after 14 months, none of the vaccinated pigs showed signs of infection whereas 20 of the control pigs harboured live parasites.

This research will benefit both pigs and humans. With the pig vaccine, tapeworm infection is blocked in humans who rely on and live in close proximity to the pigs. It also has the added bonus of reducing the need for a vaccine in humans.