Monday, 15 May 2017

The Low Cost Meningococcal ACYWX Conjugate Vaccine: A Boon For The Developing World

Meningitis is the inflammation of the membranes that outline your brain and spinal cord. These membranes are called meninges, therefore, giving the illness, its name - “meningitis”. While viral meningitis is the most common, bacterial meningitis is more consequential. Lack of timely treatment can cause paralysis, stroke, seizures, sepsis, and even death. The symptoms of bacterial meningitis can begin quickly, sometimes as quick as in a couple of hours. In cases of development of the disease, one experiences nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, confusion and a rash of purple discoloration. There are several cases of bacterial meningitis –
1.) Streptococcus pneumoniae, also called pneumococcus
2.) Neisseria meningitidis, also called meningococcus
3.) Haemophilus influenzae type B, also called Hib
4.) Listeria monocytogenes
5.) Group B streptococcus
6.) E. coli

Amongst the leading causes of bacterial meningitis is “Neisseria meningitidis”; causes pneumonia, sepsis and other such infectious manifestations. The invasive disease affects 50,000 to 1.2 million people and is responsible for 135,000 deaths annually. As in the case of other infectious diseases, the majority of disease burden lies in developing countries. This includes meningococcal countries in the African meningitis belt, regions in South-East Asia as well as in the United States of America. Meningitis is also prevalent in Europe, the Eastern Mediterranean region and in Saudi Arabia. The recorded incidence of the endemic meningococcal disease is relatively low in India but such cases have occasionally appeared in the last 100 years. The disease is deadly and is contagious in people with close contact and can spread through coughing and sneezing. A person develops bacterial meningitis when bacteria gets into the bloodstream from the sinuses, ears or other parts of the upper respiratory tract.

There are 13 serogroups, but the majority of invasive meningococcal infections are caused by organisms from the A, B, C, X, Y, or W serogroups. While polyvalent conjugate vaccines targeting serogroups A, C, Y and W, are available, they are too expensive and therefore not widely used in developing countries due to affordability and accessibility issues. There are currently no low-cost polyvalent conjugate vaccines in the market that cover all five A, C, Y, W and X serogroups. Therefore, Hilleman Laboratories is currently working on a low - cost meningococcal ACYWX conjugate vaccine which provides protection against five types of serogroups. Researchers adopted a two- pronged strategy to develop low-cost combination vaccine for the treatment of invasive meningococcal disease.

“The role of the formulation in the vaccine scenario in terms of accessibility, affordability, and acceptability, besides the contribution in bridging the immunization gap in the country would also be assessed,” says Dr. Davinder Gill, CEO of Hilleman Laboratories. Developing Countries with high endemicity place an immense strain on the public healthcare system. The disease includes long-term risk of cognitive deficit, bilateral hearing loss, motor deficit, seizures, visual impairment, and loss of limbs due to tissue necrosis; the highest risks in low-income countries, where the burden of bacterial meningitis is greatest.

The novel cost Meningioccocal - ACYWX conjugate vaccine has the potential to significantly reduce costs and create new intellectual property allowing developing country manufacturers undertake more conjugate vaccine development projects. Technical success of the vaccines has been demonstrated in animal models. With accessibility and affordability issues in low-income countries, the vaccine could prove to be a boon for the developing nation.


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Hilleman Laboratories is a global vaccine research & development organization focused on making affordable vaccines using innovation to address gaps that exist in low resource settings. Hilleman Labs acts as a catalyst in bridging the gap between academic research and product development by targeting novel vaccines and increasing the efficiency of existing vaccines. Know More

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