Mosquitoes may seem unlikely nowadays to cause a worldwide epidemic. But the fact of the matter is, they are now near to achieving one, and the scare is still very real even as you read this article.
To this end, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) have launched the first phase of clinical trials that is aimed to definitively erase mosquito-borne diseases on this planet, once and for all.
Facing the Medium, Not the Cause
The main objective of the phase 1 clinical trials is to test a newly developed investigational vaccine that is “intended to provide broad protection against a range of mosquito-transmitted diseases, such as Zika, malaria, West Nile fever and dengue fever”. This also includes hindering the transmission medium to prevent the infections from occurring in the first place.
The breakthrough vaccine in question is named AGS-v. It was developed by the London-based SEEK, a pharmaceutical company that is currently conducting a joint venture with the also London-based clinical research organization hVIVO.
Vaccines typically target a specific virus with a weakened strain for the human immune system to develop resistance with. AGS-v however, works by “teaching” the human body to trigger its immune system whenever it detects the presence of mosquito saliva in the body. This way, regardless of the type of infection carried, the human body will always trigger an automated response, thus being able to anticipate ahead of any oncoming viral threat.
AGS-v uses four synthesized proteins from mosquito salivary glands. The researchers plan to use the proteins to trigger the production of antibodies designed for the previously mentioned medical objectives.
The End of the Mosquito Nightmare?
It is perhaps not an overstatement that the level of success these trials will have would ultimately determine the entire human race’s future against mosquitoes. If it does prove highly efficient, it may signal not only the termination of the dreaded Zika virus outbreak, but possibly ridding the world of every mosquito-borne disease. Given enough prevalence and availability, it will be just like how smallpox was ultimately eradicated by the late 20th century.
Aside from the regularly scheduled trials on participants ages 18 to 50 years, tests on the mosquito subjects themselves are also to be conducted. This is to observe if the mosquitoes, having ingested the vaccinated blood, would experience permanent behavioral and physiological changes. The researchers want to test if the AGS-v vaccine can also be effectively used for mosquito population control.
The clinical trials are expected to completed by mid-2018. For more details about the upcoming experiments, please refer to the official report here.