Raising hopes, scientists of the School of Biochemical Engineering of IIT-BHU in collaboration with the Institute of Medical Sciences, BHU have tested a vaccine that halts the progress of the Kala Azar, a neglected tropical disease caused by Leishmania parasite.
Currently there is no vaccine yet available in the market for humans against this disease and the treatment depends on drugs with limitations which is a serious concern towards its complete elimination.
In India which has postponed Kala Azar disease elimination goal thrice with 2025 new deadline, 54 districts in Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal are still affected by the disease with sporadic cases in other states like Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Sikkim, and Uttarakhand.
The scientists including Prof Vikash Kumar Dubey of the School of Biochemical Engineering and Prof Shyam Sundar of the department of medicine, IMS, investigated and tested the new recombinant vaccine on the mice infected with the disease.
Dr Sunita Yadav, a National Postdoctoral Fellow and Prof Dubey who are investigator in the study said that the prophylactic potential of this vaccine was evaluated in preclinical studies in mice model that showed a significant reduction in parasite load in liver and spleen organs of vaccinated infected mice than infected control mice. The research has been recently reported in the prestigious journal “Cellular Immunology”.
“Clearance of the parasite burden in vaccinated challenged mice is correlated with immune response expected in a vaccine candidate,” said Professor Vikash Kumar Dubey. It is a type of defence mechanism that happens in our body after vaccination and helpful for prevention of disease progression.
He said this study provides insight towards the evaluation of vaccine molecules against Leishmania infection. In future, it might be utilised as a vaccine candidate against the pathogen. However, more study is needed to better understand its mode of action. The team next plans to further evaluate its potential in other clinical trials.
As of November 2020, 12 blocks in Jharkhand and 4 blocks in Bihar reported more than 1 case of Kala Azar per 10,000 population. Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal have also managed to significantly achieve their elimination target.
Kala Azar is the 2nd largest parasitic killer in the world after Malaria and results in a 95 percent fatality rate if the patients are not treated. Additionally, up to 20 per cent of the patients who are correctly treated and cured, develop a skin condition called Post-Kala-Azar Dermal Leishmaniasis (PKDL) which surfaces within months to years after treatment. These patients can contain large amounts of parasites in their skin lesions, making them an important source of transmission, Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Health Minister recently pointed out at a meeting held to review the status of the disease.