A modest advance in vaccine development throws light on the billion people who suffer from awful diseases officially dubbed “neglected”. Paul Biegler dives deep into the nightmarish world of sicknesses few researchers are trying to cure.

Researchers have made a significant advance in the development of a vaccine for hookworm, a so-called “neglected tropical disease” (NTD) that affects up to three quarters of a billion people and is a leading global cause of anaemia.

A team, led by Jill Brelsford at George Washington University, developed a technique to monitor the potency of the vaccine during refrigerated storage – critical information for vaccines that need a prolonged shelf-life in developing countries.

The research, published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, had two parts.

First, the researchers showed that, over a five year period the vaccine maintained its ability to elicit an antibody response in both mice and human volunteers. But the team went further, developing an assay to measure how well the antibody neutralises an enzyme the hookworm uses to, essentially, go on a blood-sucking frenzy in the intestine of its human host.

Read the full article in Cosmos magazine here