Mosquito spit might be a universal vaccine ‘Holy Grail’ – preventing everything from malaria to Zika

| | June 24, 2020
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Lab technician Nhek Sreynik dissects mosquitoes. Credit: Reuters/Chantha Lach
This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

Her idea revolved around mosquito spit. 

Building on the work of colleagues and other scientists, [Jessica] Manning, a clinical researcher for the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, believed she could use pieces of mosquito saliva protein to build a universal vaccine.

The vaccine, if it pans out, would protect against all of the pathogens the insects inject into humans – malaria, dengue, chikungunya, Zika, yellow fever, West Nile, Mayaro viruses and anything else that may emerge.

“We need more innovative tools,” said Manning. A vaccine like this would be “the Holy Grail.”

On [June 18], The Lancet published the initial results of this work with her colleagues: the first-ever clinical trial of a mosquito spit vaccine in humans.

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The trial showed that an Anopheles mosquito-based vaccine was safe and that it triggered antibody and cellular responses.

What Manning is looking for is called a vector-based vaccine. A vector is the living organism – like a mosquito – that transmits a pathogen such as malaria – between humans, or from animals to humans.

All existing vaccines for humans target a pathogen. Manning’s goes after the vector.

The idea is to train the body’s immune system to recognize the saliva proteins and mount a response that would weaken or prevent an infection.

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