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The tissue worm disease onchocerciasis is spread over many African countries. The worms dwell in nodules underneath the skin und produce numerous larvae, which fan out all over the skin including the eye where they ultimately cause blindness. Therefore, and because of the breeding sites of the transmitting insects, the disease is called river blindness.
Based on an analysis of serum samples from persons who appear naturally immune to onchocerciasis, we have assembled a cocktail of worm proteins that, in a mouse model, function as a vaccine. We now construct a vaccine from the genes coding for these proteins. It will be initially tested in a pilot experiment performed at the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover and later in a field trial in African cattle, because in Africa cattle suffer from onchocerciasis as well.
Vera Steisslinger, Simone Korten, Norbert Brattig and Klaus Erttmann