A HIGHLY effective vaccine for European honeybee stings has been developed by researchers from Adelaide, South Australia; the success of this vaccine has raised the possibility of developing new treatments for a variety of other pollen, plant, and insect allergies.
The development of new vaccines is highly pertinent due to the widespread incidence of insect sting allergies: in the USA, >5% of the population are affected. Furthermore, as the study’s lead researcher, Prof Robert Heddle, SA Pathology, Royal Adelaide Hospital, Adelaide, Australia, explained, “There are more people in Australia dying from sting allergies than nut allergies but it still flies under the radar.”
This new vaccine utilises a unique delta-inulin adjuvant, which may potentially be used in the future production of nasal vaccines against dust and pollen allergies. The adjuvant assists the body’s immune system to recognise and target venom more swiftly than other methods when it is injected into the body; therefore, as it is easier to recognise, smaller quantities of the insect venom could be used in each vaccine, resulting in reduced production costs. Prof Heddle commented: “With the help of delta-inulin we seem to have enhanced responses without it needing to be chemically combined and it is a much cheaper option
Following on from successful laboratory tests, clinical trials are now being carried out in humans with ant venom therapy followed by sting challenges in order to further evaluated the efficacy of the adjuvant within insect sting vaccines. The adjuvant has been previously used to create vaccines for other diseases, including SARS, malaria, and hepatitis. Speaking about the laboratory tests, Prof Heddle announced, “We think the results were very promising with the bee venom and there was no evidence that the inulin did anyone in the study any harm.”