A malaria vaccine on the horizon

Going by the success shown in an animal study, an effective vaccine for malaria may be around the corner. A team of international researchers found the vaccine protected animals from every strain of malaria.

Experts achieved this feat after a 30-year quest for malaria vaccine and are optimistic it will be as effective for humans as it was for animals.

This is certainly a breakthrough given that there has never been a successful vaccine against a human parasite. This potentially translates into tens of millions of cases of malaria in children being averted.

Michael Good, co-author of the study from Griffith University in Queensland stated, “The parasite develops a resistance and changes itself so it can fight the drugs. The problem with a drug treatment is that we’re running out of options and the way to handle that is to have a vaccine.”

Animal study
Previous research has focused on vaccines that targeted specific parasite antigens. However, many of these vaccines failed because the antigen can change its coat quickly.

Going by the observation that low-density infections can induce antibody-independent immunity to different malaria strains, experts created a vaccine using white blood cells, or T-cells, to attack the deadly malaria parasite and keep it from multiplying.

Mice vaccinated with a single vaccination were not only protected from every strain of malaria but displayed profound immunity for over 100 days.

Good stated, “To our great surprise we found that those animals were then protected, not just against the same strain of malaria parasite they were treated with, but against every strain we exposed them to.

“While this study was undertaken in laboratory animals, we believe these results provide a compelling rationale for testing a vaccine targeting human malaria parasites.”

The study is published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

What is malaria?
Malaria is a deadly vector-borne disease typical of hot tropical regions of the world. It is caused by a parasite that is transmitted to humans by the infectious bite of the female Anopheles mosquito.

The symptoms of the disease include fever, headache, vomiting and shivering. In pregnant women, the disease poses a substantial risk to the mother and the fetus. The disease can be potentially hazardous if not recognized early and treated promptly.