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Post details: A new malaria vaccine from Oxford

11/08/08

Permalink 03:31:28 pm, by Tom, 451 words, 2891 views   English (UK)
Categories: Information

A new malaria vaccine from Oxford

Scientists at the Jenner Institute in Oxford are at the forefront of efforts to develop vaccines against Malaria, and this week the BBC reports that they have developed a new vaccine that they hope will protect against malaria. You can read the BBC report.

Malaria kills over a million people each year, mostly in developing nations, and even when it doesn't kill it places an enormous burden on already very stretched public health systems. A vaccine that prevents it or helps sufferers to recover more quickly is much needed, and developing one is seen as a priority by organizations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation http://www.gatesfoundation.org/default.htm.

The malaria is parasite is transmitted to humans by the mosquito, and once in the bloodstream they travel to the liver where they multiply for several days before rupturing the liver cells and infecting red blood cells. Once in the blood cells the parasites begin a cycle of infection, multiplication and rupture that is responsible for the fever and leads to the other deadly effects of malaria. The only vaccine that has been successful in human clinical trials is the RTS,S vaccine that prompts the immune system to attack the malaria parasite while it is in the liver, but scientists also wish to develop a vaccine that targets the parasite while it is in the blood stage of its life cycle.

The new vaccine developed by Dr. Simon Draper and his colleagues (1) is based on genetically modified viruses which present fragments of protein from the malaria parasite to the cells of the immune system, and stimulates the immune system of mice to destroy the blood stage malaria parasite. While mice do not normally suffer from the malaria parasite species that infect humans they were able to show that this method protected mice from infection by a lethal strain of Plasmodium yoelii, a species of malaria parasite that infects mice. Subsequently they found that when they immunized mice with a vaccine made from protein fragments from Plasmodium falciparum, the most dangerous human malaria parasite, the mice produced antibodies that could prevent the growth of P.falciparum/ in vitro/. These results provide strong evidence that this vaccine strategy will also protect against the malaria species that infect humans. Following the success of the animal tests human trials are expected to start next year, beginning with small scale trials to see if it can protect against laboratory strains of the malaria parasite and if those are successful moving on to larger field trials in countries where malaria is endemic.

Cheers

Paul

1) Draper S.J et al. "Effective induction of high-titer antibodies by viral vector vaccines" Nature Medicine Vol. 14(8), pages 819-821 (2008)

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