There are many treatments and medications against malaria, but there is still not a fully effective vaccine against the disease. In 2010, according to the World Health Organization, 655,000 people died from malaria, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. The situation may change if early results in tests made by scientists at the University of Oxford, are confirmed. There is strong evidence that this experimental vaccine has the potential to stop every strain of the parasite Plasmodium falciparum, responsible of the most dangerous form of malaria.
The new results, published in Nature Communications, are based on previous findings about the protein RH5, in which the Plasmodium falciparum relies to invade human red blood cells. The vaccine tested seems to be able to block this protein, thus keeping malaria from developing. Usually malaria’s proteins or antigens are genetically diverse in order to avoid the body’s immune system, but this is not the case of the RH5.
“The RH5 antigen doesn’t show this diversity, making it a particularly good target for a vaccine to exploit,” explained Adrian Hill, a Wellcome Trust senior investigator at the University of Oxford. “Our next step will be to begin safety tests of this vaccine. If these prove successful, we could see clinical trials in patients beginning within the next two to three years.”
Many teams of researchers around the world are working on other vaccines, but it seems that this one is closer to achieve an almost 100% effectiveness. This would be very good news for sub-Saharan Africa, where the P. falciparum is especially common.
Douglas, A., Williams, A., Illingworth, J., Kamuyu, G., Biswas, S., Goodman, A., Wyllie, D., Crosnier, C., Miura, K., Wright, G., Long, C., Osier, F., Marsh, K., Turner, A., Hill, A., & Draper, S. (2011). The blood-stage malaria antigen PfRH5 is susceptible to vaccine-inducible cross-strain neutralizing antibody Nature Communications, 2 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms1615