Though a final vaccine might still be years away, scientists at the Maryland-based company Sanaria Inc, USA, are excited that a new malaria vaccine might soon be ready after 12 of 15 people developed immunity in the most detailed clinical.
A weakened version of the malaria-causing parasite was injected directly into the bloodstream of the people testing the vaccine.
Live, attenuated parasites in the form of sporozoites were harvested from the salivary glands of irradiated mosquitoes, purified, and used as the basis for vaccine formulation.
The idea is that when this attenuated parasite is given to individuals, they will become immune to malaria but not get sick. Like all vaccines, small doses of malaria parasites are injected into people to improve their immunity against the mosquito bites that could cause malaria.
The vaccine is known as PfSPZ malaria vaccine.
Reacting to the research, Dr Ashley Birkett, from the Path Malaria Vaccine Initiative, said: “They are clearly very early stage trials in small numbers of volunteers, but without question we are extremely encouraged by the results.”
He added that most current vaccine candidates targeted parts of the Plasmodium falciparum parasite rather than the whole organism.
“This approach induces a broad response against a lot of different targets on the parasite,” he said.
The PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI) collaborated with Sanaria Inc in the study.
The PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI) is a global programme of the international non-profit organisation PATH. It was established in 1999 through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Its mission is to “accelerate the development of malaria vaccines and catalyse timely access in endemic countries,” according to its website.
Malaria is caused when a person becomes infected with a microbe called a protozpoan passed from person to person through the bite of the female anopheles mosquitos.
Unlike bacteria and viruses, protozoans are single celled organisms. Four species of protozoan parasites cause malaria in humans — Plasmodium falciparum, P. vivax, P. ovale and P. malariae.
Scientists have up till date been unable to get a vaccine to fight any type of protozoan.
A malaria vaccine would provide a much-needed way of alleviating the toll of this disease on the world. But one does not yet exist, and there is no scientific consensus on the best lines of research to pursue.
Vaccines are ultimately the most cost-effective way of fighting against endemic diseases. They are usually given orally or by injection.
There have been claims in the past about the development of a vaccine that could help prevent the more than one million annual deaths from Malaria around the world, according to WHO estimates. Malaria has killed more people on earth than all other diseases combined.
Most of its victims are in Sub-Saharan Africa. Scientists might be optimistic after a small trial of the present vaccine but it will take years and test on a much bigger number of patients before any realistic hope of getting a vaccine.
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