News / Africa

    Malaria: New Partnership Aims to Stop Parasite in its Tracks

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Joe DeCapua

    A new partnership is being launched to develop a malaria vaccine that would prevent parasites from entering the liver.  Most of the symptoms of the disease develop after parasites have had time to replicate there.

    A new partnership is being launched to develop a malaria vaccine that would prevent parasites from entering the liver.  Most of the symptoms of the disease develop after parasites have had time to replicate there.

    The World Health Organization estimates that in 2008, there were 247 million cases of malaria worldwide, with one million deaths.  It says in Africa, a child dies every 45 seconds from the disease.

    The best treatment now available is artemisinin-based combination therapy.  But an effective vaccine would be much better.  That’s the goal of the partnership involving the international, non-profit organization PATH, Merck Pharmaceuticals and New York University.

    Finding a weakness

    Scientists think they’ve discovered the Achilles heel of the malaria parasite.  After a bite by an infected mosquito, the parasite travels through the bloodstream and arrives at the liver.  That’s where scientists believe the best line of defense can be made.

    Dr. Ashley Birkett is PATH’s Malaria Vaccine Initiative director of pre and early clinical development.

    “The parasite has a natural affinity for liver cells.  Liver cells are the cells that the parasite can actually make copies of itself in once it enters the human body.  So, it’s goal once it enters the human bloodstream after an infectious bite is to find liver cells.  And then it enters those liver cells through a set of specific interactions that we don’t fully understand.  But there is a critical event in that entry process that we think we can target through a vaccine approach,” he says.

    He says if the parasite cannot enter the liver, it cannot replicate and cause disease.  But targeting a parasite is more difficult than targeting viruses or bacteria.

    “This is a parasite,” he says, “It’s a very complex organism that has over 5,000 different gene products that it makes.  It’s a lot more complicated than a typical virus.  I think also there have been limited resources that have been applied to malaria vaccine development over the years.  But we are having significant success now.  And through a partnership with GlaxoSmithKline, PATH MVI is engaged in a very large phase-three clinical study, which is a last stage of clinical testing before a vaccine can actually be licensed and start saving lives.”

    Birkett says the vaccine has been evaluated in 16,000 young children in seven sub-Saharan African countries.  It has an efficacy rate of 50 percent.

    “So, given that we’re looking in the order of 900,000 deaths from malaria in young children primarily per year in sub-Saharan Africa, a vaccine with 50 percent efficacy is actually a very significant achievement.  But we want to do better,” says Birkett.

    The vaccine being tested depends on the body producing very large numbers of antibodies against the malaria parasite. That’s makes it more difficult to have a higher efficacy rate.  The hope of a new vaccine is to specifically target a different area of the parasite with fewer anti-bodies.

    Malaria taking a toll

    Dr. Birkett says this would relieve African countries of some heavy burdens.

    “We’re looking at countries in sub-Saharan Africa, which already have significant burdens to deal with in terms of economic impact of these global infectious diseases.  And malaria has a huge economic impact.  So a vaccine that can be highly protective and prevent these clinical diseases and up to 900,000 deaths per year is going to have a significant health and economic benefit in these countries,” he says.

    Dr. Birkett says the cost of such a vaccine would be kept as low as possible.  Clinical testing on the proposed vaccine is still three or four years away.   Malaria immunization would be included as part of a child’s routine vaccinations.

    You May Like

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games, Despite Woes

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    IS Use of Social Media to Recruit, Radicalize Still a Top Threat to US

    Despite military gains against IS in Iraq and Syria, their internet propaganda still commands an audience; US officials see 'the most complex challenge that the federal government and industry face'

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora