News / Health

Experimental Malaria Vaccine Weakens Parasite

A young girl with malaria rests in the inpatient ward of the Malualkon Primary Health Care Center in Malualkon, in the South Sudanese state of Northern Bahr el Ghazal, June 1, 2012.
A young girl with malaria rests in the inpatient ward of the Malualkon Primary Health Care Center in Malualkon, in the South Sudanese state of Northern Bahr el Ghazal, June 1, 2012.
Jessica Berman
Scientists are developing a vaccine against malaria that is designed to limit the illness in children who have been bitten by mosquitoes carrying the disease-causing organism.  They have discovered a protein that is essential for malaria parasites to cause severe illness.

With the protein, called SEA, the parasite is able to burst through infected red blood cells, ramping up disease symptoms. But malaria parasites deprived of SEA are trapped inside the cells where they wither away and are eventually eliminated from the body by the spleen.  

Researchers at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, and Boston Children’s Hospital in Massachusetts discovered the protein.  

Jonathan Kurtis is director of the Center for International Health Research at Rhode Island Hospital and lead author of the study which appears in the journal Science.

Kurtis says an experimental vaccine containing antibodies against the parasitic protein was developed and tested in mice.  Rodents that received the vaccine were only mildly sick and had fewer parasites in their bodies than untreated mice.

Next, Kurtis says investigators measured levels of antibodies to the SEA protein in a group of 785 Tanzanian children.

“And children with antibodies to our protein never got severe malaria - there were zero cases - as compared to children who did not have antibodies to our protein,” Kurtis said.
 
Malaria mortality rates, 2000 - 2012Malaria mortality rates, 2000 - 2012
x
Malaria mortality rates, 2000 - 2012
Malaria mortality rates, 2000 - 2012
Researchers then analyzed blood samples collected in 1997 from 140 children in Kenya.  Investigators found there were 50 percent fewer parasites in the serum of youngsters that produced antibodies to SEA during a high transmission season.  As with the Tanzanian children, there were also no severe cases of the disease in children with antibodies against the protein, according to Kurtis.

“And so the thought is by immunizing people with the SEA proteins, so that they make their own antibodies, they’ll be protected,” he added.

The next step, Kurtis says, is to test a laboratory-made SEA vaccine to see whether it works in primates.

Kurtis says he’s excited that researchers may be on the verge of an effective drug that lessens the severity of a malaria infection, but he’s also humbled.

“Our eye has to be on the prize.  And the prize is - you’ve got a child every 15 seconds, just during this phone conversation, you know dozens and dozens of children have died of malaria,” Kurtis said. "It’s just unbelievable.”

If the vaccine proves to be safe and effective in monkeys within the next  year, researchers expect they’ll move quickly to human vaccine trials.  

Kurtis says the goal eventually is to immunize youngsters in malaria-endemic regions at the same time they are vaccinated against other childhood illnesses.

You May Like

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Works to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Smithsonian senior research botanist Vicki Funk says ultimate goal is 'trying to get one-half of the diversity of plant life on Earth at the genus level in two years' More

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

Report from member of British think tank says Russian extradition requests keep targets from traveling More

US Lawmakers Weigh Turkish Anti-terror Moves

Turkey’s two-pronged campaign against Islamic State militants, Kurdish PKK forces provokes mixed reactions on Capitol Hill More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Donald Fraser Miles from: Elliot Lake, Canada
May 24, 2014 8:36 AM
My own theory on malaria which I communicated years ago is that the male mosquito creates protection against the malaria parasite. Only female mosquitos bite. It may be that the female mosquito bites in part to offload the malaria parasite from its own body. Male mosquito sex hormones may protect against or kill the malaria parasite. This is a theory which has had the opportunity to be tested. No confirmation of this theory has occurred. Thus it may not be correct. However, it is my theory on malaria.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponentsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
July 28, 2015 9:53 PM
A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video Special Olympics Athletes Meet International Friends

The Special Olympics are underway in Los Angeles, California, with athletes from 165 countries participating in an event that gives people with intellectual disabilities the chance to take part in an international competition. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that for athletes and their families, it's also an opportunity to make new friends in an international setting.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs