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

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy 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.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid