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New Vaccine Protects Against Multiple Strains of Malaria

A team of international researchers has recently developed a new vaccine that demonstrates great progress made in the fight against malaria. The vaccine effectively protects against multiple strains of the deadly disease, creating better protection for the immunized.

The investigators have not yet started trials of the newly developed vaccine in humans, but research on how the vaccine works in the red blood cells of mice is promising. Vaccinated mice that were exposed to malaria showed low levels of parasites in their blood. Researchers even say that the vaccine was so effective that “some of the mice had so few parasites that we were unable to see them when we looked at the blood under a microscope.”

The investigators also found that their vaccine was effective in protecting against malaria regardless of the specific strain of the disease that the mice were exposed to. They stated that, “even though mice were immunized with only one strain of malaria and infected with a different strain, they were also protected by our vaccine. That means that our vaccine protects against all strains of malaria.”

The new vaccine was developed after researchers considered modifying the way that previous malaria vaccines were made. In previous research, investigators used low doses of the dead parasite in vaccines, which proved effective in protecting against malaria. In development of the new vaccine, researchers decided to use whole parasites to immunize against the disease. To produce the vaccine, the malaria parasite is treated with a drug that “binds to the parasite’s DNA and prevents it from multiplying.” After immunization, the vaccine works by turning on an immune response in white blood cells, which can recognize proteins hidden in the malaria parasite. Researchers believe that immune recognition of hidden proteins in the various strains of malaria may be what is making the vaccine effective across all strains of the disease.

Each year, malaria infects nearly 250 million people across the globe and is responsible for one million deaths. The developers of the new vaccine hope that their new findings will help reduce the suffering that is caused by the disease in the future. In the next few months, the team will begin trial testing of their vaccine in humans. If the vaccine proves to be as effective as anticipated, use of the vaccine will be expanded to areas where malaria is present.

– Jordan Kline

Sources: The Conversation, Journal of Clinical Investigation