News Friday April 13, 2012

Potential malaria vaccine in development

A new anti-malaria strategy involving a vaccination containing weakened malaria parasites is one step closer, following new research published this week.

The most recent study involving the new vaccine was a follow-up animal study, undertaken following a human clinical trial which did not yield the positive results the researchers had hoped for, with just two out of 40 study participants showing signs of protection against the malaria infection after receiving the vaccination. A previous study of 80 volunteers had proved that the vaccine itself was safe. Researchers believe that the way in which the vaccine is delivered may have an effect on its efficacy, which is what the most recent study on mice and rheus monkeys aimed to demonstrate.

The animal study indicated that when the vaccine, known as PfSPZ, was administered intravenously, it lead to a greater immune response than when it was administered intradermally, meaning that it will likely be more effective as a way to prevent malaria. Further clinical trials with human participants will be necessary to test this. A human clinical trial is planned to take place later this year. The PfSPZ vaccine has been designed to fight Plasmodium palciparum, considered to be the most dangerous of the malaria parasites. The vaccine contains purified sporozoites which have been weakened by radiation.

The results of the study were published in the online edition of Science Express. The research was undertaken by a team at the Vaccine Research Center (VRC), which is part of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.

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