Immune children help develop malaria vaccine

Scientists are getting closer to developing a malaria vaccine with the assistance of naturally-immune children from Tanzania.

A team of scientists from the US have developed a potential malaria vaccine by using an antibody found in the blood of naturally-immune children in Tanzania.

A form of the same antibody that protects the children was injected into mice with the disease, with the ‘vaccine’ doubling the survival time of the mice and prompting the researchers to describe the antibody as a “bona fida vaccine candidate”.

The researchers plan further experiments and trials to explore the antibody’s potential but stress they are remaining “cautious” about the potential of a suitable vaccination being developed.

Professor Jake Kurtis, director of the Centre for International Health Research at Rhode Island Hospital, Brown University School of Medicine, said: “I am cautious. I’ve seen nothing so far in our data that would cause us to lose enthusiasm. However, it still needs to get through a monkey study and the next phase of human trials.”

In response to the research, Dr Ashley Birkett, director of PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, said: “While these initial results are promising with respect to prevention of severe malaria, a lot more data would be needed before this could be considered a leading vaccine approach – either alone or in combination with other antigens.”  

Malaria, the potentially life-threatening disease prevalent around the equator, claimed more than 600,000 lives in 2012 according the World Health Organisation, with no vaccination for the illness currently available.