Promising vaccine may provide long-lasting protection against malaria

Researchers have developed a unique vaccine that destroys a deadly toxin produced by the parasite that causes malaria, which kills more than two million people each year. The vaccine appears extremely promising in animal studies, they say.

If the drug works in humans, it could become a more effective and longer lasting anti-malarial vaccine than those currently available, according to the researchers.

Details of the research will be presented next week (Aug. 21) in Boston at the 224th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society. The study will be published in the Aug. 15 issue of Nature.

"This research represents an exciting new approach to controlling malaria by blocking the toxin that is responsible for so many deaths," says Peter H. Seeberger, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass. "We hope that this is the answer, but we don't know yet."

Tests of the new vaccine in monkeys are slated to begin soon, while tests on humans could begin within two years, said Seeberger, who is co-leader of the study along with his colleague, Louis Schofield, Ph.D., of the Walter & Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, Australia.

Although other vaccines have been developed and tested against malaria, none lasts for more than a few weeks. Most target proteins on the surface of the parasite, which has the ability to change its surface proteins and eventually resist the vaccine, according to Seeberger.

The new vaccine targets the toxin instead of the parasite. Although the parasite itself lives, it is rendered harmless by the destruction of its deadly toxin, he said.

One or two shots of the vaccine are expected to provide lasting protection against the disease. If necessary, its effectiveness could be enhanced by using it in combination with other vaccines that target the malarial parasite, Seeb

Contact: Beverly Hassell
American Chemical Society

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