Breakthrough in search for malaria vaccine

A novel discovery could lead to an effective vaccine against malaria, according to a news report.

An international team of researchers have been studying plasmodium falciparum, a blood parasite that causes malaria by invading red blood cells.

Jose A. Stoute, team leader of Penn State College of Medicine’s division of infectious diseases, told that the way parasite invades red blood cells hasn’t been completely understood.

“For many years it has been known that proteins called glycophorins are used by the parasite to gain entry into the red cell,” Stoute told

Stoute noted that because infection can occur without glycophorins, researchers thought another protein, which has remained a mystery for over 20 years, was possibly involved.

Stoute's team has identified that protein as the complement receptor 1. Stoute said the team was able to demonstrate the importance of this protein by using several laboratory strains of malaria and some strains from Kenya.

”Our findings suggest that for many malaria strains, CR1 is an alternative receptor to glycophorins on intact red cells,” Stoute told “This work has important implications for the future development of a vaccine against malaria. Therefore, it is imperative that all the major invasion pathways be represented in a future malaria blood stage vaccine.”