New malaria vaccine depends on mosquito bites

An international group of researchers has formed to produce and test a novel vaccine that will inoculate mosquitoes as they bite people.

The PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will collaborate on the project with the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and India’s Gennova Biopharmaceuticals Ltd.

The vaccine is intended to work through the triggering of an immune response in humans so that their antibodies target a protein that the malaria parasite uses to reproduce inside a mosquito.

When a mosquito bites a person who has been vaccinated, the antibodies attack the protein and disable the mosquito’s ability to infect others.

The vaccine relies on using a protein called Pfs48/45 that is difficult to synthetically reproduce, according to Tulane University’s Nirbhay Kumar.

“With MVI’s support we can now work with Gennova to produce sufficient quantity of the protein and develop a variety of vaccine formulations that can be tested in animals to determine which one give us the strongest immune response,” Kumar said.

These transmission blocking proteins are gaining interest in vaccine circles because of their ability to be used in concert with traditional malaria vaccines and other interventions to make the gradual eradication of disease a real possibility.

“We’re investing in developing transmission blocking malaria vaccines to support two long-term goals: introducing an 80 percent efficacious malaria vaccine by the year 2025 and eventually eradicating malaria altogether,” Dr. Christian Loucq, director of MVI, said. “A vaccine that breaks the cycle of malaria transmission will be important to our success.”