Researchers pinpoint malaria's entry point on red blood cells

Researchers at the University of Oxford have identified a protein that targets a protein receptor that malaria parasites use to gain entrance into red blood cells.

The researchers believe the discovery could lead to an effective malaria vaccine. They have performed tests in mice and rabbits that have produced an effective antibody response against the malaria infection, according to

Though the testing is still in its early stages, the scientists are optimistic about their outcomes and the chances that they have identified another vaccine target against the deadly disease.

The antibody that binds to the PfRH5 protein receptor has been effective at eliminating the invasion of red blood cells by every parasite they have tested so far, most importantly, against Plasmodium falciparum, the deadliest of the malaria parasites, reports.

Additionally, the RH5 antigen appears to show little genetic diversity between strains, unlike other malaria parasite antigens that change constantly to stay a step ahead of the body’s immune defenses.

The researchers said, however, that although the results appear to be a significant step forward in vaccine development, vaccines are difficult to produce and take time to become publicly available. If all goes well, it could still be three to five years before a vaccine based on their findings would be ready for early stage human trials.