FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2016

Scientists find potential vaccine path for malaria

A team of researchers in Singapore discovered a key process during a malaria parasite's attempt to invade blood cells and a method for blocking it, according to research recently published in Nature Communications.

The researchers, led by Peter Preiser, the chair of Nanyang Technological University's School of Biological Sciences, discovered a region of the malaria parasite that it uses to attach to healthy blood cells. The malaria parasite then uses the region to push itself into the cell.

"To prevent this invasion, we developed antibodies which can interfere with this invasion process," Preiser said. "So imagine the parasite has the key to unlock a door to the red blood cell, but we muck the key up, so no matter how hard the parasite tries, the door just refuses to open."

The new discovery of the malaria parasite process and the antibodies to interfere with the process could open the door to new drug targets, allowing scientists to develop additional methods to disrupt the parasite's invasion process.

The NTU team plans to use the new technique to identify other antibodies that can target different components of the malaria parasite. The team is also seeking collaborations with industry partners to develop new vaccines based on the discovery.

According to the World Health Organization, malaria infected approximately 219 million people in 2010. The disease kills approximately 860,000 people annually.