New Malaria vaccine candidate identified

Scientists from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in partnership with the National Institutes of Health recently discovered an antigen that generates antibodies that can hinder the ability of malaria parasites to multiply, which could help protect against severe malaria infection.

The research showed that mice exposed to the antigen, known as PfSEA-1, in an investigational vaccine experienced lower malaria parasite levels. The antigen could be a critical addition to the pool of antigens currently used in candidate malaria vaccines.

The findings appeared in the May 23 issue of Science.

The World Health Organization estimates that 627,000 people die from malaria each year. Most of the deaths occur in young children living in sub-Saharan Africa. People in that area frequently develop an immune system response that limits the parasite levels in the blood and prevent the illness associated with infection.

Researchers screened plasma from 2-year-old children in Tanzania who were resistant to infection for PfSEA-1. Multiple tests confirmed that the malaria infection was halted by the antibodies to PfSEA-1 at the point when the parasite leaves one red blood cell to invade a new one. Previous vaccine candidates attempt to block the parasite when it attempts to enter new red blood cells.

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