French researchers use algae to fight malaria

Researchers from laboratories in northern France have protected and vaccinated mice against malaria using a starch created from green algae that was genetically modified to contain vaccine proteins, creating an encouraging prospect for a future human vaccine.

The study incorporated antigens that had been effective in conventional vaccinations and fused them together with an enzyme in the green algae starch granule, Science Daily reports. The enzyme, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, is protected against degredation by other enzymes in the granule. The starch grains were then ingested by the mice, which were then found to be significantly protected against malaria infection.

Researchers are seeking to use starch from multi-cellular algae along with maize and potatoes for future tests, according to Science Daily. If the malaria vaccination aspect is successful in humans, the algae, maize or potato base of the vaccine would also serve as a food source. The simple food-based vaccine would also avoid the problems of storage and syringes.

Malaria affects between 300 and 500 million people worldwide every year and kills one million people annually, according to the World Health Organization. Mosquitoes carry the parasitic disease and are becoming more insecticide-resistant as the disease becomes more drug-resistant. A new vaccine that treats symptoms and reduces mortality is expected to be extremely helpful in the battle against the disease.