Malaria vaccine could be improved by mixing the right protein cocktail

Sheetij Dutta, from the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, USA, published on Thursday study results that showed how a leading vaccine for malaria could be "vastly improved."

Dutta's study focused on a protein called AMA1 that is required by Plasmodium falciparum to infect blood cells. The study showed that a cocktail of AMA1 proteins collected from different strains can overcome limitations of previously designed AMA1-based vaccines.

AMA1-based vaccines prepare the human immune system to produce antibodies to fight malaria. The study showed that vaccines made from AMA1 proteins from more than one strain were more effective in combating the illness.

A vaccine called Quadvax was made of proteins from four strains and created an antibody response that was more broad than previous vaccines.

"We had set out to study broadening of antibody responses achieved by mixing AMA1 proteins and were surprised and delighted to find not only greater variety of strain-specific antibodies but also increased antibodies against conserved epitopes were induced by the Quadvax," the researchers said. "Perhaps even more exciting, when mixed, combinations of these antibodies were synergistic in their broad inhibition of many parasite strains. Most importantly, our data strongly supports continued efforts to develop a blood stage vaccine against malaria."

The next steps for the Quadvax vaccine will be human-use formulation in primate models and human blood.