Malaria Vaccine: Scientists Found Promising Target

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Malaria is a disease that’s transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito, which carries so-called Plasmodium parasite. It is a life threating disease typically found in tropical and subtropical climates where the parasites can live. Scientists for decades intensively search for an effective vaccine and seem they found the most promising target to this date.

The mosquito bite introduces the parasites from the mosquito’s saliva into a person’s blood. The parasites travel to the liver where they mature and reproduce.

Malaria Symptoms And Treatment

After the bite of an infected mosquito, symptoms develop within 10 days to few weeks. They mostly include high fever, profuse sweating, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, anemia, convulsions and so on. The problem with malaria is that it can cause a number of life-threatening complications such as organ failure of the kidneys, liver, or spleen or low blood sugar. Treatments for malaria includes hospital supervision and prescribed multiple medications based on the type of parasite hosted.

Approximately 1,500–2,000 cases of malaria are reported every year in the United States, almost all of recent travelers. Reported cases reached a 40-year high of 1,925 in 2011. Unfortunately, there is no commercial vaccine available to prevent malaria. At least not efficient enough. The vaccine called Mosquirix which requires four injections has a relatively low efficacy 26%-50%.

Promising Vaccine  Target – Protein RH5

Scientists from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute have found the more promising target – the protein RH5, which helps parasites to invade human red blood cells. In their study, they reveal that a protein on the surface of the parasite called P113 attaches the RH5 protein. This means a creation of a molecular bridge between the parasite and a red blood cell.

A molecular bridge attaches the plasmodium parasite to the red blood cell. Credit Sanger Institute: Genome Research Ltd

The fact that just a small area of RH5 was enough to make a bridge to the plasmodium receptor encourage scientists to think that we can produce ease and cheap malaria “blocker”.  Francis Galway, the first author on the study, explains: “RH5 is an excellent vaccine target because it is essential for invasion by all strains of Plasmodium falciparum – the species of parasite that causes the most severe disease in humans. This study shows us the binding partners for the RH5 protein and how these work together to allow the parasite to enter red blood cells. This gives us important information about this vaccine target.

The World Health Organisation have a plan to wipe out malaria in at least 10 countries and reduce spread disease by 40 percent by the end of 2020. We hope that these new findings will help them to achieve the goal.

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