Australian researchers find promising candidates for malaria vaccine

08:21, January 19, 2010      

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Australian researchers have uncovered a group of proteins that could form the basis of an effective vaccine against malaria. Their findings are published Monday in the international journal PLoS Medicine.

Presently there is no malaria vaccine available, and these new findings support the development of a vaccine against the blood- stage of malaria.

Malaria is an infection of blood cells and is transmitted by mosquitoes. The most common form of malaria is caused by the parasite Plasmodium falciparum. Malaria parasites burrow into red blood cells by producing specific proteins. Once inside red blood cells, the parasites rapidly multiply, leading to massive numbers of parasites in the blood stream that can cause severe disease and death.

James Beeson, Freya Fowkes from the Australia's Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and colleagues have identified proteins produced by malaria parasites during the blood-stage that are effective at promoting immune responses that protect people from malaria illness.

Fowkes and Beeson identified these proteins by reviewing and synthesising data from numerous scientific studies that had looked at the relationship between antibodies produced by the human immune system in response to malaria infection and the ability of these antibodies to protect against malaria.

Beeson said malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum was a leading cause of death and disease globally, particularly among young children. "As well as presenting an enormous health burden, malaria also has a major impact on social and economic development in countries where the disease is endemic," Beeson said. "Vaccines are urgently needed to reduce the burden of malaria and perhaps eventually eradicate the disease.

"A malaria vaccine that stimulates an efficient immune response against the proteins that malaria parasites use to burrow into red blood cells would stop the parasite from replicating and prevent severe illness."

Source: Xinhua
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