Australian scientists closer to delivering malaria vaccine

16:45, January 19, 2010      

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Australian scientists released a research paper on Tuesday that could deliver the world a working malaria vaccine.

The international journal PLoS Medicine published the study that investigated cases of malaria infection and the defensive antibodies it generated in a person's blood.

The process allowed the scientists to isolate three key proteins, known by the acronyms MSP3, MSP1 and AMA1, now understood to play a vital role in the parasite's ability to infect red blood cells.

"It's a protein that the parasite makes ... that it sticks to the surface of the red blood cell, so it attaches and drills its way inside where it is protected from the body's immune response," said Dr James Beeson, from the Melbourne-based research organization Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.

"Malaria is an infection of the blood stream and the parasites. .. can then spread around the body where they can damage vital organs, particularly the brain but also the lung, kidneys and heart."

The research indicated that a vaccine that targeted these proteins could have the effect of blocking a run-away malaria infection, despite the parasite being inside the body.

Beeson said the three proteins were prime candidates for inclusion in a future malaria vaccine, and work was underway to identifying others that should also be included or ruled out.

"It has been a very difficult nut to crack really, trying to identify which proteins could form the basis of a malaria vaccine, " he said, adding "this work takes us a step closer."

Source: Xinhua
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