Source; The Varsity
by Maria Dimitrova
Thursday 29th December 2011, 16:47 GM
A team of researchers from Cambridge, Oxford, and Kenya have developed a vaccine that can potentially defeat all strains of the deadly malaria parasite.
After the discovery by Cambridge scientists from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute last month that the malaria parasite invades red blood cells through attaching a protein called RH5, which ‘unlocks’ a door for the parasite and allows it to multiply and spread, a team from Oxford’s Jenner Institute and the Kenyan Medical Research Institute have developed an experimental vaccine, inducing an immune response to RH5 and halting the life-threatening malaria disease.
While no concrete treatment has been found until now, tests show that RH5 protein remains almost unchanged between various strains of the parasite and has been termed by Sanger scientists as the potential Achilles’ heel for malaria, which could provide the platform for vaccine development against all the parasite’s deadly forms.
‘So far we’ve been able to knock down every strain we’ve been able to produce in the laboratory,’ said Jenner Institute’s Dr Simon Draper in a paper published earlier this week in the Nature Communications journal. ‘That’s why it’s such an incredibly exciting result.”
Jenner Institute’s tests of the PfRH5 vaccine on animal models show that it induces an antibody response capable of neutralizing all the strains of the malaria parasite and independently confirm the breakthrough at Sanger reported earlier this month. By blocking the entry through the Rh5, the vaccine has the potential to halt the disease in its tracks and prevent the nine out of 10 deaths from malaria, amounting to more than 750,000 deaths caused annually by the disease.
While it is only in pre-clinical studies, results show it to be very promising and scientists hope to raise £1million funding in order to enter into human trials within two years. If the trials prove successful then the vaccine would be open for clinical use, although it might be a decade until it is widely available. Still, vaccinating against malaria is likely to be the mot cost-effective way of protecting populations against the disease and researchers hope that it can potentially eradicate malaria from the world.
‘This is the most exciting vaccine contender for ten years,’ said the Sanger’s Dr Julian Rayner and hopes that the Phase I/II clinical trials trials will reaffirm its safety, immunogenicity and efficacy. If its efficacy is proven, it would be followed by a search for further industrial and public/private partnership funding to support PfRH5’s continued clinical development.