Published On: Tue, May 10th, 2016

World’s first malaria vaccine could be available in 2018

Washington: The world’s first vaccine offering long-term protection against malaria could be available in 2018 after successful trials.

'But if you vaccinate a high proportion of people, you could abruptly damage or eliminate transmission of malaria all together,' said Kirsten Lyke, University of Maryland School of Medicine.

‘But if you vaccinate a high proportion of people, you could abruptly damage or eliminate transmission of malaria all together,’ said Kirsten Lyke, University of Maryland School of Medicine.

The revolutionary new innoculation was found to protect adults from the infection – the world’s biggest killer after TB – for more than a year.

More than 40 per cent of the global population live in areas where there is a risk of contracting the disease.

Last year, 214 million people were infected with malaria and 438,000 died, according to World Health Organisation (WHO) figures.

But now scientists at the University of Maryland School of Medicine have told us about a breakthrough which is hoped could one day wipe out the mass killer.

The complex nature of the malaria parasite has meant uncovering a vaccine for the disease has proven difficult.

But in a ground-breaking study, the vaccine not only immunised people for over a year but also ensured they could not further transmit the parasite onto mosquitoes.

In most cases, the malaria parasite has to first pass from a human host into a mosquito as the mosquito takes a blood meal.

Then it is passed from the mosquito into another human via the mosquito’s saliva.

But associate professor Dr Kirsten Lyke told us the vaccine was particularly exciting as it broke that cycle.

‘Even though bed nets, medication and interventions worldwide have succeeded in lowering the prevalence, it’s such a different level to try to eradicate malaria or to provide a vaccine to prevent children from catching it,’ she said.

‘Malaria has such a devastating effect on children, especially in Africa.

‘But if you vaccinate a high proportion of people, you could abruptly damage or eliminate transmission of malaria all together,’ she told us.

The vaccine offers protection which would work in a similar way to mosquito tablets.

It has the potential to help travellers, military personnel and children living in malaria-endemic areas, without people having to remember to take them, she said.

‘Even with the best will, people forget to take their tablets and contract malaria,’ she said.

The vaccine introduced live but weakened malaria-causing parasites into the blood stream.

Volunteers were then exposed to the plasmodium falciparum parasite – which is usually transmitted to humans via the bite of infected mosquitoes.

Previous research had shown that the vaccine worked for three weeks after immunisation, however the clinical study analysed its longer term effects.

The study looked at adults, aged 18 to 45, who had never had malaria with 59 given the vaccine while 32 people were not immunised.

Participants were then exposed to the bites of mosquitoes carrying the same strain from which the vaccine was derived.

Scientists took blood samples to measure parasite levels for evidence of protection.

They discovered the vaccine provided protection for up to a year in 55 per cent of people.

Professor Lyke told us the vaccine also stopped mosquitoes from being able to pick up the parasite from people.

The study also found intravenous administration provided better protection than intramuscular injection – both in the short and long term.

Long-term protection is crucial for people who are vaccinated but not actually exposed to malaria for months, such as travellers or military personnel.

Durable protection is also important for mass vaccination campaigns aimed at interrupting transmission in places where the disease is widespread.

The vaccine was developed and produced by Sanaria Inc, of Rockville, Maryland, with support from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health.

The study was published in the journal Natural Medicine.

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