Researchers developing first malaria vaccine
Published: Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013 00:10
A new malaria vaccine showed promising result in clinical trials. Researchers realized that injecting patients with life-weakened, malaria-causing parasites created a protective effect, according to a recent report from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Malaria is caused by a parasite transmitted by a mosquito bite, according to World Health Organization (WHO).
Researcher and Navy Capt. Judith Epstein said the vaccine is currently in an early step in the process. “We’re in the first stages now of really being able to have a completely effective vaccine,” Epstein said.
The study said the volunteers were given the vaccine and split into two groups. They were then exposed to the bite of malarial mosquitoes. One group received a high dosage of the vaccination and the other group received a low dosage.
Only three out 15 of the participants who were given a high dosage contracted malaria, while 16 out of 17 who were given the lower dosage became infected.
The test group that did not have the vaccination had 11 out 12 participant became infected when they had contact with the malarial mosquitoes.
According to the study, researchers collected malaria parasites while they were still in the sporozite stage, which is when the parasites usually travel to the human liver after a bite occurs.
The vaccine is made of the weakened versions of the sporozites that, when injected in the body, is shown to encourage the system into producing more anti-malaria antibodies. It also produced more immune system cells specific to the vaccine.
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1,500 cases of malaria are diagnosed in the United States each year.
The CDC also said that most of the cases where from those who recently returned from traveling to countries where malaria transmission occurred.
Sam Houston State University’s study abroad program tells students of ways to stay healthy while studying in other countries, according to their website. The CDC website also showed that it is important for people to see the warning signs of malaria and receive treatment immediately.
Kelly Granger, anthropology major from Davidson College in North Carolina, took a six week program in Ghana.
A few days after returning home, she became ill. Granger started feeling tired and had a headache and fever.
When she went to her doctor, he diagnosed her with jet lag. However, after her symptoms became worse, her parents took her to the emergency room.
According to the CDC, the doctors had to prepare her for an exchange transfusion. This is when her red blood cells, which were mostly infected with malaria parasites, would be removed through an IV in one arm and fresh red blood cells from a blood donor would be transfused into Granger’s other arm.
That procedure was able to bring down the level of malaria parasites in her blood and Granger was able receiver physical therapy to gain back her strength. She then able to returned to school the following fall semester.
Even though the vaccine is still in the early stages, Epstein hopes the vaccine will be licensed in three to five years.