12 Jul 2013 11:19

LONDON, July 4 (Bernama) -- Researchers have made a possible breakthrough in the development of a vaccine against malaria, the mosquito borne disease that afflicts a quarter of a billion people around the world.

Scientists at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, have developed a treatment that protects mice against several strains of the disease, Mozambican news agency, AIM, reported

According to Professor Michael Good, the team took a novel approach when developing the treatment. He pointed out that “previous studies have focused on individual antigens on the parasite or in the infected red blood cell, and while some of these studies showed promise none translated to success in late stage clinical trials”.

Good explained that “we have taken a different approach by working with an immune response to the whole malaria parasite”.

The scientists treated malaria parasites in a test tube with a chemical which blocked the ability of the parasites to multiply. When these parasites were then injected into mice it was found, as expected, that the rodents did not get sick.

However, according to Good, “to our great surprise we found that those animals were then protected, not just against the same strain of malaria parasite they were treated with, but against every strain we exposed them to”.

What the researchers have found is that, in mice, the chemically treated parasite induces a natural immune response that can recognise molecules in the parasite which are present in every strain.

Another important aspect is that the vaccine is expected to be cheap to manufacture.

The researchers now plan to move on to testing the vaccine on humans and Griffith University is currently recruiting volunteers in the Gold Coast of Australia.

To date, the most advanced malaria vaccine candidate is RTS,S which has been under development since the 1980s. One of trial sites for RTS,S is the Manhica Health Research Centre in southern Mozambique.

Results from the Phase III trial, published in November 2012, show that RTS,S can help protect African infants against malaria. When compared to immunisation with a control vaccine, infants (aged six-12 weeks at first vaccination) vaccinated with RTS,S had a third fewer episodes of both clinical and severe malaria.

Worldwide, a million people die each year from malaria, with the vast majority being children under the age of five.