A new malaria vaccine developed by Australian scientists has passed early human trials, marking a world-first breakthrough in vaccine development for the mosquito-borne disease that kills up to half a million people each year.
The vaccine, called PlasProtecT, developed by researchers at Queensland’s Griffith University consists of inactivated human malaria parasites which have been prevented from growing and causing a malaria infection. It works by stimulating a natural immune response which can protect a person for years against the mosquito-borne disease.
Lead researcher Michael Good, an immunologist with Griffith’s Institute for Glycomics, was the first person to be immunized, saying he wouldn’t ask other people to do what he is not prepared to do. He also acknowledged the contribution of the other volunteers who agreed to be immunized with the vaccine. It was later tested on another 11 people and proven to be safe and effective.
“This is a world first,” Gold Coast Health Director of Infectious Diseases Dr. John Gerrard said.”We are the first to put a vaccine like this into humans that has potential to protect against multiple strains and species of malaria,” he said.
A much larger human clinical trial is now planned that will involve injecting participants with three doses of the vaccine and then infecting them with malaria to test the protection the vaccination provides.
PlasProtecT represents a huge step forward in the fight against malaria, says Associate Professor Richard Culleton from the Malaria Unit at the Institute of Tropical Medicine at Nagasaki University in Japan.Most excitingly, he says, the trials have shown that this human immune response also recognizes other strains and even other species of the parasite.
“There are many different strains and species of malaria parasite in circulation, and finding a vaccine that can protect against them all has proven particularly troublesome so far,” Good said.
If the vaccine achieves cross species protection, it will be a huge step forward towards a malaria-free world.