Vaccine hope for malaria
May 26, 2007 § 1 Comment
May 25, 2007 Malaria is a public health problem in more than 90 countries and it is by far the world’s most important tropical parasitic disease. It kills more people than HIV or any other communicable disease except tuberculosis. It infects 400 million people every year and kills one person every 30 seconds, with the vast majority under five years old.
Dr Richard Pleass, from the Institute of Genetics, said: “Our results are very, very significant. We have made the best possible animal model you can get in the absence of working on humans or higher primates, as well as developing a novel therapeutic entity.”
Normal mice don’t get infected by the blood-borne parasite that causes malaria in people so Dr. Pleass and his collaborators in London, Australia and The Netherlands got around the problem by taking a closely related mouse parasite and genetically modified it to produce an antigen that the human immune system recognises, antigen found in the blood taken from a group of people with natural immunity to the disease.
Next, they genetically altered the mouse’s immune system to produce a “human molecule” on its white blood cells that recognises the parasite and, together with antibodies, destroys it. In trials the team showed that human antibodies given to the mice protected them from the parasite.
The team, which was funded by the Medical Research Council and the European Union, is now hoping to refine the model with a view to starting the first phase of clinical trials in humans.