July 31, 2009

Novel immunization fights malaria parasite

Scientists in Singapore, The Netherlands and France say they developed a novel immunization method against the life-threatening malaria parasite.

Principal investigator Laurent Renia of the Singapore Immunology Network says the malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, infects 350 to 500 million people worldwide and kills more than 1 million people each year.

It is not practical to apply the experimental method used in our study as a means of vaccination, Renia says in a statement.

But, this method of immunization could be applied successfully to similar investigations to find biological markers which would indicate the extent of protection against malaria.

The scientists' experimental approach involved exposing two groups of healthy human subjects to mosquitoes once a month over a three-month period at the Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center in The Netherlands. The vaccine group was exposed to mosquitoes infected with the malaria parasite and the control group was exposed uninfected mosquitoes.

During the period of exposure, the study participants were treated with chloroquine, an anti-malaria drug that prevented P. falciparum from multiplying in the blood.

Th study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found all individuals in the vaccine group had acquired complete protection against the parasite, while those in the control group developed parasites in their blood.