Researchers Make Progress Toward Malaria Vaccine
A boy receives a treated mosquito net for his bed, which helps prevent malarial infections.
Malaria is one of the world's deadliest diseases and causes millions of preventable deaths each year, particularly among young children. Malaria is spread by mosquitoes, making this disease particularly prevalent in developing nations where poor sanitation and lack of access to medical facilities are serious problems. Researchers believe they have made significant progress in developing a vaccine, a breakthrough that could save countless lives.
A New Hope
Scientists at the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute discovered that the development of an effective malaria vaccine may be possible by genetically modifying the malarial parasite carried by mosquitoes known as Plasmodium falciparum. Researchers exposed six volunteer test subjects to the genetically modified parasite, which was delivered through the bite of Anopheles mosquitoes much in the same manner as typical malaria. In all six cases, the study participants were able to produce antibodies that successfully halted the malarial infection.
"Our approach is to genetically engineer parasites by deletion of specific genes that are critical for their replication in the liver," says Stefan Kappe, a professor at the institute and co-author of the study. "The genetically attenuated parasites can infect the liver, but cannot complete their development and therefore cannot infect the red blood cells. We call this the 'can check in but cannot check out' approach."
This research has significant implications for medical science, because although malaria can be treated with a regimen of medication after infection, it remains one of the world's most serious and prevalent preventable diseases.
In 2010, 91 percent of the world's confirmed malaria cases were reported in Africa, and children under the age of 5 are at particular risk. One day, perhaps children will be vaccinated against this deadly disease, but until then, action must be taken to save lives.
One way you can help ChildFund do this is by making a donation to our project to provide Kenyan families with chemically treated mosquito nets. These nets deter the mosquitoes that carry the malarial parasite and can substantially reduce a child's likelihood of being infected. To date, we have raised more than $10,000, but to achieve our goal of $23,476, we need your help. Please consider making a donation to this special project today — your support will save the lives of Kenyan children.