August 9, 2013
New Malaria Vaccine Offers Full Protection

A new malaria vaccine has proven successful in protecting 100 percent of people who were given five doses of the vaccination. The study only involved a very small trial of people but is already being deemed as a breakthrough.

Malaria, a product of Plasmodium parasites, affects more than 200 million people each year and killed 660,000 people in 2010, according to the World Health Organization.

The most effective drug to date has been GlaxoSmithKline's Mosquirix. That drug specifically protects against Plasmodium falciparum, the most deadly of Malaria parasites.

Brian Greenwood of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine told The Conversation, "Mosquirix is only about 50% effective when given to older children and even less effective (about 30 percent) when given to young infants with routine vaccines. A better vaccine with a higher level of protection is needed."

The new vaccine called PfSPZ was developed by US biotech firm Sanaria which worked in conjunction with the National Institutes of Health (NIH). PfSPZ attacks the first stage of malaria known as pre-erythrocytic.

The new drug is made of poteins from the parasite's surface. The PfSPZ drug is made of sporozoites (a young form of the malarial parasites) that have been weakened by irradiation.

Researchers originally tested the drug in 44 volunteers two years ago. Researchers injected the drug into the skin, but that proved to be a failure. Eventually researchers found that injecting the drug directly into veins is more effective.

Recent successful tests included injections of 135,000 irradiated sporozoites. After five doses, none of the participants developed malaria.

At this time, the drug is very expensive since Sanaria employes 15 "dissectors" who tear open 150 mosquitos per hour in order to gather the materials needed for the vaccination. Ultimately, Sanaria will automate the process to drive down the high cost of the malaria vaccine.

Researchers must also figure out how to cheaply store the vaccine, which currently needs to be held in nitrogen containers and delivered intravenously. Intravenous injections makes giving the vaccine to infants very hard and requires the help of pediatric specialists.