An effective vaccine for the deadliest malaria
EU-funded researchers are using the latest vaccine technologies and antigen discovery tools to develop a multi-stage, multi-antigen vaccine against Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite responsible for the deadliest form of malaria.
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A highly effective and widely deployed vaccine for Plasmodium falciparum would prevent up to half a million deaths worldwide each year a goal that has remained elusive until now despite diverse efforts to tackle the mosquito-borne disease.
To address the challenge, the EU-funded OPTIMALVAX project is implementing cutting-edge approaches to discover multiple antigens molecules capable of inducing an immune response in humans that can stimulate the production of antibodies and T lymphocyte cells against Plasmodium falciparum. T lymphocyte cells are a type of white blood cells important in cell-mediated immunity.
The researchers are focusing specifically on a technology based on identifying virus-like particles non-infectious antigens that do not contain any viral genetic material which could be promising in developing malaria vaccine candidates with multiple antigens, and could be applied to different stages of the malaria parasites development cycle.
This includes identifying antigens that are effective against the sporozoite stage, when Plasmodium falciparum enters the body with the bite of an infected mosquito, through its development in the liver and subsequent distribution throughout the body in the blood. At this stage the symptoms commonly associated with the disease such as high fever and organ dysfunction usually appear.
The team will also explore particles capable of impeding sexual-stage parasites and Plasmodium falciparums transmission from mosquitoes.
Candidate vaccines, containing effective multiple antigens (with several malaria stages proteins), will be developed and tested in clinical trials as part of the OPTIMALVAX project, in collaboration with partner pharmaceutical and biotech companies.
The European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership programme (EDCTP), funded by the EUs H2020 programme, also contributes to tackling global health crises. The work of OPTIMALVAX should lead to candidates that could progress rapidly to clinical development and could be supported by the EDCTP. This would give a high chance of success in tackling the major global health problem posed by the deadliest form of malaria.