Fresh search for a vaccine against malaria parasite Plasmodium vivax
Hundreds of millions of people each year are infected with Plasmodium vivax, the most widespread form of malaria worldwide. An EU-funded project is tackling the mosquito-borne parasite, leading cutting-edge research efforts to accelerate the development of effective vaccines.
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The MULTIVIVAX project, coordinated by the Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford in the UK, is addressing critical research bottlenecks that have hindered the discovery and development of potential vaccines for Plasmodium vivax.
The parasite accounts for up to 400 million clinical cases of malaria each year among the 2.5 billion people living in at risk areas of Latin America, Oceania and Asia. Though less virulent and deadly than Plasmodium falciparum, infections of Plasmodium vivax can cause high fever, organ dysfunction and death as they spread through the body in the blood after reproducing in the liver.
Debilitating symptoms can often reoccur months or years later due to the parasites ability to remain dormant in the liver for long periods of time, making it undetectable in blood tests.
This prolonged dormancy is not well understood yet one of several factors that have hindered development of an effective vaccine, causing studies into vaccine candidates for Plasmodium vivax to lag behind research focused on Plasmodium falciparum.
The MULTIVIVAX team aims to overcome these challenges, including by developing novel transgenic parasites to generate long-term laboratory cultures that will enable effective in-vitro screening for potential vaccine.
The researchers will also develop a safe, controlled human malaria infection (CHMI) model for Plasmodium vivax. CHMI is a technique for safely conducting clinical studies to provide an early indication of vaccine efficacy in humans.
The researchers will use the CHMI model to help identify novel antigens, molecules capable of inducing an immune response in humans, associated with protective blood-stage immunity.
The work, which will leverage the latest antigen discovery and vaccine development techniques, will also contribute to progress on existing vaccine research using the most promising antigens to enhance the human bodys immune response to the detection of Plasmodium vivax at both the transmission and blood infection stages.