A group of medical researchers is reporting today in the journal Science that they've developed a novel malaria vaccine from the blood of malaria-resistant Tanzanian 2-year-olds. The new vaccine, which showed success in tests on mice, reproduces antibodies found in the toddlers resistant to the disease that stops the malaria antigen at the schizont stage — after a person is infected, but before the virus erupts from blood cells and spreads through the body.
The early-stage vaccine is one of 50 to 100 in development — preventing malaria is a major goal of public health. But while "most vaccine candidates for malaria have worked by trying to prevent parasites from entering red blood cells," says Dr. Jonathan Kurtis, the research team's spokesman, "we've taken a different approach. We've found a way to block it from leaving the cell once it has entered. It can't go anywhere.... We're sort of trapping the parasite in the burning house."
An estimated 219 million people are infected with malaria each year, and 660,000 of them die. Most of the deaths are among children in sub-Saharan Africa.