Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Protein key for multiple malaria vaccine

Image caption Malaria is spread by mosquito bites and can affect both people and animals

A new malaria vaccine could be the first to tackle different forms of the disease and help those most vulnerable to infection, a study has suggested.

The vaccine is designed to trigger production of a range of antibodies to fight different types of parasite causing the disease.

An Edinburgh University study combined multiple versions of a protein found in many types of malaria parasite.

The key protein is known to trigger production of antibodies on infection.

The researchers who developed the vaccine said that because malaria parasites exist in many forms, the only way to gain natural immunity against all strains is by having multiple bouts of the illness.

A vaccine which overcomes this could be especially useful in children and other vulnerable groups of people.

Human trials

Many previous vaccines against malaria have had limited success because they target only a limited part of the parasite population.

The new vaccine has also shown to be effective in animals.

Tests in blood samples from children in endemic areas showed that the antibodies against this key protein offered improved protection against the disease.

Scientists now hope to carry out full-scale human trials.

Malaria is spread by mosquito bites and affects people and animals, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa.

According to the World Health Organisation, in 2009 the disease affected 225 million people and caused an estimated 781,000 deaths, mostly among African children.

The study, published in PLoS One, was supported by the European Commission.

Dr David Cavanagh, of Edinburgh University's school of biological sciences, said: "Our approach is novel because it combines multiple antibody targets from different parasite types, giving broader protection.

"This could prove to be a useful vaccine."

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