An experimental malaria vaccine may protect people from multiple strains of the disease, according to a study published March 15 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
In 2015, 212 million people were infected with malaria around the world and 429,000 died, according to the World Health Organization.
Over several months, scientists from the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases studied 31 healthy adults from 18 to 45 years old who were given three doses of the experimental vaccine that contained the weakened malaria species Plasmodium falciparum.
Nineteen weeks after getting the last dose, those who received the vaccine and those who didn’t were exposed to mosquitos infected with the same strain of malaria that was in the vaccine. More than half of the participants who got the vaccine did not contract malaria and were then exposed to mosquitos with a different strain of malaria. Over 80 percent of the participants in this group did not contract malaria.
“Our study shows that that this vaccine can protect against at least two strains of malaria,” said lead study author Dr. Lyke. “We need to continue our research, but this is a fantastic finding.”
Since there is usually more than one strain of malaria in areas where the disease is common, this research is vitally important. More research will show whether changes to the vaccine can improve its effectiveness and more testing is being done in infants in Western Kenya.
Funding was provided by Sanaria Inc., the owner and developer of the experimental vaccine. Some authors declared a conflict of interest as salaried employees of Sanaria Inc., including two authors that had a financial interest in the company.
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