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Human trials of malaria vaccine soon
Washington, Aug 24 (IANS):
Published on 24 Aug. 2009 11:39 PM IST
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A malaria vaccine, the first of its kind, will be ready for human trials early next year, a researcher said. It has worked perfectly in trials with mice. The vaccine was developed through collaboration between researchers from the US, Japan and Canada. Malaria kills more than one million people worldwide every year and destroys -- through premature death and disability -- the equivalent of at least 35 million years of healthy, productive human life every year. Alan Cowman, who heads the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute’s Infection and Immunity division, said in developing the vaccine his team had deleted two key genes in the Plasmodium falciparum parasite -- which causes the form of malaria most deadly to humans. By removing the genes, the malaria parasite is halted during its liver infection phase, preventing it from spreading to the blood stream where it can cause severe disease and death. Cowman, a professor, said similar vaccines had been tested in mice and offered 100 percent protection against malaria infection. He said it was hoped the vaccine would produce similar results in humans. “Although two genes have been deleted, the parasite is still alive and able to stimulate the body’s protective immune system to recognise and destroy incoming mosquito-transmitted deadly parasites,” Cowman said. This approach to vaccine development -- using a weakened form of the whole organism that causes a particular disease -- has proven successful in eradicating smallpox and controlling diseases such as flu and polio. The human trials of the vaccine will take place at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Maryland, US. The genetically attenuated parasites to be used in the trial are being manufactured at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, said its release. These findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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