German researchers in collaboration with Sanaria, a biotechnology company in the United States, have tested a new vaccine for malaria that has been found to be nearly 100% effective in preventing infections.
Unlike other vaccines, the new vaccine does not have weakened or inactivated malaria pathogens, the team from the University of Tübingen said. The vaccine needs to be administered along with the medicine chloroquine, which is commonly used to combat malaria, to be effective.
In 2015, about 214 million people became infected with malaria and approximately 4,38,000 died of the disease, according to World Health Organisation estimates. The plasmodium falciparum parasite causes the most malaria infections and deaths worldwide. In India, plasmodium vivax also causes a large number of malaria infections.
The new vaccine protects against plasmodium falciparum. In the normal course of infection, plasmodium falciparum migrates to the liver to reproduce, and then enters the bloodstream. However, when a person is given this new vaccine, which involves injecting the live pathogen in the bloodstream, the pathogen is killed by the chloroquine.
The study involved 67 healthy adults, none of whom had previously had malaria. The study found that a test group of nine people who got the highest dose of the vaccine three times in four week intervals had the best immune response with nearly 100% protection from the disease.
The study, which was published in the journal Nature, found that the vaccine could be used for combination mass drug administration and a mass vaccination programme. This means that the vaccine and the medicine and the medicine has to be administered simultaneously to eliminate malaria from an area.
The research team found that the vaccine provides immunity from malaria for a long periods and with no reports of side effects so far. They now want to test the vaccine’s effectiveness over several years.