‘Self-destruct mechanism’ could lead to malaria vaccine

ma malaria shot lead
Credit: Thoko Chikondi

While a vaccine would be the ideal method for eliminating malaria from the human population, all attempts thus far to create an effective vaccine have been thwarted by the parasite. However, now, a team of investigators led by scientists at Brown University has discovered a promising new strategy for combating malaria that could prove useful as a novel vaccine candidate.

In the current study, the researchers screened blood samples from children who had natural immune resistance to severe malaria infection. They identified an antibody to a particular malaria protein, called PfGARP, that appears to protect resistant children from severe disease. Findings from the new study were published recently in Nature through an article entitled “Anti-PfGARP activates programmed cell death of parasites and reduces severe malaria.”

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Additionally, lab tests showed that antibodies to PfGARP seem to activate a malarial self-destruct mechanism, causing parasite cells living inside human red blood cells to undergo a form of programmed cell death.

The team is hopeful that vaccinating individuals with PfGARP to generate anti-PfGARP antibodies, or directly infusing anti-PfGARP antibodies, would protect them against severe malaria. The team developed preliminary versions of those vaccines, and testing in non-human primates has shown promise.

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