Queensland researchers are developing a broad-spectrum malaria vaccine. 

The vaccine has already been shown to be effective in mice. Also, it can be freeze-dried, making it suitable for deployment into malaria-endemic countries.

The whole parasite vaccine targets the stage of the malaria parasite found in the blood.

“Our optimised vaccine incorporates killed blood-stage malaria parasites, lipids and additional synthetic compounds which enhances the protective immune response stimulated by the vaccine,” says lead researcher Dr Danielle Stanisic from Griffith University.

“In pre-clinical studies we showed that our vaccine induces a strong protection against the parasite by stimulating the immune system’s cell army – T cells and inflammatory cytokines – that help kill the parasites.

“In what we believe to be the first of its kind for a whole parasite vaccine, it can be freeze-dried into a powder without losing its efficacy.”

This was made possible by replacing the red cell membrane that normally surrounds the parasite with a synthetic lipid-based membrane.

“While it is not possible to freeze-dry and still preserve human red cells, it is possible to freeze-dry parasites within these synthetic membranes. Imagine just being able to add saline and inject into a person,” she said.

“This will greatly facilitate easy deployment into the field in malaria-endemic countries.”

By including the whole blood-stage parasite in the vaccine, a broad range of parasite antigens are presented to the immune system, including antigens that are common between different parasite strains.

Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease caused by Plasmodium parasites. It is endemic in 87 countries with more than 200 million cases each year, resulting 400,000 deaths, mostly children under the age of five.

Existing control strategies for the mosquito and malaria parasite are becoming increasingly less effective due to the resistance against insecticides and anti-malaria drugs.

The researchers plan to hold human clinical trials to evaluate this vaccine in 2022. It will then be ready to evaluate overseas in malaria endemic areas.

More details are accessible here.