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Malaria vaccine tested

Radboud UMC, Erasmus MC and Havenziekenhuis have started testing a new approach to malaria vaccine development in humans for the first time.


Healthy volunteers will be exposed to a varying, but carefully controlled number of bites from mosquitoes infected with the genetically modified Plasmodium (P.). berghei parasite. The vaccine is a rodent version of the malaria-causing parasite. A specific gene from P. falciparum known as the circumsporozoite protein (CSP), is inserted into the rodent parasite, resulting in a genetically modified version.

The first three volunteers have been inoculated with the vaccine on Tuesday 6 June in the mosquito laboratory of the Radboudumc. They will be closely monitored by  the study doctors in Rotterdam. The collaborating partners are working together with Instituto de Medicina Molecular Lisboa en PATH-MVI (Malaria Vaccin Initiative).

Effective protection
The vaccine is based on the malaria parasite which affects mice but does not result into the disease in humans. Clinical leader of the study Perry van Genderen says: "We have built in a specific gene of the human malaria parasite, P. falciparum. The produced protein should induce effective protection against malaria in humans."

The vaccine, developed by Instituto de Medicina Molecular Lisboa (iMM Lisboa) in Portugal with the financial support of PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, will first be tested on safety and subsequently on effectiveness. "If the vaccine induces the expected protection, than we also want to know how long this protection lasts," says Robert Sauerwein, project coordinator.

Young children
An estimated half a million people died of malaria worldwide in 2015. A large majority of het victims are young African children. Therefore, an effective vaccine which offers protection from this serious infectious disease is highly desirable.

Erasmus MC and Havenziekenhuis are national expertise centers in the field of malaria diagnostics and malaria treatment. Radboud UMC has a tradition in testing medication and vaccines against malaria in human volunteers.

See also the article at Medical Press. 

Date published: 7 June 2017.

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