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Image by Marek Piwnicki

Could this new vaccine spell the end of malaria? 

Malaria is a vicious parasitic disease spread through the bite of the female Anopheles mosquito, with young children being its most prevalent victim. In 2021, there were over 600,000 reported deaths, giving us an insight into its alarming virulence.

 

The obstacle in lessening malaria's disease burden is the challenge of creating a potent vaccine. The parasite utilises a tactic known as antigenic variation, where its extensive genetic diversity of antigens allows it to modulate its surface coat, allowing it to effectively evade the host immune system. However, unlike other variable malaria surface proteins, RH5, the protein required to invade red blood cells (RBC), does not vary and is therefore a promising target. Researchers at the University of Oxford have demonstrated various human antibodies that block the interaction between the RH5 malaria protein to host RBCs, providing hope for a new way to combat this deadly disease. The researchers have reported up to an 80% vaccine efficacy, surpassing the WHOs goal of developing a malaria vaccine with 75% efficacy.

 

Therefore, this vaccine has the potential to be the world’s first highly effective malaria vaccine, and with adequate support in releasing this vaccine, we could be well on our way to seeing a world without child deaths from malaria. 

 

Written by Bisma Butt 

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