The ongoing battle against malaria has hit a promising new turn after researchers have found a promising new approach to fighting the disease.
Medical experts in Washington have discovered that the new approach – called Vectored Immunoprophylaxis (VIP) – triggered a creation of antibodies that prevented the spread of malaria in 70% of mice test subjects.
The mice were injected with a genetically altered virus designed to help rodents create an antibody specifically designed to combat the malaria parasite. This in turn produced a significant level of the anti-malaria antibody.
VIP has already displayed promising results in studies of the HIV virus but, until now, has not been tested for cases of malaria. Currently no licensed vaccine for malaria exists.
Vaccine vs injection
Despite the promising test results – published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences – there is still a distinction to be made between a vaccine and the VIP injection.
A key difference is that the VIP injection has been created to produce a specific antibody, and the new technology side-steps the necessity of the host to create its own immune response against malaria, which is what happens with a vaccine.
The VIP host provides the protective antibody which equips the host with the tools to target the malaria parasite.
Advantages of the new jab
A distinct advantage of this specific targeted approach over the traditional vaccine is that it’s possible for the body to continue producing the antibody.
The natural immune response wanes over time with a vaccine and sometimes loses the ability to resist infection, necessitating extra booster shots. This could be problematic for people living in rural and remotes areas where malaria is prevalent but access to health care is limited, so only requiring one injection would be more practical.
Currently, it is now known exactly what the human dosage would be – but early scientific speculation is that the proper dosage could completely protect the patient against malaria.
Dr Fox has a range of anti-malaria tablets on prescription.