Melbourne: Australian researchers are closer to finding an effective malaria vaccine after they discovered a key strategy used by the body's immune system to fight the deadly disease.
The discovery of how antibodies work in partnership with other proteins in the blood, known as complement, in blocking malaria infection, opens the door towards an effective vaccine, researchers said.
Currently, there is no effective vaccine for malaria, a disease that is spread to humans by mosquitoes resulting in an infection in the bloodstream and in red blood cells, causing illness and often death.
"We have discovered how antibodies work in partnership with other proteins in the blood, known as complement, in blocking malaria infection," said Professor James Beeson, head of Burnet Institute's Centre for Biomedical Research.
"Exploiting this malaria-blocking activity is a new approach in developing a vaccine. We have shown that it is possible to effectively generate this protective immune response by immunising humans with a candidate vaccine," Beeson said.
A number of malaria vaccines have been trialled over the years but Beeson is hoping this discovery will bring a viable vaccine closer to reality.
"We're hoping that this new knowledge opens up a new strategy to generate or develop highly effective vaccines," he said.
"We have known that antibodies on their own are not highly effective at blocking malaria, so they must be getting help from other parts of the immune system. This new research provides evidence that complement plays a key role in antibody-mediated immunity to blood-stage replication of Plasmodium falciparum malaria in humans," said Beeson.
"Creating a vaccine that can rapidly induce this type of immune response in children, to prime the immune system to fight malaria when infected, may prove a valuable strategy to prevent the devastating effects of malaria," he said.
The study was published in the journal Immunity.