Turning mosquito bites into anti-malarial shots

Last Updated: Feb 16, 2011, 00:00 AM IST

Washington: Researchers could be turning the mosquito bite into a tool to wipe out the deadly disease malaria.

PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI), established with a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, will be collaborating with Tulane University in the US to produce and test a novel vaccine that aims to inoculate mosquitoes when they bite people.

The vaccine would work by triggering an immune response in people so they produce antibodies that target a protein the malaria parasite needs to reproduce within a mosquito.

Malaria, which kills nearly 800,000 people every year worldwide, is caused by a microscopic parasite that alternates between human and mosquito hosts at various stages of its lifecycle, according to an MVI statement.

Once a mosquito bites a vaccinated person, the antibodies would neutralize the protein essential for malaria parasite`s reproduction, effectively blocking the parasite`s -- and the mosquito`s -- ability to infect others.

The vaccine relies on a protein -- known as Pfs48/45 -- which is very difficult to synthetically produce, says Nirbhay Kumar, professor of tropical medicine at Tulane University.

"We`re investing in developing transmission blocking malaria vaccines to support two long-term goals -- introducing an 80 percent efficacious malaria vaccine by the year 2025 and eventually eradicating malaria altogether," says MVI director Christian Loucq.