QUEENSLAND researchers believe they could be the first in the world to find an effective vaccine for malaria, after a successful trial in humans.
The Sunday Mail can reveal a Griffith University trial of nine volunteers has found all participants developed an immune response after receiving a small dose of the PlasProtecT vaccine.
It’s the only whole blood-stage malaria parasite vaccine in development and the first time an inoculation of this kind has been trialled in humans.
Griffith University professor Michael Good said it was a significant step forward in the search for immunisation against one of the world’s most deadly diseases.
“Other groups are trying to develop malaria vaccines currently,” he said.
“We’re trying to develop an effective vaccine which will protect individuals against all strains of malaria and the significance of that is that malaria parasites today still kill a very large number of people, mainly young children and pregnant women.”
Prof Good was the first person to receive the vaccine.
“I wouldn’t ask people to do what I wouldn’t be prepared to do, and we couldn’t do this without the volunteers who give their time to us knowing they are helping further work towards a cure,” he said.
Prof Good said the vaccine used a form of the malaria parasite that lives in red blood cells, but has had its DNA altered so it cannot multiply and therefore does not cause disease.
“That parasite though is nevertheless capable of inducing an immune response,” he said.
“The immune system looks at that and thinks that it’s really seeing the malaria, the real malaria, whereas in fact it is seeing an (altered) version of the malaria.”
Prof Good said the university was now fundraising for the $500,000 it needed for the next round of trials, which would likely involve up to 30 volunteers who would be given three doses of the vaccine.
He said the volunteers would then be injected with malaria to see if the vaccine could stop an infection.
Governor-general Peter Cosgrove will launch the fundraising effort tomorrow.
Kara Vickery, The Sunday Mail (Qld)