New Malaria Vaccine Breakthrough : Though known for over a century, malaria still kills. World Health Organization research shows this insidious illness impacted 247 million individuals in 2022 and killed over 600,000. Unfortunately, 95% of malaria infections and deaths occur in Africa. Even worse, 80% of malaria-related deaths on the continent are in children under 5.
RTS, S is the only vaccine that partially protects children. However, breakthroughs may change the game. A novel malaria vaccine that targets a different portion of the parasite’s lifecycle may assist kids’ immune systems.
Oxford scientists tested a new malaria vaccination on 63 patients aged six months to 35 in Bagamoyo, Tanzania. The vaccine is ChAd63-MVA RH5, although most people call it that. This novel vaccine targets Plasmodium falciparum’s RH5 protein, which enters red blood cells.
Ars Technica quoted Oxford legend Dr. Angela Minassian as saying the bug is useless without RH5. A vaccination targeting RH5 produces antibodies that inhibit this protein. Enough antibodies prevent the parasite from entering erythrocytes and causing illness.
Ages were used to group study participants. A rigorous double-blind test prevented test volunteers and doctors from knowing who received the malaria vaccine and who received a rabies vaccination as a control. Unexpectedly, malaria vaccinees had RH5-binding antibodies. These antibodies prevented the parasite from spreading in lab studies, preventing the sickness.
The vaccine was safe during research and had few negative effects following administration. The study’s authors stated, “The vaccine had a perfect safety record, with no unexpected side effects or serious consequences.”
The RH5 vaccine gave youngsters 11 months or younger a substantial immunological boost, unlike RTS, S, which is still unknown.
However, the RTS, S vaccination has saved many lives in Malawi, Ghana, and Kenya. A recent UN statement claimed 18 million doses of RTS S would be distributed to nine more African countries. WHO is also investigating the R21 vaccine, which worked 80% of the time in early tests.
In the liver, RTS, S and R21 kill sporozoites, the early stage of malaria infection. Once parasites enter the body, they can no longer protect it. The parasite needs the RH5 protein to enter the bloodstream. The novel vaccination could represent a second line of defense against malaria by preventing parasite entry into erythrocytes.