Despite best efforts for the past 15 years to increase prevention and eradication of malaria, the plasmodium parasite responsible for the disease continues to pose a threat to nearly half the world’s population.
Approximately 214 million cases and 438,000 deaths from malaria were recorded in 2015, mostly children under the age of five and pregnant women. An effective vaccine is needed to combat this disease, but the complex biological make-up of Plasmodium and the many strategies the parasite has evolved to outmaneuver the host immune response mean that developing a malaria vaccine is a difficult task.
Now scientists have developed a genetically attenuated vaccine against the parasite by identifying and deleting one of the genes in plasmodium and thereby inducing an effective, long-lasting immune response in a mouse model. Scientists believe that the use of this target gene, or a similar strategy to stimulate immunity, could lead to the development of effective, long-lasting live vaccines for malaria.