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Collaboration Researching Vaccine Against Malaria Parasite

Mosquito (Germán Meyer)The PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, Merck & Co. in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, and NYU Langone Medical Center in New York are working on a new approach targeting a part of a major surface protein on the malaria parasite. The goal of the joint project is to develop a vaccine to prevent the malaria parasite from entering the human liver.

The new methods focus on a key function of the circumsporozoite protein (CSP), recognized as a target in the development of early stage malaria vaccines. By blocking this function, it is hoped that invasion of the parasite into the liver, an essential step in causing malaria disease, can be prevented.

This peptide-protein-conjugate approach is based on knowledge of both the vaccine technology to be used and the targeting of a particular malaria protein known to elicit an immune response. One advanced malaria vaccine candidate — RTS,S, now in a Phase 3 clinical trial — has shown that CSP has a significant protective efficacy in the field. Merck has developed other conjugate-based pediatric vaccines developed against bacterial pathogens.

In 2008, according to the World Health Organization, there were 247 million cases of malaria and nearly one million deaths, mostly among children living in Africa. In Africa a child dies every 45 seconds of malaria, the disease accounts for 20 percent of all childhood deaths.

Photo: Germán Meyer/Flickr

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