Dutch researchers discover way to give complete protection against
29 July 2009
The prospects for an effective vaccine for malaria are considerably
better since the discovery that healthy volunteers can be fully
protected against malaria. The finding was made by researchers from the
Medical Centre of the Radboud University of Nijmegen, the Netherlands
and published in the New England Journal of Medicine .
Malaria is one of the most deadly infections in the world. More than
a million people die from it every year, mostly in Africa. The victims
are predominantly young children who have yet to develop protective
immunity to the disease.
The search for a vaccine that stimulates the immune system
sufficiently well to confer strong protection against the malaria
parasite has been going on for decades already. The availability of such
a vaccine would represent a huge breakthrough in the fight against
malaria, but none exists yet.
In a matter of only a few months, the researchers in Nijmegen, led by
Professor Robert Sauerwein, managed to successfully induce full
protection against malaria in healthy Dutch volunteers.
The volunteers were infected with malaria parasites while taking a
course of the malaria drug chloroquine. In this way the parasites
induced a strong immune response but the volunteers did not get sick.
After a few months their immunity was tested and proven to be highly
effective: they were given another infection and none became sick. The
research team also revealed that a powerful group of immune cells,
so-called multifunctional T cells, play an important role in this
We now have the proof that it is possible to induce complete
protection against malaria efficiently. The findings will be an
important guide on the path towards the development of a new and much
needed vaccine for malaria.
1. Meta Roestenburg et al. Protection against a Malaria Challenge by
Sporozoite Inoculation. The New England Journal of Medicine,
361;5, July 30, 2009.
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