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New Immune Protection Against Malaria Found

Update Date: Dec 28, 2015 03:21 PM EST

An insight into malaria parasites, Plasmodium falciparum, and how it causes an inflammatory reaction to sabotage the human body's ability to battle malaria, has been given by Australian scientists in a new study, at the Walter And Eliza Hall Institute. The research enhances new as well as old malarial vaccines.

The team was led by Dr. Diana Hansen, Dr. Axel Kallies and Dr. Victoria Ryg-Cornejo, who studied how the immune system could respond to the infections caused by the parasites and why its immunity system fails.

"This research opens the door to therapeutic approaches to accelerate development of protective immunity to malaria and improve efficacy of malaria vaccines," Dr. Diana Hansen, coauthor of the study said.

The inflammatory molecules that stoke the immune response in clinical and severe malaria stop the body from developing "protective antibodies" against the parasite.

"We have now shown that it was a double-edged sword: the strong inflammatory reaction that accompanies and in fact drives severe clinical malaria is also responsible for silencing the key immune cells needed for long-term protection against the parasite," said Hansen.

Hence, malaria becomes an uncontrollable illness.

"Until now, malaria vaccines have had disappointing results. We can now see a way of improving these responses, by tailoring or augmenting the vaccine to boost development of helper T cells that will enable the body to make protective antibodies that target the malaria parasites," said Hansen.

The study was published in Cell Reports.

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