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Genetically Modified Malaria Vaccine Could Curb The Potentially-Fatal Mosquito-Borne Disease

Update Date: Jan 06, 2017 11:11 AM EST

A genetically modified malaria vaccine that uses the weakened form of the parasite holds great promise after passing a critical milestone in human safety trials.

The doctors used a genetically modified form of malaria that was unable to cause full infection in humans. Published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the study highlights the results of the human trials conducted.

Getting bit by malaria-infected mosquitoes may seem like a scary and odd way to protect oneself against the disease. However, scientists in a laboratory in Seattle have demonstrated that this bizarre method could actually work.

The scientists genetically engineered Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite that causes the disease and is carried by mosquitoes, removing three genes that allow infection. Creating the vaccine, they infected people with a weakened, genetically-modified forms of the parasite in human safety trials.

Promising Results

They found that after the trials on ten people, there were no cases of full malaria infection and no significant side effects. The antibodies of the patients were then given to mice, which showed greater immunity when they were intentionally infected with malaria.

"The clinical study now shows that the vaccine is completely attenuated in humans and also shows that even after only a single administration, it elicits a robust immune response against the malaria parasite," Dr. Sebastian Mikolajczak, one of the researchers, told BBC News.

"Together these findings are critical milestones for malaria vaccine development," he added.

The results of the study could pave way for the development of a vaccine to protect many individuals from malaria, especially those who are living in areas where the disease is rampant.

Death Toll From Malaria High

The death toll from Malaria among African children is unacceptably high. This is amid advances in the response to the disease, which are geared toward the prevention and treatment of the potentially-fatal infection.

In Africa, an estimated 631,000 people die each year due to the infection. According to Kathryn Maitland, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Imperial College London, most of the casualties are children under 5 years old, VOA News reports.

In an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Maitland notes that about 1,200 children in die every day in the hardest hit regions. That's equivalent to one in ten children. She is calling for advancements in knowledge, understanding and treatment of the disease to curb its wrath upon the people in Africa.

Though efforts to curb and prevent the disease has emerged over the past years, there has been little progress on the development of vaccines and treatment of the disease. Now, the development of the genetically modified vaccine in Seattle shows promise as a potent and effective protection in the future.

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