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Promising path seen to a malaria vaccine

Medicine@Yale, 2019 - Feb March


A vaccine targeting a protein that malaria parasites use to evade the immune system protects mice from malaria infection, a new study reports. It raises hope for humans, for whom surviving malaria infection can reduce later susceptibility to the disease’s worst symptoms, but does not rule out reinfection.

Richard Bucala, MD, PhD, professor of medicine, epidemiology, and pathology, and colleagues hypothesized that PMIF, a Plasmodium version of the mammalian protein MIF—which interferes with immunological memory—might be the parasite’s key to reinfection success. To find out, Bucala’s group gave an RNA-based vaccine against PMIF to mice with a rodent equivalent of malaria. The vaccinated mice combated initial and repeat malaria infections better than mice that received a control vaccine.

The results tell the authors that an MIF-based vaccine could provide a new tool to fight malaria in humans. Further, since such other parasites as hookworm also have MIF-like molecules, similar vaccines might also work against other parasite-caused diseases. This collaboration between Bucala’s team and Novartis appeared July 13 in Nature Communications.