Malaria may be cured with new vaccines

Malaria may be cured with new vaccines

LONDON - Reuters
Malaria may be cured with new vaccines

A Seattle BioMed researcher dissects mosquito salivary glands for parasites. REUTERS photo

A vaccine or new drugs against malaria could be developed, British scientists said, after they made a critical discovery about the way the most deadly species of malaria parasite invades human red blood cells. Researchers from the Sanger Institute pinpointed a single receptor for a protein that is critical for the parasite to gain entry into red blood cells before multiplying and spreading.

Blocking it could halt the killer disease in its tracks and may prove a good way to design a vaccine, they said, although this could take another decade or so to become a reality.

“Our research seems to have revealed an Achilles heel in the way the parasite invades our red blood cells,” said Gavin Wright who co-led the study published in the journal Nature on Wednesday. “Our findings were unexpected and completely changed the way in which we view the invasion process.

“The great hope is that this breakthrough will facilitate the path toward a more effective vaccine,” he told reporters at a briefing in London.

Malaria is a mosquito-borne parasitic disease that kills around 800,000 people a year, the vast majority of them children under the age of five in sub-Saharan Africa. The blood stage of the parasite’s life cycle begins when it invades human red blood cells, and it is this stage that is responsible for malaria illnesses and deaths.

Scientists have been working for decades on trying to develop an effective vaccine against the disease, but this has proved particularly tricky