Researchers discover malaria target

Researchers at Australia's Burnet Institute discovered a prime target in the immune system's battle against malaria, marking a turning point in the search for a vaccine.

Studies show people immune to the disease develop antibodies that home in on a protein known as PfEMP1, produced by Plasmodium falciparum, the organism behind most cases of malaria, according to Medical Xpress. The findings prove valuable in determining for which malaria proteins--known as variant surface antigens--a vaccine should aim. The study also showed that when the immune system takes action against other proteins produced by malaria, it does not effectively protect the body, further underscoring the need for a vaccine to seek out the appropriate target.

"The new findings support the idea that a vaccine could be developed that stimulates the immune system so that it specifically mounts a strong response (or attack) against the PfEMP1 protein that malaria produces," James Beeson, senior author of the study, tells Medical Xpress.

More than 40% of the world's population live in areas where there is a risk of contracting the mosquito-borne illness, which will make developing a vaccine both profitable to the manufacturer and beneficial to world health. Nearly 1 million individuals die of malaria each year, according to the National Institutes of Health.

- see the Medical Xpress story

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