Global Warming Heats Up Need for Malaria Vaccine - Pharmaceutical Technology

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Global Warming Heats Up Need for Malaria Vaccine
With economics and politics in the way, can we defeat the malaria epidemic before it defeats us?


Pharmaceutical Technology
Volume 9, Issue 32, pp. 114113

Unlike viruses and bacteria, the Plasmodium genome encompasses more than 6000 genes encoding hundreds of surface antigens, many of which could serve as vaccine targets. Unlike most pathogens, which display a finite and characteristic set of surface antigens, Plasmodium varies its antigens, similar to the way human beings change their hair color. Finally, the parasite occurs in a wide variety of strains, each with its own unique antigenic components.

Experts believe that a successful malaria vaccine must target the two principal forms of the Plasmodium parasite: sporozoites, the stage present immediately after the mosquito bite, and merozoites, which are released from infected liver cells and cause typical malaria symptoms such as fever and anemia.

An ideal malaria vaccine must be inexpensive enough to administer to a billion (or more) at-risk individuals, and should be stable without refrigeration but robust in its ability to treat all strains, including those that may emerge during epidemics in northern climates.

Mymetics is one of the companies exploring this two-pronged approach, which ideally will induce protection at both stages by preventing sporozoites from infecting the liver cells where they mature into highly infectious merozoites, and preventing merozoites from infecting red blood cells where they propagate and cause disease.

With one death every 30 seconds, malaria remains one of humankind's deadliest diseases, which climate change could make even worse. Regardless of one's position on global warming, a vaccine is our best hope to rid the world of this scourge once and for all.

Sylvain Fleury is chief scientific officer at Mymetics, European Office, 14, rue de la Colombière, Nyon, Switzerland, tel. +41.21.692.57.75,
.

Reference

1. M. Pascual et al., "Malaria Resurgence in the East African Highlands: Temperature Trends Revisited," Proceed. of the Nation. Acad. of Scien., 103 (15) 5829–5834 (2006).


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