Thursday April 18, 2019

An international research team shows that carbohydrates may play a vital role in improving malaria vaccine

Malaria infects over 200 million people worldwide each year and kills around 650,000 people

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Malaria vaccine
Carbohydrates may improve malaria vaccine. Pixabay
  • Carbohydrates on the surface of malaria parasites play an important role in their ability to infect mosquito Andy human hosts
  • The new research is aimed at improving malaria vaccine design
  • It’s hoped that a version of RTS, S with added carbohydrates will perform better than the current vaccine

New Delhi, September 18, 2017: Offering vital clues to improving malaria vaccine, an international research team has shown that carbohydrates on the surface of malaria parasites play a critical role in their ability to infect mosquito and human hosts.

The discovery, published in the journal Nature Communications, also suggests steps that may improve the only malaria vaccine approved to protect people against Plasmodium falciparum malaria — the most deadly form of the disease.

The team had shown that the malaria parasite “tags” its proteins with carbohydrates in order to stabilise and transport them and that this process was crucial to completing the parasite’s life cycle.

“Interfering with the parasite’s ability to attach these carbohydrates to its proteins hinders liver infection and transmission to the mosquito and weakens the parasite to the point that it cannot survive in the host,” said Justin Boddey from Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Parkville, Victoria, Australia.

Malaria infects over 200 million people worldwide each year and kills around 650,000 people, predominantly pregnant women and children. Efforts to eradicate malaria require the development of new therapeutics, particularly an effective malaria vaccine.

Also readNearly 900,000 Nigerian Children Receive Anti-Malaria Vaccination: WHO Report

The first malaria vaccine approved for human use — RTS,S/AS01 — got the nod of the European regulators in July 2015 but has not been as successful as hoped with marginal efficacy that wanes over time.

The new research is aimed at improving malaria vaccine design.

“The protein used in the RTS, S vaccine mimics one of the proteins we’ve been studying on the surface of the malaria parasite that is readily recognised by the immune system,” Ethan Goddard-Borger from Walter and Eliza Hall Institute said.

“With this study, we’ve shown that the parasite protein is tagged with carbohydrates, making it slightly different to the vaccine, so the antibodies produced may not be optimal for recognising target parasites.”

“It may be that a version of RTS, S with added carbohydrates will perform better than the current vaccine,” he said, adding that there were many documented cases where attaching carbohydrates to a protein improved its efficacy as a vaccine. (IANS)

Next Story

New Antibody Approach to Tackle Ebola, Research To Make Successful Treatments For The Deadly Viral Infection

Antibodies intended for treatment are normally collected from the blood of people who have survived infection. But they can also be tricky to obtain and carry heightened risks such as potential persistent viruses or other pathogens.

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Ebola
A Congolese health worker administers Ebola vaccine to a boy who had contact with an Ebola sufferer in the village of Mangina, in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Aug. 18, 2018. VOA

Scientists working on developing vaccines against Ebola have found they can “harvest” antibodies from volunteers vaccinated in research trials and use them to make treatments for the deadly viral infection.

In a study published Tuesday in the journal Cell Reports, the scientists said the approach could be used for Ebola and other newly emerging deadly diseases caused by viruses.

The technique, based on people exposed to the Ebola vaccine but not the Ebola virus itself, suggests protective therapies could be developed from people who are disease-free.

“It is a small, extra step that could lead to new antibody therapies from an increased pool of donors and with reduced risk,” said Alain Townsend, a professor at the MRC Human Immunology Unit at Britain’s Oxford University.

FILE - Health workers treat an unconfirmed Ebola patient inside an Ebola Treatment Center (ETC) in Butembo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nov. 3, 2018.
Health workers treat an unconfirmed Ebola patient inside an Ebola Treatment Center (ETC) in Butembo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nov. 3, 2018.

He noted that besides Ebola, many experimental vaccines for other life-threatening infections, such as H5N1 and H7N9 bird flu and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), are entering clinical trials and could offer similar opportunities for antibodies to be collected.

Ebola is now spreading in Democratic Republic of Congo, where World Health Organization data show at least 676 people have been killed and more than 700 others infected in an outbreak that started eight months ago.

The largest Ebola epidemic in history swept through Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea in 2013-2016, killing more than 11,000 people. That outbreak prompted a global push to develop vaccines and treatments — and some, including a protective shot developed by Merck and several antibody therapies for infected patients, have been deployed in the Congo outbreak.

vaccine
The technique, based on people exposed to the Ebola vaccine but not the Ebola virus itself, suggests protective therapies could be developed from people who are disease-free. Pixbay

Antibodies intended for treatment are normally collected from the blood of people who have survived infection. But they can also be tricky to obtain and carry heightened risks such as potential persistent viruses or other pathogens.

The Oxford team decided to try using blood from trial volunteers who had been given an experimental Ebola vaccine and whose immune system had responded to the shot by making antibodies. They successfully isolated 82 antibodies taken from 11 volunteers in trial at Oxford’s Jenner Institute.

Also Read: NASA Wants Humans To Reach Mars By 2033

They found that despite having less time to develop, a third of the antibodies were effective at neutralizing a strain of Ebola known as Zaire — the one causing the Congo outbreak.

The scientists then made a cocktail of four of the antibodies to create a treatment, which successfully cured six guinea pigs of Ebola when it was administered three days after infection. (VOA)