Updated on 17 September 2012
Trying to find a solution for malaria
A group of scientists working in India and the US has sequenced and annotated the genomes of four Plasmodium vivax strains collected from disparate geographic locations in West Africa, South America, and Asia, tripling the number of genome sequences available for this understudied parasite and providing the first genome-wide perspective of global variability in this species.
They also observed that half the world's population is estimated to be at risk for malaria caused by Plasmodium vivax, owing to this parasite's unique potential for lengthy remission and tolerance of cooler climates than those preferred by strictly tropical Plasmodium species. Although the Plasmodium falciparum parasite is responsible for the majority of contemporary malaria-related mortality, there is evidence that Plasmodium vivax may have been a more virulent parasite before the advent of modern medicine. The above findings were published in Nature Genetics 's online edition on August 5, 2012.
During the same time, scientists from Melbourne's Burnet Institute analyzed the antibodies of individuals in Kenya, who became immune to the parasite over time, focusing particularly on a key malaria protein called PfEMP1. According to Dr James Beeson, head, center for immunology, Burnet Institute, and the senior author of the study, "The puzzle has been, what is the key point of attack of the immune system against malaria? We've established that one particular protein of malaria is the key point of attack of the immune system."
Dr Beeson is now focusing on developing a vaccine that will induce that immune response to the protein. The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation and involved research from the University of Melbourne and the Kenya Medical Research Institute.
In another development, the biologists at the University of California, San Diego, have succeeded in engineering algae to produce potential candidates for a vaccine that would prevent transmission of the parasite that causes malaria. The use of algae to produce malaria proteins that elicited antibodies against Plasmodium falciparum in laboratory mice and prevented malaria transmission was published on May 16 in the online, open-access journal PLoS ONE.