Initial success in human clinical trials has given hope for the next stage in the development of a new malaria vaccine.
In a world first, researchers from Griffith University’s Institute for Glycomics trialed the use of a whole parasite blood-stage malaria vaccine in human volunteers that has yielded safe and immunogenic outcomes. The study team also included clinicians from the Gold Coast University Hospital.
A single dose of the trial vaccine was administered to volunteers at Griffith’s Clinical Trial Unit who were healthy, malarial-naïve males aged 18-60 and it induced a broad parasite-specific cellular immune response that recognised different malaria parasites and did not adversely affect the volunteers.
The results of the trial have been published in BMC Medicine.
“We are hopeful that the immune response induced by the vaccine would be able to kill the parasite if recipients were exposed to the parasite out in the field,” Dr Stanisic said.
Dr Stanisic said previous trials of sub-unit malaria vaccines have often included a limited number of proteins from the malaria parasite, and these proteins are often variable between different parasite strains present in the field.
“When sub-unit malaria vaccines have been tested in the field, because of the variability in the vaccine proteins between parasite strains, up until now they have shown limited or no efficacy,” Dr Stanisic said.
“So the idea behind a whole parasite vaccine is that you’ve got thousands of proteins in the vaccine, some of which are going to be the same between different parasite strains, so hopefully these proteins would be the target of protective immune responses and the vaccine would provide broader coverage and protection when it’s tested in the field.”
The next stage in the malaria vaccine trial process is to determine if the immune response from the vaccine can actually kill the parasites in humans as it has been shown to do in laboratory animals. Once it has been established that it is safe and effective in human volunteers, the vaccine would be trialed in a malaria-endemic area then across multiple sites in multiple countries.
Dr John Gerrard, Director of Infectious Diseases at Gold Coast Health said the opportunity to oversee the transition from laboratory to human volunteers has been inspiring.
“An effective vaccine against malaria is a Holy Grail of medical research,” Dr Gerrard said.
“Gold Coast Health is supportive of such innovative research of global significance.
“This is the type of groundbreaking research that will help us attract medical leaders to the Gold Coast.”
Professor Good expressed great thanks to the volunteers and praised the hard work of the team over many years to get to this point.
“It is wonderful to have the community so much behind this important project. We all realise what a devastating disease malaria is for so many people around the world,” he said.
Prof Mark von Itzstein, Director of the Institute for Glycomics is delighted with this significant milestone in the development of the world’s first blood stage malaria vaccine.
“This is a tremendous advance in the development of a blood stage malaria vaccine and as the Director of the Institute, I am thrilled to see this very important study now published” Prof von Itzstein said.
There are approximately 3.2 billion people living in malaria endemic countries worldwide and of the 500,000 sufferers who die each year, 80 per cent are young children who are not strong enough to fight off the killer parasite.
The next step in the development of the vaccine is a 30-person trial at Griffith’s Clinical Trial Unit which will involve evaluating its effectiveness.
This project is being enabled by the Malaria Vaccine Project, which is a partnership between Rotary District 9640 and the Institute for Glycomics that aims to raise funds to support the clinical trial.
Make an impact on this important research. To learn more visit malariavaccineproject.com.