University of Edinburgh scientists have created a novel malaria vaccine that targets key proteins in parasitic mosquitoes carrying the disease that claims over 750,000 lives a year worldwide.   

225 million people affected by malaria worldwide.  Image by Filiford - Sweden

Malaria is spread by mosquito bites and affects humans and other animals.  According to the World Health Organisation the disease affected 225 million people in 2009 and caused an estimated 781 000 deaths. Those affected were mostly children in sub-Saharan Africa.

Owing to the many different types of parasites, the only way to gain natural immunity to all these forms is to catch multiple strains of the illness. A vaccine that overcomes this would be most useful to children and other vulnerable populations.

The vaccine was created by combining multiple types of a key protein found in many different parasite types which forms during the infection Tests have shown that antibodies targeting this key protein offer improved protection against the disease.  It has also been shown to be effective in animals.

Unlike many existing treatments the new vaccine works by targeting a wider range of malaria parasites.  Dr David Cavanagh, at the Edinborough School of Biological Sciences, said: “Our approach is novel because it combines multiple antibody targets from different parasite types, giving broader protection. This could prove to be a useful vaccine.”