Scientists have identified an antigen, PfSEA-1, that generates antibodies hindering the ability of malaria parasites to multiply. Results of this research are published in the journal Science.
PfSEA-1 was linked to reduced parasite levels among children and adults in malaria-endemic areas. Mice that were exposed to this antigen in an investigational vaccine also demonstrated lower malaria parasite levels. PfSEA-1 was identified in plasmas samples from 2-year-old Tanzania children who were either resistant or susceptible to malaria infection. Testing confirmed that antibodies to PfSEA-1 stopped malaria infection at the point when parasite leaves one red blood cell to invade a new one. Previous vaccine candidates have tried to block the stage when parasites enter the red blood cells.
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Five groups of mice with the novel antigen were vaccinated to assess its effects after the mice were exposed to malaria. Across all 5 groups, vaccinated mice had lower levels of malaria parasites and lived longer than the unvaccinated mice. Scientists also evaluated plasma samples from 138 males ages 12–35 years living in a malaria-endemic area of Kenya and found that those with detectable PfSEA-1 antibodies had 50% lower parasite densities compared to individuals with no detectable antibodies.
The research supports PfSEA-1 as a potential vaccine candidate that could work alone or in combination with other vaccines targeting different stages of malaria infection.
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