Researchers recently collaborated to develop an mRNA vaccine that can provide full protection against malaria in animal models, specifically mice.

According to a Medical Xpress report, the Walter Reed Army Institute of Researcher and Naval Medical Research Center scientists partnered with the University of Pennsylvania and Acuitas Therapeutics researchers for the vaccine development.

In 2019, there are approximately 229 million malaria cases and 409,000 deaths worldwide, creating an unusual cost in terms of human disease, death and economic problem, and regional social stability.

Globally, the parasite species called Plasmodium falciparum, which causes the vast majority of mortalities. People who are at the highest risk of severe illness comprise children, pregnant women, and the so-called "malaria naïve travelers."

Historically, Malaria countermeasure development has been a priority study area for the Department of Defense as the illness stays a top threat to the American military forces assigned to endemic regions.

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Science Times - mRNA Vaccine Provides Full Protection from Malaria, Study in Mice Shows
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Recent successes with vaccines in the fight against COVID-19 underscore the advantages of mRNA-based platforms, remarkably highly-targeted design, flexible and quick manufacturing, not to mention the ability to promote strong immune reactions in a way that hasn’t been explored yet.

RTS,S Vaccine

A safe, effective vaccine for malaria has long been an indefinable target for scientists. The most advanced one, this report specified, is RTS,S, described in a similar EurekAlert! report as the first-generation product developed in collaboration with WRAIR.

WHO report specified, over the past 20 years, they have achieved remarkable results with existing control tools for malaria averting over seven million deaths and 1.5 billion cases of the illness.

This research showed, RTS,S is based on P. falciparum's "circumsporozoite protein," the most hazardous and widespread species of the malaria parasite.

While this vaccine is an effective countermeasure in combating malaria, field studies have shown limited sterile effectiveness, not to mention the protection's duration.

The limitations linked to RTS,S, as well as other first-gen malaria vaccines, have led scientists to examine new platforms and second-generation strategies for malaria vaccines.

mRNA Vaccine

According to Dr. Evelina Angov, the study's senior author and researcher at the Malaria Biologics Branch at WRAIR, recent successes with vaccines in the fight against COVID-19 underscore the advantages of mRNA-based platforms, remarkably highly-targeted design, flexible and quick manufacturing, not to mention the ability to promote strong immune reactions in a way that has not been explored yet.

Commenting on the findings from their study, Messenger RNA expressing PfCSP induces functional, protective immune responses against malaria in mice, published in NPJ Vaccines, Angov said their objective is to translate those advances to "safe, effective vaccines against malaria."

Dependent on 'Circumsporozoite' Protein

Similar to the RTS,S the vaccine is dependent on the circumsporozoite protein of P. falciparum to stimulate an immune response.

Nonetheless, instead of directly administering a version of the protein, this strategy uses mRNA, accompanied by lipid nanoparticles that shield against premature degradation and helps activate the immune system, to prompt cells to code for themselves for circumsporozoite protein.

Katherine Mallori, a researcher at WRAIR at the time of submission of the article and the paper's lead author said, their vaccine achieved high protection levels against malaria infection in mice.

She added, while more work remains prior to clinical testing, such results are an encouraging indication that an effective mRNA vaccine is achievable.

Related information about the malaria vaccine is shown on Al Jazeera English's YouTube video below:

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