Professor Denise Doolan from James Cook University’s Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine (AITHM) was part of an international team that narrowed down the malaria proteins and disease-fighting antibodies that could be used to develop a vaccine against severe malaria. “It’s the first time anyone has shown this – for years, researchers have thought that developing a malaria vaccine based on PfEMP1 would be virtually impossible, because the proteins are just so diverse,” Associate Professor Barry said. The team of collaborators – involving JCU, the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI) at Deakin University, and malaria experts from Papua New Guinea, France and the USA – collected hundreds of PfEMP1 proteins from malaria strains from children in PNG who had been naturally infected by the disease, made a custom protein microarray of those strains, and then examined serum samples to identify which of the many PfEMP1 variants were associated with protection. The research team managed to pinpoint which antibodies were most effective in fighting the most severe forms of malaria.
Scientists move closer towards developing an effective malaria vaccine
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