Children With Rare Malaria Immunity Could Mean New Vaccine

Researchers say a unique antibody found in the blood of Tanzanian children could help scientists develop a new vaccine to fight malaria.
Posted at 9:55 AM, May 23, 2014

Scientists say they have found an unlikely new weapon in the fight against malaria — a group of children in Tanzania.

"Malaria is rife there, and yet researchers found a group of children who seem naturally resistant to the disease, and their antibodies could be used in a vaccine." (Via BBC)

After analyzing blood samples from 1,000 Tanzanian toddlers, researchers from Brown University's medical school discovered 6 percent of those children produce an antibody that attacks the malaria-causing parasite and makes the children immune to the disease. (Via Science, Al Jazeera)

Scientists say these unique antibodies essentially trap the malaria parasite in red blood cells during a key stage in its life cycle. This prevents the parasite from bursting out and spreading throughout the host's body. (Via YouTube /ScientificVideoTV)

The research team's spokesperson told Forbes"Most vaccine candidates for malaria have worked by trying to prevent parasites from entering red blood cells. We've taken a different approach. ...We're sort of trapping the parasite in the burning house."

Encouraged by this remarkable find, the researchers then injected a form of the antibody into mice. They discovered the animals were also suddenly protected from the disease. (Via YouTube / VideoProtocols Com)

The study's lead author told the BBC these antibodies could potentially become a new vaccine, and he's encouraged by the results. "I am cautious. I've seen nothing so far in our data that would cause us to lose enthusiasm. However, it still needs to get through a monkey study and the next phase of human trials."

But if the antibodies pass the remaining tests, they could have a huge impact on the world of medicine. (Via Flickr / dr_relling)

According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 627,000 people die from malaria every year. A new vaccine that stops the disease from spreading inside the body could save many of those lives.

The study was published in the journal Science Friday.