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CWRU School of Medicine has evidence vaccine against malaria will reduce disease

CLEVELAND December 20, 2007 Researchers at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicines Center for Global Health & Diseases published data potentially impacting the three billion people exposed to malaria every year. Brian T. Grimberg, Ph.D., Peter A. Zimmerman, Ph. D., and Christopher L. King, M.D., Ph.D. published in the December issue of Public Library of Science Medicine (PLoS Medicine), novel findings proving new antibodies inhibit infection by the Plasmodium vivax (P. vivax) malaria parasite. The research suggests a Duffy binding protein-based vaccine could provide protection against malaria blood-stage infection. This specific protein is an attractive candidate for a P. vivax vaccine, as it could decrease illness in malaria prevalent regions. For the first time, scientists from the eight partner institutions along with the Center for Global Health & Diseases, conclusively proved that invasion of human red blood cells by the malaria parasite could be prevented by these antibodies.

Unlike other types of malaria, a P. vivax infection relies solely upon the single molecular interaction between the Duffy antigen on human red blood cells and the Duffy binding protein expressed by the parasite to establish the disease. By interrupting the interaction of parasite binding to the red cell, the researchers and their colleagues around the United States and in Papua New Guinea, India, and Thailand, have the potential to eliminate P. vivax malaria. By exploiting this required interaction, the research offers a clear path toward development of a P. vivax malaria vaccine.

James W. Kazura, M.D., Director of the Center for Global Health and Diseases at Case Western Reserve University emphasized P. vivax is widely distributed throughout Asia, the South Pacific, parts of Africa, and South America. However, the importance of developing a P. vivax vaccine to the American public is underscored by the fact that this is the form of malaria most frequently transmitted in Afghanistan, Iraq, and adjoining regions where United States troops are currently stationed.

For more than 50 years the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine has dedicated significant effort to the field of international health. This emphasis was initiated by the late Frederick C. Robbins, M.D., Dean of the School of Medicine from 1966 to 1980, and Nobel Laureate for discovering methods that led to development of the polio vaccine.

Malaria, deemed one of the worlds big three diseases, along with tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, kills one million people every year. There are currently 70 million cases of P. vivax worldwide. The diseases prevalence has increased in recent years through the worldwide spread of drug resistance, which is why a vaccine is desperately needed. This Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine research is particularly encouraging because it offers one of the first feasible vaccine concepts for the most common form of malaria.


Contact: Jessica Studeny
Case Western Reserve University

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