"It's too costly to vaccinate two billion people using current technologies," explained Mayfield. "Realistically, the only way a malaria vaccine will ever be used in the developing world is if it can be produced at a fraction of the cost of current vaccines. Algae have this potential because you can grow algae any place on the planet in ponds or even in bathtubs."
Collaborating with Joseph Vinetz, a professor of medicine at UC San Diego and a leading expert in tropical diseases who has been working on developing vaccines against malaria, the researchers showed in their earlier study, published in the open access journal PLoS ONE last May that the proteins produced by the algae, when injected into laboratory mice, made antibodies that blocked malaria transmission from mosquitoes.
The next step was to see if they could immunize mice against malaria by simply feeding the genetically engineered algae. "We think getting oral vaccines in which you don't have to purify the protein is the only way in which you can make medicines dramatically cheaper and make them available to the developing world," says Mayfield. "The Holy Grail is to develop an orally delivered vaccine, and we predict that we may be able to do it in algae, and for about a penny a dose. Our algae-produced malarial vaccine works against malarial parasites in mice, but it needs to be injected into the bloodstream."
Although an edible malarial vaccine is not yet a reality, he adds, "this study shows that you can make a pretty fancy protein using algae, deliver it to the gut and get IgA antibodies that recognize that protein. Now we know
|Contact: Kim McDonald|
University of California - San Diego