“I believe we can defeat Malaria” – Michael Good
Malaria is one of the most dangerous diseases in the world. It causes 429, 000 deaths out of 212 million cases in 2015 alone, according to the World Health Organisation. But Gold Coast researchers have made an announcement that will bring much needed hope to millions of people across the world.
New research is being carried out by Griffith University in collaboration with Gold Coast University Hospital on a new vaccine. The first trial is complete, and has resulted in an immune response from humans. Researcher Michael Good, of the Griffith University Institute for Glycomics, was one of 11 volunteers for the trial. “I wouldn’t ask people to do what I wouldn’t be prepared to do, and we couldn’t do this without the volunteers who give their time to us knowing they are helping further work towards a cure,” he states. Professor Good describes their new approach to the vaccine as “unusual” as “It involves the entire malaria parasite, which we effectively put to sleep with a drug which binds to its DNA.”
This new method will replace the existing “novel approach” of “relying on a single protein”. The real danger of malaria is that it mutates its proteins at a rapid speed, avoiding the immune system. Good explains that because “it mutates and changes it’s a moving target, and the immune system then doesn’t recognise different strains.” Good’s aim is to “develop an effective vaccine which will protect individuals against all strains of malaria and the significance of that is that malaria parasites today still kill a very large number of people, mainly young children and pregnant women.”
Looking to the future, researchers need $500, 000 to take their vaccine to the next round of clinical trials. They will inject 30 individuals with three doses of the vaccine and then with malaria itself to see if their new formula – PlasProtecT – can prevent infection.
Two thirds of deaths caused by malaria occur in children under 5 years old. Without a licensed malaria vaccine, these numbers will never improve. Good hopes, once the trials are over, to take the vaccine to “malaria-endemic countries” starting with Uganda.
The vaccine will become globally available in 5-10 years if all goes well.