There is no denying the fact that there has been much progress over the past years in preventing and controlling malaria, a major killer disease in Asia and Africa. But with much more still to be done, particularly in developing an effective malarial vaccine, scientists have been exploring various feasible options.
In what could one day lead to the development of an inexpensive way to protect billions of people from this dreaded disease, biologists at the University of California, San Diego, have produced a potential vaccine from algae that could prevent malaria transmission.
Malaria is caused by a parasite called Plasmodium, which is transmitted through the bite of an infected female Anopheles mosquito. The Plasmodim parasite makes complex proteins. To provoke antibodies and disrupt malaria transmission, a malarial vaccine requires a system that can produce complex, three-dimensional proteins that resemble those made by the parasite.
However, most vaccines created by engineered bacteria are relatively simple proteins, and therefore are not effective. It is for this reason that biologists selected edible green alga - Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, which is widely used as a genetic model organism, to produce malaria proteins. In laboratory mice, the malaria proteins produced from the green algae elicited antibodies against Plasmodium falciparum and prevented malaria transmission, according to the researchers.
The researchers believe that not only are the proteins produced from algae viable vaccine candidates, but there is also opportunity to produce enough of this vaccine to inoculate 2 billion people, as algae can be grown any place on the planet in ponds or even in bathtubs.
The next step, which the scientists are considering, is to know if the algae proteins can protect humans from malaria, and if all goes well as planned, they will determine if the proteins can be modified to elicit the same antibody response when the algae are eaten rather than injected.
It is estimated that at least a million people die from malaria each year, with 90% of the deaths being reported in sub-Saharan Africa.
by RTT Staff Writer
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