Wednesday, November 09, 2005

This Could Change Everything

A new study was summarized on the Scientific American website, published today.  It could change everything.
Science Image
Image: CDC
Malaria Vaccine Proves Effective in Clinical Trial

A new vaccine stimulated human immune cells to recognize and kill malaria parasites in a recent clinical trial. The vaccine proved effective in both infected human blood samples and mice whose immune systems had been modified to mimic that of humans.

"This is the first malaria vaccine clinical trial to clearly demonstrate antiparasitic activity by vaccine-induced antibodies," writes Pierre Druilhe of the Pasteur Institute in Paris, who led the study. Malaria -- a parasite carried by certain mosquitoes -- sickens more than 300 million people worldwide every year and causes at least one million deaths, primarily of young children, according to the World Health Organization. Vaccine development has been hindered by the microscopic parasites adaptability and complexity...

Well, maybe it won't change everything, but it could change quite a bit.  The morbidity and mortality from malaria impose a large negative impact on the world economy, in addition to causing more suffering than one can imagine. The study that is causing all the excitement was not exactly a clinical trial, as the headline suggests.  Rather, people were given the vaccine and their blood was tested to see if it generated an effective immune response to the malaria parasites.  It did.  The response was sufficiently robust to suggest that the people would have some protection against the disease.  They did not expose the people to the disease directly, for obvious reasons.  The original journal article is here, at PLoS Medicine.  Here is their conclusion:
In this initial trial of a MSP3-based vaccine in humans, preliminary results in 30 volunteers indicate that even low doses of MSP3-LSP injected with simple adjuvants readily induced antibodies of cytophilic classes directed to fully conserved epitopes, induced long-lasting effects, and showed strong biological activity against P. falciparum erythrocytic stages. Within the limitation of the actual predictive value of these biological assays, which can be confirmed only under Phase II trials, the results indicate that this vaccine can overcome a large number of the identified bottlenecks.
You can tell from their wording of this, that the Pasteur Institute scientists are positively bubbling with excitement.  We anxiously await the results of the Phase II studies.