US Navy Researchers May Be Closing in on Vaccine for Malaria

A group of Navy medical researchers in the USA have reported making progress on a vaccine for malaria, which is still the most common disease affecting deployed military troops.

The clinical director at the Naval Medical Research Center for Malaria, Navy Capt. Judith Epstein, said last week that recent tests “bring us closer to having a malaria vaccine to prevent infection and disease in military personnel deployed to malaria-endemic regions, as well as vulnerable populations residing in malaria-endemic regions.”

Malaria is a parasitic disease that is transmitted by infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. The condition can bring on fever, fatigue, vomiting, and headaches, and in severe cases can be fatal. There can be recurrences months and years later in untreated cases.

Epstein also reported that malaria “has consistently been ranked as the number-one infectious disease threat facing the military, and the burden of malaria remains incredibly high worldwide.”

There were 216 million cases of malaria worldwide in 2016, resulting in an estimated 445,000 to 731,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). A combination of antimalarial medications that includes an artemisinin is the recommended treatment for malaria.

An effective vaccine has never been developed for Malaria up to this point. It is reported that the Navy research on a vaccine using a purified form of an early stage of the malaria parasite has been encouraging.

According to a release from the Naval Medical Research Center, altered parasites appeared to produce an immune response and did not lead to infection or disease.

In recent trials a total of 60 subjects were given the vaccine and then exposed to five bites from malaria-infected mosquitoes.

A press release regarding the trials stated that the researchers “were able to demonstrate vaccine efficacy of 40 percent against a non-vaccine strain of malaria when assessed 12 weeks after the final injection, a marked improvement from the previous trials.”

Epstein went on to say. “In all trials, the vaccine has been demonstrated to have a very good safety and tolerability profile and has also been easy to administer,” and “our focus now is to enhance the efficacy and practical use of the vaccine.”

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