Malaria vaccine

A vaccine based on viral DNA is tested on humans for the first time

Published: Monday 30 November 1998

A new type of vaccine that uses a virus' DNA to build up the body's immunity may be used in future to protect people from diseases such as malaria. In a recently published study, scientists have come out with the results of the vaccine's first tests on humans. The vaccine promises to be cheaper and easier to produce than vaccines that are in use at present.

The importance of this can hardly be undermined as there are 300 million to 500 million cases of malaria each year, according to the World Health Organisation. More than 90 per cent of these in Africa. The disease kills about 1,5 million to 2.7 million people annually.

Stephen Hoffman, director of the Malaria programme of the Naval Medical research Institute, informed that researchers injected 20 human volunteers with the new DNA vaccine. After six weeks their blood showed a build-up of cytotoxic T lymphocytes (killer cells that fight infections), implying that the vaccine elicited an immune response in humans. Hoffman said tests for protection against malaria are scheduled to start in the summer of 1999.

The new vaccine spurs cells in the body to use the foreign DNA information as building blocks of a neutralised strain of the virus. This enables the body to identify and fight an infectious strain of an invading virus.

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