Researchers from the Center de d'Infection et d'Immunite de Lille and the Unite de Glycobiologie Structurale et Fonctionnelle have come together and designed a new way of vaccinating against malaria which refers to the consumption of genetically modified starch.
The researchers produced antigens of Plasmodium and fused them with enzymes found in grains of starch. The starch grains were consumed by mice that were inoculated with the parasite. The experiment showed that mice were vaccinated by the grains of starch and were protected from infection as a result.
The innovative use of starch grains means that the vaccine is easy to produce from plant extract and purified. Furthermore, they can be produced in large quantities. The starch can be stored for months through changes in temperature and weather. Ingesting the starch means that it is easily absorbed into the body and the method of production will not harm the environment or present as expensive for the economy.
This strategy would allow for vaccination in is simpler form, do away with the use of needles therefore eliminating risk of HIV contracting and eliminating problems regarding storage space. The starch would also act as a food supplement for children in impoverished malaria endemic countries. The research continues and various antigens will be tested along with the efficacy of the vaccination in humans.
Malaria effects between 300 and 500 million people globally and kills one million every year with children being the hardest hit. Young children have not built up immunity to the disease, in fact every 45 seconds one child dies from malaria.
Having successfully protected the mice using the starch from green algae which were genetically modified with vaccine proteins, it may now be possible that young children in malarious regions may have a chance against the spread of malaria.