Children in Tanzania are helping scientists develop a new vaccine. How are they doing it?
Every 60 seconds a child dies from malaria. But not these kids. They have a natural immunity to the killer disease. This small group of kids — 6 percent of a study group of 1,000 — produce an antibody which attacks the malaria parasite. In an area of the world where malaria is widespread and deadly, this is a massive breakthrough.
Scientists have been able to inject a form of this antibody into mice to monitor their responses to the malaria parasite.
The antibody attacks the parasite at a key stage of its life-cycle, preventing it from spreading throughout its host. Tests on mice show survival rates more than doubling when the mice were vaccinated.
The antibody trapped the malaria parasites inside of red blood cells
While much more research is needed, the initial results are promising. In a BBC News report, Professor Jake Kurtis, director of the Center for International Health Research at Rhode Island Hospital, Brown University School of Medicine, explained the tests provide compelling evidence for further research. “I am cautious, but I’ve seen nothing so far in our data that would cause us to lose enthusiasm.”
90 percent of deaths from malaria occur in sub-Saharan Africa. The children who have helped with this breakthrough research could be contributing to a disease-free future for their own communities in Tanzania, as well as in their region.
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Child in Tanzania, courtesy UN Foundation | Shot@Life | Stuart Ramson
Red blood cells, malaria parasite, courtesy BBC News original article