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  • Before COVID, many other diseases plagued our  world...and they haven't simply gone away. In  

  • fact, the current pandemic has actually made  many other epidemics even harder to treat  

  • and control. But there's good news on the  horizon, because recent breakthroughs are  

  • bringing us more immunity than we've ever  had before to one of the world's oldest  

  • and deadliest infectious diseases. That disease is malaria.   

  • Malaria affects over 200 MILLION people and kills about half a million people every year.  

  • It's actually one of the world's leading  causes of death for children under 5. 

  • And it's been around for literal milleniaBut we still don't have a handle on it...

  • Why is that?

  • Well, malaria is caused by a parasite—a  group of them, actually, called Plasmodium

  • These parasites are transmitted  by some species of mosquitoes.  

  • When an infected mosquito bites a human. The  mosquito regurgitates some of the parasite  

  • into the human's bloodstream...ta-da, infection. From there, the parasites move to your liver,  

  • where they multiply and mature into the form  that can move on to infect your red blood cells.  

  • This is the point at which you develop  symptomsfever, chills, headache, vomiting,  

  • muscle pain. In severe cases, this can lead to  trouble breathing, organ failure, and even death

  • And the measures we currently have to combat this  disease aren't really that great. Antimalarial  

  • drugs can be really rough on your bodyWe actually give them not only to treat  

  • the disease, but also to prevent it...And  one analysis found that these drugs may only be  

  • up to 72% effective at preventing malaria. PLUS, the darn parasites keep developing  

  • resistance to many of these drugsWe also have tools that target the mosquitos  

  • themselves instead of the parasite

  • like insect nets and bug spray.

  • And these play a huge role in malaria prevention, but the availability of  

  • all of these tools is easily disrupted by things  like civil unrest or...the COVID-19 pandemic

  • So, a more long-acting, more effective solution would be  HUGE.  

  • A solution like a vaccine. The thing is

  • there is no approved vaccine for any parasitic  disease of any kind. See, when we make a vaccine,  

  • we're trying to get your body to protect itself by  introducing it to the parts of the pathogen that  

  • would make you sick, what's called an antigenFor COVID, that's the viral spike protein

  • But parasites are generally much more  complex pathogens than bacteria or viruses,  

  • so those antigens are more complicatedBut there are some options on the horizon.  

  • The most advanced candidate so far is called  Mosquirix. It has actually been approved by the  

  • European Medicines Agency and passed through phase  III trials,

  • but it's not yet approved by the World Health Organization.

  • It contains one of the parasite's main surface  proteins as the antigen

  • and that's produced in a lab by inserting

  • the DNA that codes for the antigen into a microbelike a yeast. The microbe produces that antigen,  

  • we put it into the vaccine, and that  antigen activates your immune system  

  • against the parasite.

  • But this vaccine doesn't provide full  protectionit's around 30-40% effective  

  • in some trials

  • against malaria infection over the course of  about 4 years, and that decreases over time

  • Another vaccine that works in a really similar way, called R21, has come onto the scene  

  • more recently and improved on the amount of  protection, with some studies showing up to 77%  

  • effectiveness, but it's still  early in its trial stages

  • The NIH recently tested another kind  of vaccine, a live-attenuated type.  

  • That means it contains the whole, live parasitebut it's been weakened by somethingin this case,  

  • by radiationto make it so it can't actually  infect you.  

  • This candidate can provide 

  • 100% protection, but only against the exact same  strain of parasite that's included in the vaccine

  • Because there are many species of Plasmodium, and  within species there are different strains, this  

  • vaccine provides incomplete protection against  strains that are different from the parasite  

  • that's in the shot. And the newest member to join  this cast of characters is one we're all used to  

  • hearing about these days...because it's an mRNA vaccine.

  • Using the same technology that's behind the  

  • Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID vaccines, this  malaria vaccine candidate contains mRNA that  

  • codes for the antigenone of the parasite's surface proteins

  • Instead of having the actual protein itself in the  

  • vaccine, like the Mosquirix and R21 candidates  do,  

  • or having the whole live parasite in it, like that NIH vaccine,

  • this vaccine contains just the mRNA

  • and your cells are what's making the protein. BioNTech recently tested this vaccine  

  • in mice, where it yielded 88% protectionThe company has its sights set on having the  

  • world's first mRNA vaccine for malaria  available for use in humans by 2022. 

  • Now, all of these candidates still face many  hurdles, from having enough facilities to make  

  • each kind of vaccine, to the logistics of  getting them to the people who need them.  

  • And while none of them are licensed and  on the market yet, we could be just a few  

  • years away from the world's first ever approved  parasite vaccinesmaybe letting us swat malaria  

  • away for good, and changing the world forever.  

  • If you want more positive infectious disease news

  • check out this video over here, and for more  buzz on all things vaccine, make sure you  

  • subscribe to Seeker. If you have another  public health topic you want us to cover,  

  • leave us a comment down below and as alwaysthanks for watching. I'll see you next time.

Before COVID, many other diseases plagued our  world...and they haven't simply gone away. In  

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B2 parasite malaria antigen mrna protection approved

How Close Are We to a Malaria Vaccine?

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    Summer posted on 2021/09/08
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