Novel mRNA technology could yield an effective malaria vaccine

This past weekend we shared an Optimist View highlighting the positive innovations that have come from the pandemic. Among these is the development of mRNA vaccines which are expected to revolutionize immunization. mRNA technology is already being experimented with to create an HIV vaccine and now, preliminary results from Yale School of Medicine show it could be used to create a vaccine for another one of the world’s deadliest diseases: malaria. 

Malaria is incredibly difficult to vaccinate against because the parasites which carry it have a variety of tactics to evade the immune system. Unlike other one-and-done diseases, humans can get malaria over and over again and the current vaccine is only about 30 percent effective.

Researchers have been testing an mRNA malaria vaccine prototype in mice and have been relatively successful. They’ve now obtained a patent to test the process in human trials. Like other mRNA vaccines, the technique injects the RNA instructions that our cells use to produce proteins so that cells can learn to produce antibody proteins. 

There is still a long way to go before this potential vaccine could be widely distributed to humans, but these initial results are very promising. Malaria kills over half a million people each year, so an effective vaccine would reduce the severity of one of the largest global health crises. 

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