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The quest in finding an effective vaccine against malaria has stumped scientists from all over the world for many years. However recently, results from a research published in the journal Science suggested that the quest is far from over.
An experimental vaccine reportedly gave durable and lasting protection against the deadly disease when introduced in high doses, according to the published report. Scientists said that the study was only a small part of a wider, ongoing research against the fatal parasite.
The short-term study, however, noted that the new development is still far from commercial release. Further studies and observations must be made before the malaria vaccine could be used in developing countries where cases of the disease are rampant.
Named PfSPZ, the breakthrough vaccine managed to protect 12 out of the 15 volunteers from the mosquito-carried sickness. Six of them received the vaccine in high doses, and all of them gained protection from it. Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, hailed the results of the study as "unprecedented."
"It's true to say that this is really impressive to have this degree of protection," he said. "But on the other hand you have to temper it by saying the numbers are still relatively small," digressed Fauci.
The 15 volunteers were subjected to the Plasmodium falciparum parasite via mosquito bite. Five mosquitoes were used to inflict the parasite into the volunteers who received the PfSPZ vaccine shot three weeks earlier. The exposure to the parasite occurred at the same time, which means that the research was not meant to give information on the duration and time of its effect.
According to experts, for a vaccine to be considered effective and successful, it should be able to provide immunity to the disease years after its introduction to the system. Three weeks, according to health news site NPR, is extremely short.
Vaccines provide protection by triggering the auto-immune mechanism of the human body. The PfSPZ uses weakened malaria parasites to agitate the immune system.
"We don't have any vaccines against parasitic infections like malaria because the parasite is so complex. It changes itself in your body. It morphs from one stage to the next," explained Stephen Horrman, chief executive officer of Sanaria. Horman's company developed the PfSPZ vaccine.