New Malaria Vaccine, GAP3KO, Passes First Human Trial With Strong Results

By Christie Abagon , Jan 04, 2017 08:35 PM EST

Malaria is a killer disease which is caused by Plasmodium strain that transmitted to humans through mosquito bites.  The disease is preventable and curable, but it is still widespread and half of the world's population is at risk of malaria. 

In 2015, there were 212 million cases of malaria and 429,000 deaths the International Business Times reported.  A new malaria vaccine holds so much promise; it showed success in its first human trial.  Phase 1 study saw a strong immune response in 10 healthy volunteers.

GAP3KO Vaccine Was Created By Genetically Engineering Malaria Parasite

The vaccine, which is called GAP3KO, was created by genetically engineering the malaria parasite that is weakened after removing three genes that allow infection.  The genetically attenuated parasites called or "GAPs" are incapable of multiplying in the human liver, Mirror reported.  They are alive and effectively stimulate the immune system to build up defenses that can protect against a real malaria infection.

For the study, parasitologist Stefan Kappe lead a team at the Center for Infectious Disease Research in Seattle in Washington.  They gave a rodent version of the GAPs to mice and showed that they were completely protected when they were later infected with an unmodified version of the Plasmodium strain.

The Study Is A 'Major' Advancement In Malaria Vaccine Development

"Attenuation" is a strategy used commonly for making vaccines and has also been sued for viral as well as bacterial vaccines.  This process actually dates back to Edward Jenner's very first vaccine against smallpox.

Doctor Robert Seder, Chief of Cellular Immunology at the Vaccine Research Centre at the National Institutes of Health, said: "This report is a major advance in malaria vaccine development by providing the first evidence that genetically attenuated Plasmodium falciparum parasites are safe and immunogenic in humans."

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