Australian Researchers are a step closer to developing a malaria vaccine after discovering the mystery behind immunity to the parasite.

The scientists claim to have found adults and children with malaria in Kenya who became immune to the parasite over time, developed antibodies to a key malaria protein called PfEMP1, AAP reported.

A Team from Melbourne’s Burnet Institute found that the protein could be a key target for a future vaccine.

The protein could be targeted when the malaria parasite started to multiply in the blood stream, James Beeson, head of the Institute’s Centre for Immunology and a senior author of the study said.

“This PfEMP1 protein appears to be the major target, or one of the most important targets, of the immune response at that time when the malaria parasite is replicating in the blood and causing illness,” he said.

Research was underway to work out how to develop a vaccine to induce an immune response and recreate that protective effect, James Beeson said.

Malaria causes up to one million deaths worldwide each year.

“A vaccine against malaria is urgently needed to reduce this disease globally, and currently there is no licensed malaria vaccine available,” James Beeson said.

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, involved research by the Burnet Institute, the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, the University of Melbourne and the Kenya Medical Research Institute, the report said.

(This article was published on August 2, 2012)
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