Developments in Brief : Gain Seen in Search for Malaria Vaccine
Progress also is being reported in the search for a vaccine against another killer disease--malaria. Scientists say they have found new evidence that suggests they are on the right track in the research to develop a vaccine for malaria, still a major killer in many parts of the world.
Federal researchers say they have found that some people living in a malaria-prone area develop important antibodies in their blood that increase as they age to possibly protect them from the disease.
The antibodies are the same as those that are being tested for a possible long-sought vaccine to the mosquito-borne disease.
“This does not prove anything but is further evidence that supports the idea there are protective effects,” said Col. Wayne T. Hockmeyer, chief of the department of immunology at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and a co-author of the study published in the current New England Journal of Medicine.
In their study, Hockmeyer and colleagues analyzed blood samples from the inhabitants of a village in Indonesia and found that the percentage of antibodies increases significantly with age.
Infants between the ages of 12 and 23 months had an average of 25% of antibodies in their blood, and the amount of antibodies climbed to 86% by age 19. At the same time, the incidence of malaria was 20% between ages 12 and 23 months but dropped to 4% after age 19.
The antibodies apparently accumulate after repeated bitings by infected mosquitoes, Hockmeyer said.
Increasing numbers of drug-resistant parasites and insecticide-resistant mosquitoes has spurred a worldwide resurgence of malaria. The World Health Organization reported 150 million new cases in 1981.
Researchers recently completed the first preliminary human tests with the new vaccine, but the results are not yet available.