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3D Protein Map Offers New Malaria Vaccine Hope

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A three-dimensional ‘map’ of a critical protein that malaria parasites use to invade human red blood cells could lead to a vaccine countering the most widespread species of the parasite.

The discovery also raises the prospect of a vaccine that could target both the most prevalent and the most deadly malaria parasites that infect humans, a significant development for the future of malaria prevention.

A team of scientists from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute established the first atomic-resolution structure of the protein PvRBP, used by Plasmodium vivax to infect human red blood cells.

The research, led by Dr Wai-Hong Tham, Dr Jakub Gruszczyk and colleagues, could allow scientists to generate new tools that block P. vivax infection and could potentially lead to a vaccine preventing the disease. The results were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

P. vivax is the predominant cause of malaria in countries outside Africa and is a huge burden of disease across South and South-East Asia, the Middle East and Central and South America. It is also the biggest cause of relapsing malaria infections.

Dr Tham said understanding how malaria parasites gain entry into red blood cells was essential for developing strategies to prevent malaria. “P. vivax enters immature red blood cells by making proteins that...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.