Malaria vaccines use mRNA format

With vaccines for COVID-19 being in high demand, a new type of vaccine has emerged. The mRNA vaccine format has been influential and has helped the creation of coronavirus vaccines such as the Pfizer and Moderna.

However, scientists have figured out that this type of vaccine is not only applicable to the coronavirus, and they have used it to start finding a solution to a problem that has been around for a long time.

Malaria has plagued people and other organisms for the longest time. 

“In 2019, there were an estimated 229 million cases of malaria and 409,000 deaths globally, creating an extraordinary cost in terms of human morbidity, mortality, economic burden, and regional social stability. Worldwide, Plasmodium falciparum is the parasite species that causes the vast majority of deaths. Those at highest risk of severe disease include pregnant women, children, and malaria naïve travelers. Malaria countermeasures development has historically been a priority research area for the Department of Defense as the disease remains a top threat to U.S. military forces deployed to endemic regions,” comments a science article on the severity of malaria.

An effective and working vaccine has eluded scientists for decades. The most developed vaccine for malaria is called RTS,S, which targets the most dangerous species of the malaria parasite. But the new mRNA vaccine has allowed vaccine creation to push past its previous limitations.

“Recent successes with vaccines against COVID-19 highlight the advantages of mRNA-based platforms — notably highly targeted design, flexible and rapid manufacturing and ability to promote strong immune responses in a manner not yet explored,” said Dr. Evelina Angov, a researcher at WRAIR’s Malaria Biologics Branch and senior author on the paper. “Our goal is to translate those advances to a safe, effective vaccine against malaria.”

To test if this new vaccine was effective, the scientists at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research began experimenting on mice. The scientists describe the results of their tests. “Our vaccine achieved high levels of protection against malaria infection in mice,” said Katherine Mallory, a WRAIR researcher at the time of the article’s submission and lead author on the paper. “While more work remains before clinical testing, these results are an encouraging sign that an effective, mRNA-based malaria vaccine is achievable.”

The results of the malaria vaccine present a path for future vaccines to come. We are now able to see solutions for illnesses that were once thought to be unpreventable. The future of vaccines is here.