A group of 18 perfectly healthy volunteers are to receive a mosquito bite containing a genetically manipulated malaria parasite.
This comes after the Radboud University Medical Center (Radboudumc) in the Netherlands, the Instituto de Medicina Molecular Lisboa (iMM Lisboa) in Portugal, and PATH in Seattle, Washington announced that they will collaborate to test a new approach to malaria vaccine development in humans for the first time.
The objective is to test the potential vaccine, which has had positive results on lab rats, rabbits and monkeys.
“Bringing together the concept underlying the first vaccine ever developed, when Edward Jenner used the cowpox virus to immunize people against smallpox, with modern genetic manipulation tools, has resulted in a truly innovative approach to malaria vaccination,” said Miguel Prudêncio, who is leading the research team at iMM Lisboa.
iMM Lisboa is a nonprofit research institute devoted to biomedical research.
The trial will be conducted in two phases in the Netherlands. In the first phase, 18 healthy adult volunteers will be recruited into three groups and exposed to varying, but carefully controlled numbers of bites from mosquitoes infected with the genetically modified P. berghei parasite. The researchers will closely monitor volunteers for signs of infection to make sure they are treated if they become ill.
If all goes well in the first phase of the study, volunteers from the highest dose group will enter the second phase of the study which is designed to assess protective efficacy of the approach.
Malaria is a disease that killed more than 429,000 people in 2015, most of them young African children.
Although the most advanced vaccine in development globally is slated for pilot implementation in parts of Africa beginning in 2018, researchers are still on the hunt for a malaria vaccine that can confer higher levels of durable efficacy.