Image: Study lead author Burnet Postdoctoral Research Officer, Dr Liriye Kurtovic
New Burnet Institute research into the workings of malaria vaccine RTS,S has identified important new ways to potentially enhance its effectiveness.
While RTS,S is the world’s most advanced malaria vaccine to date, it’s only 30-50 percent protective against clinical malaria in infants and young children.
Previous Burnet research discovered that antibodies kill malaria infection by the recruitment of complement proteins in the blood and the activation of specialised immune cells that destroy invading pathogens.
This new study, published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases, evaluated these functional antibody responses in clinical trials of RTS,S and demonstrated for the first time that vaccination with RTS,S induced antibodies that function to recruit complement and activate specialised immune cells against malaria.
“In this trial, healthy US volunteers were vaccinated with RTS,S and those who developed antibodies with high anti-malarial functional activities were more likely to be protected against malaria,” lead author, Burnet Postdoctoral Research Officer, Dr Liriyre Kurtovic, said.
“The findings suggest that the generation of multiple immune functions is needed to effectively prevent malaria infection.
“This is the first evidence that multiple functional antibody responses are important in RTS,S vaccine immunity and protection against malaria.”
Dr Kurtovic said efforts to enhance the generate of functional antibody responses could enhance the overall protective effect of RTS,S.
Further research is underway to confirm these findings in paediatric trials of the RTS,S vaccine.
Malaria is one of the world’s most important pathogens, responsible for up to 500,000 deaths and more than 200 million clinical cases annually, and is a leading cause of death among young people.
There is a strong need for malaria vaccines with high levels of protection to achieve elimination given the ongoing spread of anti-malarial drug and insecticide resistance, and recent stalling in the reduction of the global malaria burden.
This work was performed in collaboration with the Walter Reed Army Institute for Research in the USA.