The need for a highly effective malaria vaccine

Burnet Institute

05 April, 2018

In the lead-up to the inaugural Malaria World Congress in Melbourne in July, we’ll be showcasing our malaria researchers and their work. Here, Dr Jo-Anne Chan explains why research to develop a highly effective, long lasting malaria vaccine is so important.

The majority of my work is focused on trying to understand how antibodies induced during natural malaria infection potentially protect people against symptomatic and clinical disease.

Understanding exactly how the human immune system reacts towards a malaria parasite will eventually aid the development of highly effective malaria vaccines.

Malaria is a devastating disease and it affects more than half the world’s population, so understanding how we can target the human immune system to produce a protective immune response in the presence of a malaria parasite will provide new insights into how we can develop novel therapeutics against malaria.

We want to produce a vaccine that’s highly effective, long lasting and protects young children against malaria.

The reason why it’s been so tricky to produce an effective malaria vaccine is the fact that the malaria parasite constantly changes its proteins on its surface.

It’s highly polymorphic so trying to decide which antigen and which stage of the malaria parasite that we should include in a vaccine has been very difficult.

We know for a fact that through natural exposure people develop antibodies that protect them against clinical disease, so if we are able to mimic that antibody response with a vaccine, that would be more protective towards people who live in malaria endemic countries.

A lot of the work that we do is population-based. A lot of the samples that we get are from people who live in malaria-endemic countries, so they are definitely the ones who we are targeting to protect with a vaccine.

Find out more about Burnet’s malaria research and the Malaria World Congress.

Staff Member



Health Issue

Contact Details

For more information in relation to this news article, please contact:

Doctor Jo-Anne Chan

Senior Postdoctoral Research Scientist




[email protected]

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