Newly discovered molecule spurs kids’ immune systems to pump out antibodies
Tanzanian toddlers may have handed scientists the key to kicking malaria.
By examining blood plasma of two-year-olds exposed to the disease, researchers have discovered a new vaccine target: a protein recognized by the immune systems of malaria-resistant children.
Malaria, which can be especially deadly for kids, develops when mosquito-borne protozoan parasites invade and then burst out of red blood cells to enter the bloodstream. Drugs can treat the disease, but researchers have struggled to develop vaccines.
Malaria researcher Jonathan Kurtis of Brown University in Providence, R.I., and colleagues examined plasma samples and disease histories collected during a 2005 study of 453 Tanzanian youngsters. The team found that kids resistant to malaria make antibodies that can spot a parasite protein and trap marauding protozoa within red blood cells. Imprisoned, the parasites can no longer rampage through the body.