NEW ORLEANS - A Tulane University researcher has found a way to use E.coli bacteria to cheaply manufacture a once hard-to-produce protein critical to the development of a potential transmission-blocking malaria vaccine.
Nirbhay Kumar, professor and chair of tropical medicine at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, worked with Evelina Angov of the Walter Reed Army Institute for Research to use the common bacteria to create a new process to purify and refold protein CHrPfs25.
When tested as a vaccine, the protein produced a 100 percent effective malaria transmission-blocking antibody response in mice using the two most common species of malaria-carrying mosquitoes, according to results to be published in the April issue of the journal Infection and Immunity.
Malaria, which kills nearly 800,000 people every year worldwide, is caused by a microscopic parasite that alternates between human and mosquito hosts at various stages of its lifecycle. Kumar’s vaccine seeks to trigger an immune response in people so they produce antibodies that target a protein the malaria parasite needs to reproduce within a mosquito.
Transmission blocking vaccines, though not yet widely tested in humans, have the potential to be used in conjunction with more traditional malaria vaccines and other interventions - such as malaria drugs and bed nets - to fight the complex tropical disease and ultimately aid in the gradual elimination of the parasites.
Kumar’s studies are funded by the National Institutes of Health.