Engineering attenuation

By exploiting a malaria parasite's "Achilles heel," researchers in Germany say a transgenic whole-organism vaccine for humans may be possible.

Cathy Holding
Dec 19, 2004

By exploiting a malaria parasite's "Achilles heel," researchers in Germany say a transgenic whole-organism vaccine for humans may be possible. A group headed by Stefan H.I. Kappe at Heidelberg University School of Medicine induced complete protection against malaria in mice by infecting them with living Plasmodium berghei lacking a single gene, known as UIS3 (for upregulated in infectious sporozoites gene 3).1 But safety and production issues could prevent the development of the vaccine for humans, say others.

Kappe's group had previously identified UIS3 as being essential for early liver-stage development of the parasite. Sporozoites lacking the gene were not able to develop fully through the liver cycle and induce blood-stage infection. Repeated injections with the sporozoites never resulted in the animals developing malaria, Kappe says.

X-ray irradiation-attenuated Plasmodium falciparum parasites can protect humans from blood-stage infection and disease, notes Filip Dubovsky of the Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI). "[But] this...

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