A novel approach to attenuating the malaria parasite could herald a whole-organism vaccine for humans, according to research published this week in Nature.

A research collaboration between Stefan H.I. Kappe, assistant member of the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute's Malaria Antigen Discovery Program, and Kai Matuschewski's group at Heidelberg University School of Medicine induced complete protection against malaria by infecting mice with living Plasmodium berghei lacking a single gene, known as UIS3 for "upregulated in infectious sporozoites gene 3." The results, Kappe told The Scientist, are "very exciting." But safety and production issues could prevent the development of the vaccine for humans, say other scientists.

Kappe's group had previously identified UIS3 as being essential for early liver-stage development of the parasite. Plasmodium knockout technologies allowed the team to disrupt the gene without affecting the red cell cycle, meaning that the parasites could be maintained as asexual stages in...

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