Antibody treatment tested as new anti-malaria drug | WGN 720 Radio

Research in Africa has found that a single dose of an experimental drug protects adults against malaria for at least six months, the latest approach to fighting the mosquito-borne disease.

Malaria killed more than 620,000 people in 2020 and sickened 241 million, mostly children under the age of 5 in Africa. The World Health Organization is releasing the first approved malaria vaccine for children, but it is about 30% effective and requires four doses.

The new study tested a very different approach — giving people a large dose of lab-made anti-malaria antibodies instead of relying on the immune system to make enough of those same infection-blockers after vaccination.

“The available vaccine does not protect enough people,” said Dr. Kassoum Kayentaa of the University of Science, Technology and Technology in Bamako, Mali, who helped lead the study in the villages of Kalifabougou and Tarada.

Other studies have shown that people in these villages are bitten by infected mosquitoes an average of twice a day during the malaria season.

The experimental antibodies, developed by researchers at the US National Institutes of Health, were given IV – difficult to deliver on a large scale. But the encouraging findings hold promise for an easier-to-administer injectable version from the same scientists, which is in the early stages of testing in infants, children and adults.

The US government study was published Monday in the New England Journal of Medicine and presented at a medical meeting in Seattle.

The antibodies work by disrupting the life cycle of the parasite, which is spread through mosquito bites. It targets immature parasites before they enter the liver where they can mature and multiply. It was developed from antibodies taken from a volunteer who had received the malaria vaccine.

The study involved 330 adults in Mali who received one of two different doses of the antibody or a sham infusion. Tests for malaria infection were performed every two weeks for 24 weeks. Those who fell ill were treated.

Infections were detected by blood tests in 20 people who received the higher dose, 39 people who received the lower dose, and 86 who received a placebo.

The higher dose was 88% effective compared to placebo. The lower dose was 75% effective.

Protection can last for several months of the malaria season. The idea is to someday use it alongside other malaria prevention methods, such as malaria pills, mosquito nets and vaccines. The cost is uncertain, but one estimate suggests that lab-made antibodies could be given for as little as $5 per child per malaria season.

Antibodies made in the lab are used to treat cancer, autoimmune diseases and COVID-19, said Dr. Johanna Daly of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, who was not involved in the study.

“The good news is that we now have another immune therapy to try to control malaria,” Daily said.


The Associated Press Department of Health and Science receives support from the Department of Science Education at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. AP is solely responsible for all content.

Related Articles

Back to top button