mRNA malaria vaccine due for first clinical trial
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mRNA malaria vaccine due for first clinical trial

Mahidol University plan makes progress

Jetsumon: Decade of research
Jetsumon: Decade of research

Mahidol University has inched closer to starting the world's first clinical trial of an mRNA vaccine against malaria.

Already tested on mice during a past laboratory trial, the vaccine candidate will now be tested on monkeys and then humans, said Prof Jetsumon Prachumsri, a researcher with the Faculty of Tropical Medicine at Mahidol and chief of the Mahidol Vivax Research Unit.

While most vaccines contain weakened or dead versions of bacteria or viruses, scientists have developed a new type that uses messenger RNA molecules, she said. Some mRNA vaccines played a vital role in protecting many lives during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the trial, the Mahidol research team will test an mRNA vaccine candidate on a number of Thai volunteers to see how it works before expanding the testing to cover volunteers in other countries, she said. This is to ensure the vaccine is effective also on people of other nations.

Malaria is a life-threatening disease that spreads to humans via some types of mosquitoes, typically found in tropical countries. Each year, there are more than 6 million new malaria cases worldwide.

Globally in 2022, there were approximately 249 million malaria cases and 608,000 malaria deaths in 85 countries, the World Health Organization says.

"Aside from testing this mRNA vaccine on humans, we also expect our work to inspire more research building on it.

"This will help sustain global malaria vaccine research and development and benefit humankind," said Prof Jetsumon, who has conducted research in the past decade to support the development of new drugs and vaccines for malaria.

Previously, the Mahidol Vivax Research Unit and the Mahidol-Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit at the University of Oxford jointly carried out a project in which researchers studied how Plasmodium vivax, a protozoal parasite and a human pathogen, infects a healthy human via a mosquito bite.

Mahidol's mRNA vaccine candidate will be tested on the volunteers taking part in the past Mahild-Oxford research project as well, said Prof Jetsumon.

Plasmodium vivax, or P vivax, is a parasite that causes malaria.

Although less virulent than Plasmodium falciparum, the deadliest of the five malaria parasites, P vivax infections can still lead to death, she said.

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