Navy Study May Lead to Malaria Vaccine
Dana Crudo | Health.mil
August 29, 2013
The Navy made medical history with its release of promising research results that may lead the way to a much-needed malaria vaccine.
The breakthrough research published in the journal Science on Aug. 8 includes results of a human clinical trial of a malaria vaccine developed by the Navy Medical Research Center and federal and industry collaborators. The trial showed 100 percent protection against the disease.
“This is a historical moment in malaria vaccine research development,” said Capt. Judith Epstein, lead investigator of the trial at the Navy Medical Research Center. “For the first time, we and our collaborators have a malaria vaccine approach which has demonstrated the high-level vaccine efficacy required to protect our troops.”
This is no easy feat. The malaria parasite is incredibly complex, making it particularly difficult to develop a vaccine, researchers say.
The Defense Department has been dedicated to solving the malaria riddle since World War II because of its significant impact on U.S. military operations throughout history. Malaria continues to present major challenges to troops in tropical and subtropical regions of the world where it is rampant.
However, malaria is not a problem unique to the military. It is a major global health concern, with the World Health Organization reporting 216 million cases of malaria and an estimated 655,000 deaths in 2010.
Despite the significant need, there currently is no approved vaccine against malaria.
The latest research by the Navy provides hope that a vaccine soon will be available to effectively combat malaria within the military and beyond.
“I see the Navy paving the way to a vaccine which can be used within the next three- to four years for military personnel and for the millions of individuals suffering and dying from malaria worldwide,” Epstein said.
The vaccine used in the clinical trial was given at varied doses by intravenous injection to 40 volunteers from October 2011 to October 2012. Navy researchers played a key role in the design of the study, particularly the assessment of vaccine efficacy and volunteer follow up.