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New mRNA Vaccines Offer Hope for Fighting Malaria

A pair of messenger RNA vaccines has shown promise in both treating malaria infection and reducing its transmission in study published in NPJ Vaccines this week, offering hope for a new tool to combat this deadly, mosquito-transmitted infectious disease. In light of the successes around mRNA vaccines for SARS-CoV-2, a George Washington University-led team evaluated two vaccines based on that technology that each target a different protein critical for the malaria-causing parasite Plasmodium falciparum. The first protein, PfCSP, helps the parasite move and invade a host's liver, while the second, Pfs25, allows it to reproduce in the midgut of mosquitos. The researchers administered the vaccines to mice, then challenged the animals with P. falciparum infection. They find that both treatments induced potent immune responses to protect the mice against infection as well as reduced P. falciparum transmission to healthy mosquitos exposed to the parasite. Notably, the vaccines proved highly effective when administered together, which may represent an effective way to interrupt malaria transmission and help achieving malaria elimination goals, the study's authors write.