New drug blocks transmission of malaria parasites

Monday, 15. August 2022 – 17:12 Update: 15-08-2022 17:19

One of the most important infectious diseases

Malaria is one of the most important infectious diseases of our time, with more than 200 million cases and more than 600 thousand deaths per year. Young children in Africa, with poor access to health care, are particularly at risk for malaria. The parasites that cause this disease only spread from one person to another via mosquitoes. Blocking this highly efficient spread of malaria is vital to reduce the global burden.

Antibody TB31F

The new drug, an antibody called TB31F, was discovered and developed by a team of scientists in Nijmegen. They conducted an initial study in humans together with PATH’s Malaria Vaccine Initiative. 25 healthy volunteers were administered TB31F, which was found to be safe and did not cause any major side effects. Researchers from the Malaria Unit of Radboudumc then determined the effect of TB31F, in the blood of the volunteers, on the transmission of parasites to mosquitoes.

Operation outside the body

In this lab, researchers feed cultured malaria parasites to cultured mosquitoes. In this way they mimic the transmission from infected persons to mosquitoes. Addition of the volunteers’ blood with TB31F was found to completely prevent the infection of the mosquitoes. The researchers estimate that one injection of TB31F could prevent the transmission between people via mosquitoes for an entire malaria season in many parts of the world. In combination with other measures, TB31F can therefore be a valuable tool in the fight against malaria.

No further distribution

‘The special thing is that this antibody actually works outside the human body’, explains medical microbiologist Matthew McCall of Radboudumc. ‘After injection into a human being, the antibody remains in the blood for a few months, but it actually doesn’t do anything there, even if someone has malaria. Only when a mosquito bites and sucks in blood containing both malaria parasites and the antibody, does the antibody ensure that the parasite cannot multiply in the mosquito. This prevents the parasite from spreading further and from causing new cases of disease.’

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