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Malaria is an infectious disease transmitted by the Anopheles kind of mosquito is endemic in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Eighty-nine countries all over the world are affected by malaria, being responsible for 400,000 deaths a year, based on the World Health Organization (WHO). The disease being connected with risks of low birth weight and neonatal mortality, it is particularly dangerous for pregnant women and their unborn children, more so in sub-Saharan African countries.

In collaboration of National Blood Transfusion Institute in Paris, Inserm and the Université de Paris researchers aimed to protect the lives of hundred-thousands of people suffered from malaria by developing a vaccine that protects pregnant women and unborn children from the disease, with its initial clinical test results proving effective protection that can last for several months.

These results have been published in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases, regarding the project as PRIMVAC, the project at length assesses the vaccine’s efficacy by testing it on 68 non-pregnant women aged 18 to 35 years over a period of 15 months. These participants were organized into four cohorts, with each patient receiving the vaccine at different doses on 3 separate occasions over a period of three months. This followed by a 15-month period in identifying and managing any side effects whilst studying the women’s immune response to the vaccination.

The project was conducted in Paris and then at the National Malaria Research and Training Centre in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

“We were able to show that the vaccine is well-tolerated, at all the tested doses. The side effects observed were mainly pain at the injection site. We also revealed that the quantity of antibodies generated by the vaccine increases after each vaccination and that they persist for several months. It, therefore, appears that the vaccine has the capacity to trigger a lasting and potentially protective immune response,” divulged Benoît Gamain, a CNRS research director and project leader.

After only two injections, the vaccine’s proved to have an ability to exude an immune response with antibody production in 100% of vaccinated women.

The researchers now will have to follow the study in conducting more clinical tests for its long-term immune response and effectivity use. They’re also planning to follow 50 women in Burkina Faso who also participated in the study to observe if the vaccine efficacy also covers up to their first pregnancy.

“Developing an effective vaccine for young women before their first pregnancy is a priority if we are to reduce malaria-related mortality. An effective strategy could focus on a population similar to that targeted by HPV vaccination, for example, before the women become sexually active,” said Benoît Gamain.