Malaria vaccines hold significant promise for life-saving benefit, especially to children who bear the major burden of malaria mortality. The RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine provides moderate efficacy and is being tested in implementation studies. In parallel, multiple strategies are being advanced to test next-generation malaria vaccines, including novel approaches that build on principles learned from RTS,S development, vaccination with radiation-attenuated sporozoites, and development of monoclonal antibodies targeting immunogenic peptides.
Malaria continues to be a major disease of public health concern affecting several million people worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) started a pilot study on a malaria vaccine (RTS,S) in Ghana and two other countries in 2019. This study aimed at assessing the factors associated with uptake of the vaccine in the Sunyani Municipality of Ghana.
An effective vaccine would be a valuable tool for malaria control and elimination; however, the leading malaria vaccine in development, RTS,S/AS01, provided only partial protection in a Phase 3 trial. R21 is a next-generation RTS,S-like vaccine. We have previously shown in mice that R21 administered in Matrix-M is highly immunogenic, able to elicit complete protection against sporozoite challenge, and can be successfully administered with TRAP based viral-vectors resulting in enhanced protection. In this study, we developed a novel, GMP-compatible purification process for R21, and evaluated the immunogenicity and protective efficacy of ultra-low doses of both R21 and RTS,S when formulated in AS01.
A safe and effective vaccine will likely be necessary for the control or eradication of malaria which kills 400,000 annually. Our most advanced vaccine candidate to date is RTS,S which is based on the Plasmodium falciparum circumsporozoite protein (PfCSP) of the malaria parasite. However, protection by RTS,S is incomplete and short-lived.
The circumsporozoite protein (CSP) is the main surface antigen of malaria sporozoites, a prime vaccine target, and is known to have polymorphisms in the C-terminal region. Vaccines using a single allele may have lower efficacy against genotypic variants. Recent studies have found evidence suggesting the efficacy of the CSP-based RTS,S malaria vaccine may be limited against P. falciparum CSP alleles that diverge from the 3D7 vaccine allele, particularly in this polymorphic C-terminal region.