Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have located a new – and likely more promising, they say – target for a potential vaccine against malaria, a mosquito-borne illness that kills as many as 750,000 people each year.
The findings, published June 15 in the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, detail how the researchers created a 3-D crystal structure of the protein believed central to the transmission of the malaria parasite through mosquitoes. In looking anew at the AnAPN1 protein, an enzyme in the gut of the Anopheles mosquito, they determined that previous incarnations of a proposed vaccine included irrelevant regions of the protein – something they say explains why a vaccine that looked promising in mice didn’t provide the optimum protection.
Half the world’s population is at risk for malaria, but there is no commercially available vaccine. The vast majority of those who succumb to the parasite – as many as 90 percent – are children under age five, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa.
The researchers had originally looked at fragments of the AnAPN1 protein in order to understand its role in parasite transmission.