Danish malaria vaccine for pregnant women could save millions

Testing on humans to begin in a few months

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen (KU) are ready to test the first ever malaria vaccine against pregnancy-related malaria that could end up saving millions of lives in the future.

The vaccine, which has already been tested on animals, will begin testing within a few months. The researchers have begun recruiting women for the test in Germany and Benin.

Pregnant women being infected with malaria is a massive problem in many developing countries, particularly in Africa, and millions of people are affected by the illness – contributing to an untold number of deaths every year.

”We need to go through a long string of very intensive tests,” Ali Salanti, a professor at the Department of Immunology and Microbiology at KU who started working with the vaccine in 2002, said. ”The women need to be vaccinated before they become pregnant”

”They then need to be monitored for a period, and then their children need to be monitored. We hope to show that the vaccine has an effect within a ten-year period.”

READ MORE: Malaria's coming to Denmark

Vulnerable group
According to Salanti, the mother and foster are affected my malaria and that is one of the principal reasons why many children in Africa have birth weights that are far too low. Pregnant women and young children are among the most vulnerable groups when it comes to malaria.

The vaccine works by making the body form antibodies that prevent the parasite from attaching to the placenta. It then circulates through the blood stream and eventually dies in the spleen without causing damage to the mother or foetus.

The vaccine is being developed thanks to a public-private sector collaboration that includes the Danish companies ExpreS2ion Biotechnologies and CMC Biologics, while being funded by the European Vaccine Initiative, DANIDA, the EU and the Innovation Fund Denmark.