A new study says that preventative treatment antibiotics in people living in areas with intense malaria transmission has the potential to act as a 'needle-free' natural vaccine against malaria.
Researchers from the London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (LSHTM), Heidelberg University School of Medicine, the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology, Germany, and the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme, Kenya, found that infection with malaria parasites during administration of preventative antibiotics developed a vaccine-like immunity against re-infection.
The team showed that the antibiotics caused a cellular defect in malaria parasites during their passage into the liver of the infected host.
This action did not prevent parasite replication in the liver but blocked the malaria parasite's fatal conversion to the disease causing blood stage.
The very late arrest of parasites in the liver allowed the immune system to mount a robust defence against subsequent infections, akin to experimental whole organism vaccine strategies using attenuated parasites.
The idea is to take advantage of the immunological benefit of antibiotic prophylaxis in areas of moderate to high malaria transmission.
An important follow-up of this work is the validation of our experimental approach by clinical trials in humans.
Dr Steffen Borrman said that ff successful, periodic administration of antibiotics, preferably in drug combinations, in high-risk population groups, particularly young, non-immune children, may provide an additional valuable tool for controlling and/or eliminating malaria in resource-poor settings.
The study is published in the journal Science Translation Medicine.