Researchers at the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet (KI) and the Swedish Institute for Infectious Disease Control (SMI) say that they have identified specific parts of the adhesive protein produced by the malaria parasite, which can lead to the development of a vaccine for the disease in future.
Led by Professor Mats Wahlgren at the Department of Microbiology, Tumour and Cell Biology at KI, a team of researchers studied the adhesive protein PfEMP1 in children with severe malaria.
The researchers say that during the study, they identified specific parts of PfEMP1 that are likely to bond more strongly to the receptors in the blood vessels, therefore producing a stronger adhesive effect.
According to them, these protein parts are much more common in parasites that cause particularly severe malaria.
The researchers believe that designing a vaccine that prepares the body's own immune defence may be possible, if they could identify enough adhesive proteins causing severe malaria.
"There are no vaccines yet that can prevent the development of malaria and cure a seriously infected person," says Professor Wahlgren.
"We've now discovered a structure that can be used in a vaccine that might be able to help these people," he added.