A one-time dose-based experimental drug has been found by researchers at the U.S National Institutes of Health that prevents malarial infection in adults for at least 6 months. The research was done by giving the participants a huge dose of antibodies designed in the lab rather than waiting for the body to make antibodies after vaccination.
The findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine and also presented at a medical meet conducted in Seattle. Dr.Kassoum Kayentao, lead researcher, at the University of Sciences, Techniques, and Technologies in Bamako, Mali said that the existing drug used by WHO wasn’t helping many people to fight malaria infection.
A Novel Malaria Prevention Method Using Antibodies Is Being Investigated
In Africa, malaria has taken around 620,000 lives in 2020 and made 241 million sick, out of which many are under the age of 5. The current vaccine rolled out by WHO is considered to be only 30 percent effective and it requires up to four doses.
The new drug was tested on people living in Kalifabougou and Torodo villages in Mali where during malaria season, people get bitten twice a day on average. These are considered some of the most transmission-intensive areas where infections spread fast among people. So the results from the drug trial instill more confidence in the researchers about the effectiveness of the drug.
The researchers at the U.S National Institutes of Health had developed the drug in the form of an Intravenous solution which is impractical to be administered to a larger population. But the positive results from the findings will be encouraging as another drug created by the same team is easier to administer as the shot is being tested on infants, children, and adults. The kids of these Malian villages are heavily exposed to malarial infections as they get life-threatening infections at least twice in a season and this can even go up to 5 infections. The new antibody drug works by attacking the life cycle of the malarial parasite. It does so by targeting the immature parasites before they enter the liver where they can grow and proliferate. The drug was developed from the antibodies taken from a volunteer who was malaria affected and had received a malaria vaccine.
The test was conducted on 330 adults in the Mali villages and three different drug levels were administered with one being the higher dose, the second one being a low dose, and the third being a placebo. The participants were then observed for a period of 24 weeks with regular testing for the presence of malaria infection. By the end of the trial, it was found that compared to the placebo, 88% of the adults who got higher doses were found to be infected free whereas the lower dose was found to be effective in 75%.
The effects of the drug may last for a period of 6 months and this was a good sign as people could go through the malaria season without facing infection risks. Also, the drug doesn’t work as a standalone solution, the researchers say that it should be used alongside other prevention methods like mosquito nets, malaria pills, and vaccines. The estimated cost of the new lab-made antibody drug can be around $5 per child during a malaria season.
Dr.Johanna Daily who works at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in New York said that antibody therapy has been used to treat various conditions like Covid, Cancer, and other autoimmune diseases. The discovery of this new drug is good news as it is yet another immune-based therapy for controlling malaria infection around the world.