AN EFFECTIVE vaccine against malaria could soon be available thanks to research work at Imperial College, London, aimed at understanding the role of a malarial protein. Called thrombospondin-related adhesive protein (TRAP), the sticky protein enables malarial parasites carried by mosquitoes to infect human cells by adhering to the cell surface. Andreas Crisanti, head of the research team based at Imperial's biology department, explains that infection is initiated when the malaria parasite, injected into the blood by an infected mosquito, reaches and invades cells of the liver where it starts to replicate. In doing so the parasite relies on its ability to attach itself to the surface of blood vessels.
Dr Crisanti says: "Antibodies directed against this protein are able to block the adhesive property of TRAP. The paralysed parasites are then unable to invade the liver cells and start the infection."
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