Researchers from Instituto Leônidas & Maria Deane, Fiocruz Amazônia and universities in Japan and the United Kingdom are involved in the development of the vívax malaria vaccine. The project is funded by the Global Fund for Innovative Technology in Health (GHIT), an Asian country, and is applying for a vaccine for Plasmodium vivax malaria. According to Fiocruz, this parasite is responsible for 83 percent of cases in Brazil.
In Brazil, Fiocruz Amazônia is conducting preclinical research. This stage precedes clinical trials in humans. “[O incentivo] That is very important to us, because Japan has a very advanced technological center. And it manages to produce this vaccine formulation so that we can perform this preclinical evaluation, ”explains Stefanie Lopes, Fiocruz Amazoni’s Deputy Director of Research and Local Research Coordinator.
“Here in Brazil, we are going to do it by assessing whether this vaccine can prevent mosquito infection. [Anopheles, vetor do Plasmodium vívax]”, adds the researcher.
A preclinical study precedes clinical trials in humans. It is used to analyze how the substance reacts in the body. Tests can be performed in vivo (animals), in vitro (biological samples) and ex vivo (tissues). If the result is positive, the study moves on to the next step, the clinical trial. “[A pesquisa pré-clínica] Indeed, it needs to be assessed whether this strategy, this antigen-containing vaccine formulation we are proposing, has the expected effect. If this result is positive, it is possible to conduct clinical trials, ”explains the local research coordinator.
In Brazil, research is still being conducted with in vivo assays that prevent the spread of the disease in the vector and affect the blood phase of the parasite ex vivo.
Malaria in Brazil
Information from the Ministry of Health points out that around 99% of malaria cases are concentrated in the Amazon region, in the states of Acre, Amazonas, Amapán, Maranhão, Mato Grosso, Pará, Rondônia, Roraima and Tocantins.
In 2021, 145,000 cases of malaria were diagnosed in Brazil. Brazil aims to prevent the spread of the disease by 2035.
According to Arnaldo Correia de Medeiros, health secretary at the Ministry of Health, the numbers are slowly being controlled, but more prevention, treatment and information are needed to enable the country to control malaria. “Between 2019 and 2020, the number of malaria cases in Brazil has decreased by more than 10%. However, despite the good news, it must be remembered that malaria is a public health challenge. There are more than 140,000 cases a year, almost all in the Amazon region, ”the director points out.
Malaria is one of the oldest parasitic diseases in the world, caused by four different types of protozoa. It is transmitted by an infected female Anopheles mosquito that bites humans to become the protozoan host.
If an infected mosquito bites an infected person, it will also spread malaria. But it can also be transmitted by distributing syringes, blood transfusions or even from mother to fetus during pregnancy. The most common symptoms are high fever, chills and loss of appetite.
There is only one vaccine against the disease in the world, RTS, S / AS01 (RTS, S), which has been introduced by the WHO in three African countries: Ghana, Kenya and Malawi. This immunizer controls cases of falciparum malaria.