The Queensland Institute of Medical Research is calling for volunteers to take part in Phase I clinical trials for a new vaccine against malaria.
Malaria is one of the world’s biggest killers, claiming up to four lives every minute – many of these children. In fact, the 300 million to 500 million malaria cases recorded each year result in more than 1 million deaths annually.
Spread by mosquitoes, malaria is an infection of red blood cells caused by parasites, the most dangerous of which is Plasmodium falciparum. Associate Professor James McCarthy, Head of QIMR’s Clinical Tropical Medicine group, is undertaking a trial with the US-based PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative to test the safety of the candidate vaccine (MSP2-C1/ISA720) that is aimed at preventing the malaria parasite from getting into red blood cells.
“Testing the safety of this vaccine is an important step towards discovering if it will be helpful in areas where malaria occurs,” Associate Professor McCarthy says.
Many countries, especially those in tropical climates, desperately need a vaccine that would protect millions of people from malaria infection and potentially save lives. Indeed, an effective vaccine could also benefit the tourists who holiday in these locations.
At this time, there is no licensed vaccine to prevent malaria.
“While this is the first time this particular vaccine will be tested in humans, closely related vaccines have been tested in the past without serious side-effects occurring in the volunteers,” Associate Professor McCarthy added. “Volunteers can also rest assured that they cannot contract malaria from this vaccine.”
The trials will be conducted by Q-Pharm, a private clinical trials company co-located at QIMR and the RBWH. People who wish to volunteer for these trials should contact Q-Pharm.
The purpose of this study is to make sure this malaria vaccine is safe to give to people and to see if the immune response to the vaccine is adequate. Volunteers will be required to attend the Q-Pharm Clinic for a pre-trial screening with a medical officer.
If eligible, willing volunteers will receive three immunisations at 12 week intervals and be asked to return to the clinic for 17 visits for follow up blood tests. Volunteers will also be asked to keep a diary card for four weeks after each vaccine and will be compensated for completing all trial requirements.