As well as Braz

Publicação: 13 de July de 2012


Malaria is a disease almost exclusive to tropical or developing countries and 1/3 of the world’s population lives in areas at risk of infection by plasmodium falciparum

A report by  ScienceDaily revealed that biologists at the University of California, San Diego (USA), are experimenting for the production of a potential algae-based vaccine against Plasmodium falciparum, which causes the most lethal form of malaria. The fact promises to pave the way for development of a low cost immunobiological agent that would be able to protect billions of people from one the most prevalent diseases in the world.

For the coordinator of the National Institute of Science and Technology of Vaccines, the professor at Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) and researcher at Fiocruz, Gazzineli Ricardo, the great advance of the study was to discover that the protein expression in algae results in a protein more similar to that expressed in the parasite and thus, capable of producing an immune response more suitable to fight the parasite than the more traditional methods of recombinant protein production.

The expert reveals that currently one third of the world population lives in areas at risk of infection by Plasmodium falciparum. This represents billions of people. “Obviously, there are also those in closer areas. But it is important to clarify that a malaria vaccine has to have a huge production to immunize the entire population at risk”, says Gazzineli, acknowledging that malaria is a disease almost exclusive to tropical or developing countries. “I would say it is more of a problem for developing countries, however, these countries are mostly in tropical areas”, he adds.

As the vaccine would have be produced on a large scale, due to the significant part of the population that can be affected by the disease, the researcher points out that another important issue in the study of the biologists at the University of California is the low cost for the production of the immunobiological agent”. There are other systems of expression that may produce eukaryotes – the bacterium is prokaryotic. Eukaryotes are closer to the Plasmodium, producing a more similar protein; however they are very expensive systems. Thus the expression in the alga is a means of producing more quickly a more similar protein, with a relatively inexpensive system”, believes Gazzineli.

“In our institute, we have a group that is developing a vaccine against malaria. It has been tested in primates and is geared towards plasmodium vivax, the most common plasmodium in Brazil”, said the specialist, who ensures that the development of this vaccine would have great application in the world – 200 million people are infected with Plasmodium vivax in the world”. Developing an effective vaccine against malaria is something that will actually have wide application. Obviously, it will make an enormous impact on public health, but also can bring profit, since developing countries are increasing their economic power”, says the researcher at Fiocruz in praising the U.S. study.

The production of the vaccine in Brazil
Gazzineli explains that, currently what most limits the advancement of research in Brazil are the difficulties in conducting clinical trials. “For our group, the barrier is to move from the laboratory, from the mouse, from the primate, from this first stage of the development the vaccine, to testing in humans”, he says. He says that the process involves a series of difficulties, such as the production of reagents for the vaccine under conditions of good laboratory practice, so that they can be tested in humans. The licensing from the National Agency of Sanitary Surveillance (ANVISA) is required for this stage. The researcher highlights that actions in this area should be expanded so that clinical trials can be more readily implemented.

“We currently have malaria and dengue vaccines to be tested – which were developed at Fiocruz (Biomanguinhos) – the leishmaniasis vaccine – which was developed by my group. This vaccine has been tested in dogs and, of course, our next step would be testing in humans”, stresses the specialist. He also reveals that, through the association between research institutions and pharmaceutical companies, clinical trials have already become possible to perform. To Gazzineli, that is good. He ensures that there is a movement towards cooperation with the laboratories, once the product is available for testing”. But what happens is that these vaccines are orphans, i.e., there is no interest from industries”, he points out. According to Gazzineli, two things need to be done: to encourage interaction with companies and have independence, so that tests can be carried out within the public sector, when necessary.

According to the researcher, there is a force, a general mobilization that is aware of this issue. From his perspective, sometimes there is shortage of infrastructure and also of experienced people to do the job”. I see there is a mobilization, but it is going to take time. It takes awareness from our managers. This is an area that requires a significant investment so that we overcome this barrier and the tests become easier”, he says.

Malaria is an infection that affects approximately 200 to 300 million people per year worldwide. There are two main species of Plasmodium that causes malaria, vivax – responsible for two thirds of cases – and plasmodium falciparum, the latter responsible for one third of cases, the deadliest form of malaria and more common in Africa”. Much of the mortality caused by malaria is due to infection by Plasmodium  falciparo. Nowadays, an estimated one million children die each year with malaria, “said Gazzineli.

In the case of vivax, although a milder infection, there is a large impact on the productive sector. The vivax-infected person has to be off work for a period of time due to high fever and pain, and this has an impact on productive activities and public health.…