Friday, July 31, 2009

Mosquitoes deliver malaria 'vaccine' through bites

So, let me get this straight. It's considered to be unethical to test vaccines with a true placebo because vaccines are ASSUMED to be safe and effective and therefore, it's unethical to leave one group unprotected for the sake of testing them. BUT, it's ok to expose people to mutant mosquitoes which are known to be causing a pathogenic parasite. Hmmmmm.

In a daring experiment in Europe, scientists used mosquitoes as flying needles to deliver a "vaccine" of live malaria parasites through their bites. The results were astounding: Everyone in the vaccine group acquired immunity to malaria; everyone in a non-vaccinated comparison group did not, and developed malaria when exposed to the parasites later.

The study was only a small proof-of-principle test, and its approach is not practical on a large scale. However, it shows that scientists may finally be on the right track to developing an effective vaccine against one of mankind's top killers. A vaccine that uses modified live parasites just entered human testing.

"Malaria vaccines are moving from the laboratory into the real world," Dr. Carlos Campbell wrote in an editorial accompanying the study in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine. He works for PATH, the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health, a Seattle-based global health foundation.

The new study "reminds us that the whole malaria parasite is the most potent immunizing" agent, even though it is harder to develop a vaccine this way and other leading candidates take a different approach, he wrote.

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