A team led by led by Sheetij Dutta, from the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, USA, focused on a protein called AMA1 needed by the Plasmodium falciparum parasite to invade blood cells and cause disease.
The challenge with the malaria parasite in general and its AMA1 surface protein in particular is that both exist as multiple strains.
To explore the potential for a more broadly protective vaccine, the scientists tested different cocktails of AMA1 from different parasite strains for their ability to elicit a diverse range of antibodies that are active in parasite inhibition assays.
Using blood samples collected from children during bouts of malaria, the scientists sequenced the parasite gene for the vaccine protein, AMA1.
If children were infected with a parasite with similar AMA1 to that of the parasite used in the vaccine, we saw that it was 64 percent protective," says Dr.