A Vaccine for Malaria?
March 10th, Alexis Kaushansky, PhD, from the Center for Infectious Disease Research (CIDR) in Seattle gave a speech about the Center’s attempt to create a vaccine that would keep people from getting malaria. The approach is different from the normal in that it would stop the spread of the malaria parasite in the liver, where it resides before before it gets to the blood where it causes its damage, and from where it spreads. If successful, this approach would cut a link of the life cycle of Malaria, because biting mosquitoes will not be pick up the parasite before it is in the blood. This would make the hope of eliminating, or at least controlling the spread of human Malaria.
Last week, May Quarcoo, a Rotarian from Ghana and owner of Maqtrex Enterprise in Accra, visited our club for a second time and expressed an interest in visiting CIDR after hearing about it at our meeting. So I arranged a visit the Alexis and we had the visit the next day. Kent Irwin, Senior Director of Operations, gave us a fascinating two hour tour. We got to see some of the research in action. The antigen (if this is the right term) needed in the liver has been develop at CIDR. But a means to deliver it has not been. Solving this problem the focus of the research now.
This is a problem because one one cannot use humans for the type experiments required. But as it turns out, some rodents have a version of Malaria that is carried by a different type of mosquito and does not infect humans and vice versa. So CIDR added a laboratory to replicate the complete Malaria life cycle for mice, completely separate from the human laboratory, including the breeding and growing of the mice. We got to see all the steps of the mouse life cycle, the mosquito life cycle, and how the parasites were gathered, reproduced, and injected into the mosquitoes, and how the mosquitoes were allowed to infect the mice.
In addition, CIDR is doing similar forms of research to develop drug and/or vaccines for other diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis, African sleeping sickness and leishmaniasis. For one who has been involved in research facilities for non-living things, this facility creates a sense of wonder and appreciation for what they are doing.