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Scientists at the University of Oxford and the University of Edinburgh have launched a pioneering study that examines how the immune system responds to repeated malaria infections. The BIO-004 study is being run in partnership between the Department of Biochemistry (Draper Lab, based in the Kavli Institute for Nanoscience Discovery), the University of Edinburgh (Spence Lab, Institute of Immunology and Infection Research) and the Oxford Vaccine Group (part of the Department of Paediatrics). BIO-004 will provide a unique insight into how the immune system adapts over the first few malaria infections of life, learning to tolerate malaria parasites and developing natural immunity to severe illness.

Blue transparent figure of a men surrounded by blue virus

Adult volunteers, who have never had malaria before, will undergo controlled infection with malaria three times in carefully monitored conditions. These serial “malaria challenges” will take place over a 20-month period and will allow researchers to compare the immune response to first, second and third infection. Over 600 people have previously participated in malaria challenge studies in Oxford, primarily in the context of malaria vaccine clinical trials. However, using repeated malaria challenges to study the human immune system in such close detail is a world first.

Dr Angela Minassian, Chief Investigator for the trial (University of Oxford), said: “Malaria is a disease caused by a parasite infection that is spread by mosquitoes. It continues to cause hundreds of thousands of deaths every year, 75% of which occur in children under the age of 5 years. Current efforts to control the disease are focussed on stopping mosquitoes from biting, either by spraying insecticides or sleeping under bed nets, and by reducing the number of parasites in the blood, using drugs or the recently licensed malaria vaccines, RTS,S and R21. However these measures are only partially effective”.


Read the full story on the University of Oxford website.