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Biotech Medicine Science

Malaria Vaccine, Via Mosquito 178

CodeShark writes "The AP is reporting that mosquitoes have been used for the first time to deliver anti-malarial vaccine through their bites. According to this article the results were crystal clear: 100% of the vaccinated group acquired immunity, everyone in the non-vaccinated control group did not. Those in the control group and developed malaria when exposed to the parasites later, the vaccinated group did not. Malaria kills nearly a million people per year, mostly children."
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Malaria Vaccine, Via Mosquito

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  • by bcmm ( 768152 ) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @08:00PM (#28890601)
    Am I the only person reminded of the debate over whether it was OK to exploit holes in a botnet to disinfect other people's computers without their permission/knowledge?
    • by bcmm ( 768152 ) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @08:04PM (#28890639)
      Well, I read the article (sorry) and it's actually nothing to do with causing mosquitoes to spread a vaccine: the "vaccine" is regular malaria, and the treatment consists of letting people get bitten (and therefore exposed to the parasite) while giving them a drug which stops them actually getting malaria.
      • reminds me of quinine. [] They tried that once upon a time, it worked when it was being taken and it is still around in some tonic waters (but not enough to actually DO anything about malaria nowadays, that would be too bitter), but since malaria is still a problem, one can conclude that "stopping malaria after being bitten" is not the most effective preventative measure.

        The definition of insanity comes to mind.
  • by dr2chase ( 653338 ) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @08:03PM (#28890627) Homepage
    how in holy hell did they get that past the human subjects review board? Athlete's foot and common cold is one thing, intentionally infecting your control group with malaria is something else altogether.
    • by dr2chase ( 653338 ) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @08:08PM (#28890691) Homepage
      From the REAL FA []

      All subjects provided written informed consent. The trial was approved by the institutional review board at the Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre. The study sponsor, the Dioraphte Foundation, was not involved in the design of the study, in the gathering or analysis of the data, or in the writing of the manuscript.

      Damn. Informed consent to malaria infection.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by martinX ( 672498 )
        I worked in a research lab next to a bunch that did malaria vaccine work. They ran human trials occasionally and were always on the lookout for vict--- errr, volunteers. In this country, you can't pay people for taking part so they were offering book vouchers. Seriously. And it would have taken place on the weekend. My weekend not at work. I politely declined.
    • by timmarhy ( 659436 ) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @08:20PM (#28890789)
      malaria isn't a death sentence, if 10 people get malaria and become a bit sick, but it saves a million children, what would you do?
      • by dr2chase ( 653338 ) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @08:42PM (#28890953) Homepage
        It's not a matter of personal sacrifice, it's a matter of getting it past human subjects review. My wife's run ordinary social-science studies in the past, you have to jump through ridiculous hoops just to ask people questions.

        And yes, the volunteers are heroes, even if all we get out of this is knowledge. (If you read the NEJM article, the process is a bit involved -- it takes weeks, you need a strain of malaria known to be well-treatable with existing drugs, it requires a little stable of infected mosquitos.)
        • by CorporateSuit ( 1319461 ) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @08:48PM (#28891021)

          it requires a little stable of infected mosquitos.

          That sounds repulsive and adorable at the same time.

        • from the tone in your first post it sounded like you didn't think it should get past. yes i can well imagine the hoops they jumped through - it is probably the tail end of 10 years of study for them
          • How about, "I am completely boggled that it got through"? This is not man bites dog, this is man bites shark with frikkin lasers.
        • No shit! The IRB at my university jumps all over us if we change the wording of an email announcing an appointment to participants, and that's for research classified as minimal risk!

          I'm AMAZED.

          The altruistic nature of the volunteers is wonderful to see, I agree.

          • by TheLink ( 130905 )
            Yeah I'm amazed the study managed to get approved and done.

            Chloroquine itself is also fairly toxic.

            Thing is, is the immunity limited to Plasmodium falciparum or do they also end up immune to Plasmodium vivax and the rest?
        • I wonder if the lab had an even harder time getting approval for raising a colony of mosquitoes known to be infected with malaria than getting approval for infecting volunteers with malaria. I work in an entomology lab that specializes in the yellow fever mosquito Aedes aegypti. As a part of that work, we maintain a colony of mosquitoes. For us, we just have a pair of percivals (incubator that controls temperature, light, humidity, some also control CO2 levels) that we raise the insects in at different l
      • Volunteer someone else.
      • If malaria isn't a potential death sentence then how will curing it save people? The fact that curing it would save millions of lives indicates exactly how dangerous it is.

        You are also asking the wrong question. The question really is: would you risk your life on the slim chance that it might save others knowing that, should the treatment not work, you risked it for very little indeed?
        • What the other replier (Sobrique []) said, plus, the strain of malaria chosen was known-treatable.

          The more surprising disease is cholera -- a world-wide killer, yet (as I understand it) if you have a sufficient supply of electrolyte (Gatorade, more or less), you can survive it. Not fancy drugs -- gatorade.

          A friend of mine once remarked that there's a fair number of hospitals and clinics in Africa that cannot afford bleach for sterilizing equipment, and obviously, this leads to infection and deaths.
      • Think of the children?
    • how in holy hell did they get that past the human subjects review board? Athlete's foot and common cold is one thing, intentionally infecting your control group with malaria is something else altogether.

      You're so cute. You think there's review boards in a lot of the countries that have malaria problems?
      Big Pharma: Hi, I'd like to do a study trial on malaria. Here's $10,000.

      Despot: How soon can you start? Oh, just out of curiousity, will you be infecting people with malaria, trying to cure malaria, or infecting people, then trying to cure it?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by EvanTaylor ( 532101 )
      Had Malaria 8 times. If you know you have it and get treatment (pills or a shot) early, it isn't even as bad as a cold.

      Had a resistant form of Malaria once. It sucked balls because treatment would only work for a few days and then the symptoms would come back... harder. Took some stronger medicine and was fine.

      Malaria is not a big deal for healthy adults who can sense the symptoms. It is a HUGE deal for children who can not always understand the way they feel, or the elderly who have weak immune systems
  • Good news, everyone (Score:4, Informative)

    by smash ( 1351 ) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @08:08PM (#28890689) Homepage Journal
    ... whether or not you agree with the method of delivery or not, this is good news. Thus far there has been no *vaccine* for malaria, merely drugs to take while you're exposed to the risk of catching it. Unfortunately, at least one of these has undesirable long term side-effects...
    • by bcmm ( 768152 ) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @08:10PM (#28890697)
      It isn't a vaccine. It's just taking drugs that stop you actually developing malaria, then getting bitten. Regular unmodified malaria parasite is the "vaccine".
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by mindstrm ( 20013 )

        It is absolutely a vaccine. After being exposed to this combination of things - you both

        a) Don't get malaria
        b) are now immune to malaria

      • by smash ( 1351 )
        Its not a "vaccine" in the traditional sense, but the end result is the same. before this, the only way to not get malaria was to keep taking the drugs. Which, as I mentioned, have undesirable long term side effects (basically, take them too long and they make you batshit crazy).

        ... I mention this as someone who travels internationally, occasionally to African nations - so I've had all the vaccines for shit they can prevent that way (typhoid, yellow fever, rabies, etc, etc) - malaria isn't one of them.

        • Its not a "vaccine" in the traditional sense

          Yeah, if it were a vaccine in the traditional sense you'd be bitten by huge flying cows, not little mosquitoes.

      • This process induces immunity. Thus, it is a vaccine. By strict or loose definition.

    • ... Unfortunately, at least one of these has undesirable long term side-effects...

      Most of them have undesirable side-effects. In the malarial area where I work, the choices are effectively doxycycline or chloroquine. In both cases, you start dosing some time before possible exposure to malaria, and continue to take the drug for quite some time after last possible exposure. Doxycycline has to be taken every day, and most people I know who take it have stomach aches and/or nausea for a couple of hours after they take it, each time. (A couple of hours of nausea! Every day!


      • I'm in Afghanistan now and am supposed to be taking doxycycline. Not only do the side effects include nausea, but I've heard it causes nightmares, too. Fuck that shit, I'll take my chances. Coincidentally my ass is getting ate up with mosquitoes at this very moment..hope I don't get malaria.. :)

  • by sakdoctor ( 1087155 ) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @08:21PM (#28890811) Homepage

    Next up, new AIDS vaccine is delivered by sluts.

  • by John Whitley ( 6067 ) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @08:22PM (#28890817) Homepage

    The summary text is completely misleading vs. the article text. The mosquitoes don't "deliver" a vaccine. A combination technique is used, involving an existing anti-malarial drug and repeated exposure to the parasites via mosquitoes, to cause natural immunity to develop, essentially controlling a known path to malaria immunity. The article indicates this approach isn't usable on a practical scale, yet is important because:

    "This is not a vaccine" as in a commercial product, but a way to show how whole parasites can be used like a vaccine to protect against disease, said one of the Dutch researchers, Dr. Robert Sauerwein.

    The article does mentions separate work to commercialize a related approach involving weakened malaria parasites.

    • Yep. This is a good exercise in demonstrating how many /.ers actually RTFA and of the ones that do, have enough reading comprehension to understand what the article is telling them.

  • This needs modding (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Louse ( 610514 ) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @08:22PM (#28890819)
    Did anyone else see that XSS?
  • I prefer to just drink a few extra vodka tonics [] to prevent malaria when I'm in locations that are known to have it in the mosquito population :)

  • Cool experimient. Seriously. Very cool. Mosquitos curing malaria. Neat! But, I just gotta ask; wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't ask... Why can't we just use needles and syringes like everybody else?
    • Re:Um, OK. (Score:4, Informative)

      by Repossessed ( 1117929 ) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @09:24PM (#28891299)

      Presumably because areas with Malaria problems are poor, really fucking poor, as in they've never seen a dollar. That makes distributing a vaccine difficult, since you can't have the locals pay for it, nor do they have a good infrastructure for the delivery even if the Gates foundation or the like picks up the tab.

      This method isn't really practical for the same reasons, but TFA mentions a live vaccine that could conceivably be used the same way, and cheaply.

      • My guess would be, if it didn't work, it's easier to deny infecting people intentionally with mosquito bites than with needles. But honestly if I had to get injected with something, I think I'd rather have it done with a mosquito rather than a needle.
        • Ok, when I was a child I too was "afraid" of needles (as most kids probably are). But now I don't see the problem anymore, it's very very short sting that fades away immediately and doesn't even hurt much to begin with.

          In contrast, a mosquito bite is bound to itch for hours.

      • by bcmm ( 768152 )
        I've never seen a dollar, because I live in the UK, where we have proper money.

        I got given one of those US coins that's the same size as a new 5p (is the "dime" the tiny one?) once, though, in place of a real 5p, which was somewhat annoying.
        • No, what you haven't seen is the physical representation of a dollar. But thats just a piece of paper in the end, and your pounds or whatever they're called are worth a fair bit more than a dollar iirc.

    • because the parasite that causes malaria can't fully develop into the human pathogen outside of the mosquito (among other reasons).
  • by SEWilco ( 27983 ) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @09:13PM (#28891219) Journal

    Those in the control group and developed malaria when exposed to the parasites later, the vaccinated group did not.

    Rephrase, please. The control group did what?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 30, 2009 @10:04PM (#28891567)

    I grew up in Central African Republic and have had malaria once, and also had dozens of relapses. Malaria stays in your blood and you are at risk for a relapse even after you have recovered with or without medicine. Go server in the US military and contract Malaria while you are overseas on assignment and you will get an extra 600 check each month because it is considered a permanent disability.

  • I might be wrong, but I believe that the spread of malaria is largely due to badly constructed houses into which the fly is able to enter through cracks during night. If the money went into establishing better living conditions in the affected areas, the threat of malaria in those areas would be lesser, as well as having obvious additional benefits for the people living there.

    Just my 2p.

  • This is so true to the word science, not only can we change the hiv virus to now attack cancer cells, we can genetically change mosquitos to give us our vaccines against all diseases, including one that they would be responsible for giving to us in the first place.
    I say create the super bugs, and fill them with all those good strands of cures for all the worst out there, and then they can feast on our living flesh as we all laugh knowing we are getting vaccinated instead of some random disease.

  • Why not deliver all medicine this way? They are basically tiny flying needles after all!

Competence, like truth, beauty, and contact lenses, is in the eye of the beholder. -- Dr. Laurence J. Peter