Dr. Francis Ntumngia, a research assistant professor in the College of Public Health’s Department of Global Health, has received a two-year NIH grant for $411,125 to advance the search for a practical vaccine against Plasmodium vivax malaria. Ntumngia works with a research team headed by Dr. John Adams.
Malaria is a deadly parasitic disease prevalent in tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world, causing an estimated one death every 30 seconds, especially of children under 5 years of age. There is no practical vaccine to prevent infection or control the disease.
According to the Malaria Vaccine Initiative web site, P. vivax is the most common of the four human strains of malaria, alone accounting for 65 percent of cases in India, one of the hardest-hit portions of the world. MVI also says the disease is spreading into non-endemic areas because of increases in international travel and the disease’s increasing resistance to antimalarial drugs.
In particular, malaria caused by Plasmodium vivax, a protozoal parasite spread mainly by Anopheles mosquitoes, is becoming an increasing global health threat, MVI says, with cases reported in the United States as far north as New York.
“There is an urgent need to develop a vaccine against this disease,” Dr. Ntumngia said. “A major challenge for vaccine development against malaria is identifying the best targets for inclusion in a vaccine. Parasite proteins used for infecting human blood cells represent ideal candidates for vaccine development, which in P. vivax, includes the reticulocyte binding protein.”