ISLAMABAD-For a study reported in the journal, researchers screened blood samples from children who had natural immune resistance to severe malaria infection.

The study identified an antibody to a particular malaria protein, called PfGARP that appears to protect resistant children from severe disease. Lab tests showed that antibodies to PfGARP seem to activate a malarial self-destruct mechanism, causing parasite cells living inside human red blood cells to undergo a form of programmed cell death.

The team is hopeful that vaccinating individuals with PfGARP to generate anti-PfGARP antibodies, or directly infusing anti-PfGARP antibodies, would protect them against severe malaria.

The team developed preliminary versions of those vaccines, and testing in nonhuman primates has shown promise, the researchers report. “We demonstrated in two independent studies in nonhuman primates that vaccination with PfGARP protects against a lethal malaria parasite,” said study senior author Dr. Jonathan Kurtis, a professor at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and laboratory director of the Center for International Health Research at Rhode Island Hospital.