The Naval Medical Research Center, along with other government agencies, have conducted successful trials of a malaria vaccine that promises to provide total immunity to the tropical disease, a researcher at NMRC told USNI News on Thursday.
“This is the first time we have something that is capable of generating, what we call ‘robust immunity’,” Navy Capt. Judith E. Epstein, NMRC lead investigator for NMRC told USNI News.
“It means people aren’t getting infection at all. It’s a major breakthrough because people have been trying to develop a malaria vaccine for decades. “
The NMRC partnered with Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR), vaccine manufacturer Sanaria and the National Institute of Health to conduct the trial that proved the efficacy of the vaccine.
“It’s called a whole organism approach. It means we’re giving them a weakened form of the whole parasite,” Epstein said.
“Starting around 2005, our colleagues at Sanaira actually showed you could take those parasites and they can be given as a vaccine.”
The next step is for the team is to begin working for the Food and Drug Administration to bring the vaccine to the fleet.
“We’re trying very hard to bring things forward in the next three to five years so we can apply for licensure,” Epstein said.
“That’s what we would like to do but that’s a very tall order.”
Pentagon estimates more troops have been killed by malaria in tropical climates than by enemy action.
In 2003, 80 out of a contingent of 225 Marines sent to Liberia succumbed to malaria infection and required sending the Marines back to the U.S.