WASHINGTON, Aug. 29 (UPI) -- An international team of scientists has determined the three-dimensional molecular structure of a promising malaria-vaccine component.
The researchers say their goal is a successful vaccine for the disease, which currently infects approximately 400 million people worldwide and kills about 2 million people each year -- mostly children.
"The high number of deaths from malaria is partly due to the malaria parasite's acquired resistance to traditional treatments," said the study's lead researcher, biologist Adrian Batchelor of the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy. "The parasite is a highly complex organism that develops through different life-cycle stages. This has allowed it to evade the immune system and makes creating a comprehensive vaccine a difficult task."
Malaria vaccines to date have only able to temporarily suppress the disease. A complete, fully protective malaria vaccine will likely consist of several components, each only partially successful at fighting malaria on its own, researchers said.
The study is described in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The research team included scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and La Trobe University, both located in Australia, and researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory.