Closing the Gap: Malaria Vaccine Candidate Proves Effective in Navy Medicine Clinical Trial

Story Number: NNS170201-12Release Date: 2/1/2017 2:23:00 PM
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From Naval Medical Research Center Public Affairs

SILVER SPRING, Md. (NNS) -- Researchers at the Naval Medical Research Center (NMRC) and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) have put much effort into developing an effective and safe vaccine against malaria.

Malaria is ranked by the Department of Defense as the number one infectious disease threat to military personnel deployed to areas where malaria is endemic.

The recent study results were included in the paper, "Protection Against Plasmodium falciparum Malaria by PfSPZ Vaccine," published in JCI Insight, Jan. 12. The paper highlights research conducted by a team of clinical investigators led by Navy Capt. Judith Epstein and Army Maj. Kris Paolino. The study reports a radiation-attenuated Plasmodium falciparum (Pf) sporozoite (SPZ) vaccine, PfSPZ Vaccine, protected some volunteers against two strains of Plasmodium falciparum malaria.

The sporozoite is the stage of the malaria parasite transmitted to a person by an infected mosquito. The PfSPZ Vaccine includes weakened parasites to generate a strong immune response, but cannot cause disease.

"As a Navy scientist, it has been rewarding to work hand-in-hand with Army investigators as we move closer to the goal of a vaccine that can provide protection against malaria for our military personnel," said Epstein.

Initial studies demonstrated five doses of PfSPZ Vaccine provided protection against infection by malaria parasites similar to those used in the vaccine in six subjects who were tested three weeks after the final dose by exposure to malaria-infected mosquitoes in a Controlled Human Malaria Infection, (CHMI).

"We are excited that this research backs up our hopes for the vaccine," said Epstein. "With this research, and future vaccine research, we believe that we may finally be able to close the gap between wanting to protect deployed personnel against malaria and having the actual capabilities to do so."

A highly-effective malaria vaccine would be an ideal tool to prevent malaria in deployed military personnel and travelers, reduce morbidity and mortality in infants and children, and eliminate malaria from defined geographic areas through vaccine campaigns.

The clinical trial reported in JCI Insight was supported by the U.S. Department of Defense through the Joint Warfighter Medical Research Program and the Military Infectious Diseases Research Program, and U.S. Navy Advanced Medical Development Program and other sponsors.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who get malaria are typically very sick with high fevers, shaking chills, and flu-like illness. Although malaria can be a deadly disease, illness and death from malaria can usually be prevented.

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