Project Lead(s): Sedami GNIDEHOU
Malaria in pregnancy (MiP) is a major public health problem, with more than 125 million pregnant women at risk of infection globally.
Women in their first pregnancy are at particular risk of infection with Plasmodium falciparum, which is associated with mortality, as well as intrauterine growth retardation, anemia and low-birth-weight infants.
The protein VAR2CSA from the malaria species P. falciparum is a lead vaccine candidate that naturally induces protective antibodies in pregnant women.
The project builds on previous work from the team that had unexpectedly discovered, together with their counterparts in Benin and Columbia, that men exposed to a different malaria species, Plasmodium vivax (P. vivax), have antibodies that recognized the P. falciparum VAR2CSA antigen.
This unexpected finding forms the basis of a novel approach to a vaccine that protects pregnant women exposed to multiple species of malaria.
The goal was to identify the antigens from the P. vivax that generate functional antibodies against P. falciparum.
The team proposed to characterize the P. vivax Duffy-binding protein (PvDBP) as a potential candidate antigen.
Using bioinformatic analyses, they identified strong sequence and structural homology between the DBL domain of PvDBP and DBL5e.
PvDBP is involved in host-cell invasion and is currently a vaccine candidate against acute P. vivax infection.