Mumbai: Every year, over 210 million people are infected by malaria. With no vaccine found till date, half a million people die of the disease annually.
Most of India is also prone to malaria, and over one million cases are reported every year in the country.
Now, a chink in the armour of the malaria parasite, called plasmodium, has been discovered in a laboratory at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai. A unique protein has been detected in the parasite which can be targeted to create a potential vaccine.
"The recent breakthrough is that they put the chain of amino acids which the parasite has and we do not have on a nano-particle and introduce that into a human being. This allows the human being to develop antibodies which can fight that chain of amino acids, in other words produce an antibody," said Sandip Trivedi, Director of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai.
"The idea is that this kind of antibody once it can be produced will then allow us to generate the kind of vaccine which will result in the antibody and result in us being able to fight it. So it is a set of preliminary steps but I would say they are quite encouraging leading towards a vaccine," Mr Trivedi added.
Most vaccines against malaria work only on a specific species of the cunning parasite. The vaccine developed by Indian scientists has promise against all forms of malaria and is attracting a lot of global interest in the research. The vaccine itself is still years away, but some tests have been conducted on animals.
Researchers say after many years of hard work it was a chance discovery that has brought them one step closer to a vaccine against malaria. In the lab there are small tubes containing particles and components that could lead to the making of a vaccine.