Africa will receive €10 million ($10.47 million) from the European Commission (EC) to develop a vaccine to prevent placental malaria.
Placental malaria occurs when people become infected maternal red blood cells in the placenta accumulate in intervillous space, resulting in stillbirth, low birth weight, premature birth, or babies born smaller than usual.
In 2020, approximately 11 million, or 34 percent, of pregnant women were are exposed to malaria worldwide, accounting for an estimated 200,000 infant deaths annually, 819,000 low birth weight children and more than 20 percent of all maternal deaths in malaria-endemic areas.
Placental malaria can cause anemia and high blood pressure in women who are pregnant for the first time cause low birth weight, which is associated with a higher risk of fetal and neonatal morbidity and mortality.
In 2020, Africa was according to World Health organization is home to 95% of malaria cases and 96% of malaria-related deaths.
Current prevention of placental malaria relies on long-term, insecticide-treated meshes and intermittent prophylactic treatment during pregnancy.
“However, these interventions offer only partial protection. The development of an effective vaccine could therefore be an attractive tool to control placental malaria alone or to complement existing but imperfect tools,” said the Advance VAC4PM consortium, which will lead the project.
“With this support from the European Commission, we are taking a major step towards the development of an effective and affordable vaccine against placental malaria, a disease affecting pregnant women in some low-income countries affects the world’s most vulnerable people,” said European Vaccine Initiative Executive Director Ole Olesen.
Scientists from Africa and Europe, led by the European Vaccine Initiative, will lead the global effort.
“The development of an effective vaccine would be an excellent tool to reduce the incidence and severity of placental malaria.”
Embedded in the clinical trials workshops, training of MSc/PhD students, u mentoring program for young African researchers and strengthening of clinical and immunological laboratories.< /p>
The new funding will evaluate the use of a novel vaccine platform based on Capside Virus-like Larticles (cVLPs) and the evaluation of co-administration of PRIMVAC and PAMVAC-cVLP with the ultimate goal being induced by the vaccine to improve and expand the induced immune response.
Digital tools for monitoring pregnancy outcomes are being developed in preparation for future efficacy studies. Modeling of the cost-effectiveness, feasibility and acceptability of placental malaria vaccines will also be carried out.
On the continent Fondation pour la Recherche Scientifique (FORS, Bénin), Groupe de Recherche Action en Santé (GRAS, Burkina Faso , das Kintampo Health Research Center (KHRC, Ghana) and Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST, Malawi) are participating in the study.