New research finds that using two different antimalarial vaccines together reduced the rate of infection in animals by 91%.
Both vaccines used in the study are experimental and are in different stages of human trials; but researchers wanted to test the impact they could have on reducing malaria infections when were used together in mice.
According to researchers, this is the first direct evidence that combining the vaccines, which work in different ways, can significantly reduce the malarial burden.
Researchers tested transmission-blocking vaccines (TBVs), which prevent mosquitoes from transferring the malaria parasite, in combination with pre-erythrocytic vaccines (PEVs), which prevent the parasite from infecting the liver.
"Reaching a potential 91% reduction in cases would have a huge impact on public health because the vaccines could be effective in areas where malaria is more prevalent," lead researcher Andrew Blagborough, PhD, of the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial's Medical Research Council (MRC) Centre for Outbreak Analysis and Modelling, says in a statement about the results.
The results of the study, which was funded by the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative and the MRC, were published in eLife.
The combination of a partially effective PEV and the most effective TBV produced an efficacy rate of approximately 91%; however, researchers also reported that combining any of the two types of vaccines showed improved efficacy when compared to using a vaccine on its own.
Researchers believe the findings could have important implications for improving malaria prevention strategies.
"Learning that combining vaccines can dramatically boost efficacy in mice provides another potential tactic for controlling this disease," Morven Roberts, PhD, program manager for Parasites and Neglected Tropical Diseases at MRC, says in the release. "This is timely research as global health officials work towards WHO targets to eliminate malaria by 2030."
According to the WHO, there were 212 million cases of globally in 2015.
The scientists plan to continue their research in combined vaccines and will next look into their use in more complex situations using rodent experiments and computer modeling.