Immunity protein in newborns reduces likelihood of childhood malaria: Aussie research
Babies born with high levels of an immune-related protein in their blood cells are less likely to develop malaria throughout their early childhood, a discovery with implications for vaccine development against the disease, according to a latest Australian research.
“We found that newborn babies born with a high level of a certain type of cytokine, known as IL-12, in their umbilical cord blood had a higher resistance to the development of malaria in the first two years of their life,” Curtin University’s Dr Yong Song, who led the study, said in a statement on Thursday.
The research also investigated how newborns develop high levels of the protein in cord blood and found that the inbred quantity of the small proteins was not only influenced by children and mother’s genetic variation but was also dependent on the immune system conditions of the mother during pregnancy, said Song.
The findings, which involved examining more than 300 pregnant women and their newborns up to two years of age in Mozambique, could have significant implications for vaccine design techniques toward the prevention of malaria in high-risk countries such as the southern African nation, said study co-author Associate Professor Brad Zhang, also from the university’s School of Public Health.
Further research is needed to investigate how the protein could protect infants from childhood malaria, but the findings “suggest that there is a strong link between levels of this particular protein obtained from the umbilical cord blood and the development of malaria in early childhood,” said Zhang.
Childhood malaria remains one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality resulting in nearly half a million deaths annually, and with more than 90 percent of malaria infections occurring in sub-Saharan Africa, said Song.