In a world-first, Griffith University researchers have developed a new vaccine in pre-clinical studies to treat human babesiosis, a tick-transmitted disease closely related to malaria.


Lead researcher Professor Michael Good AO, said the research team including PhD candidate Hanan Al-Nazal and researcher Dr Danielle Stanisic, developed a whole parasite Babesia vaccine that acts as a universal vaccine, inducing immunity against different human Babesia species.

“Babesiosis affects the red blood cells similar to malaria in humans and animals and presents as a flu-like illness and anaemia. People most at risk of severe disease are the elderly, the immunosuppressed and those without spleens. It also affects those who need blood transfusions,’’ Professor Good said.

“In pre-clinical studies we have shown this vaccine can kill the parasite and induce a protective immune response. The immune response is tied to two crucial aspects of the immune system – T Cells and macrophages (which clear bacteria and other germs).”

The vaccine is delivered using a liposomal platform (where the killed parasite is contained in a lipid vesicle). The advantage of liposomes is that they can be freeze-dried so they are suitable for transporting into the field.

Dr Stanisic said as far as they were aware, this was the first time a whole parasite vaccine for babesia had been developed.

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