A baby: File photo
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 on Thursday.
Song said the research also investigated how newborns develop high levels of the protein in cord blood.
He said the study 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.
Song said 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 per cent of malaria infections occurring in sub-Saharan
Co-author Associate Professor Brad Zhang, also from the university’s School of Public Health, said the findings, involved examining 300 pregnant women and their newborns up to two years of age in Mozambique.
Zhang said the study, could have significant implications for vaccine design techniques toward the prevention
of malaria in high-risk countries such as the southern African nation.
Further research, Zhang said is needed to investigate how the protein could protect infants from childhood malaria.
He said 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.” (Xinhua/NAN)