Researchers at Texas A & M University have genetically engineered a goat so it creates malaria vaccine in its milk.
They are still in a preliminary stage and after many tests, it will be determined if the goats milk is safe for human consumption. They also need to see if the malaria vaccine production capability is passed on from their adult test goat to its offspring. If everything goes according to plan, the idea would be to place these vaccine producing goats in villages around Africa so people could simply drink goats’ milk and get immunized.
Currently, malaria drugs are stolen, sold illegally, and sold when expired, even as thousands of people are dying from the disease. Additionally, it can become resistant to a single drug treatment, so the World Health Organization recommends using drug combinations. Preventing the disease via delivery of an effective vaccine in a low-cost local manner could be very beneficial.
In 2011 there were 216 million cases of malaria and an estimated 655,000 deaths in 2010. Most of these cases occur in Sub-Saharan Africa. In countries heavily impacted by malaria there is a large economic toll. Up to 40% of public health expenditures and 50% of inpatient hospital admissions result from malaria.
About half of the world’s human population are at risk for malaria. One research vaccine against P. falciparum, known as RTS,S/AS01, is being tested in a large clinical trial in 7 countries in Africa.
Image Credit: Jason Pratt