That’s how many people in the world are affected by AIDS, according to globalhealthfacts.org. Along with more than 81 million people affected by malaria.
“Almost all of the people I interact with in Kenya have malaria, people are exposed to it from the time they are born since it is so common and widespread,” said assistant forestry professor Holly Petrillo. Petrillo is the leader of the Sustainable Natural Resources and Community Development study abroad program in Kenya.
A new study might change this.
Engineers out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have created a new nanoparticle that could lead to vaccines for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and malaria. The new nanoparticles, called modified liposomes, can carry versions of proteins that are normally produced by viruses. These proteins create a strong immune response like those of a live virus, but are safer.
There are two parts of the immune system that can disable or kill foreign viruses and bacterias: anti-bodies and killer T-cells. Killer T-cells destroy cancer cells or virus-infected cells within our body, but they can only do this if these abnormal cells display the abnormal molecules inside them.
“We think when we’re getting vaccinated that we’re getting both [anti-bodies and T-cells]. Almost none of those vaccines have the killer T-cells,” said University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Biology professor Sol Sepsenwol.
Many studies claim that its research may lead to a cure without real promise. “This article is different,” Sepsenwol said. “It is about creating a vehicle…It could make vaccines much more effective.”
Although the information is promising, it will be a long time before the research could actually be practiced. Many steps have to be taken until these findings can be tested on humans. Sepsenwol stated that researchers should wait at least five years before beginning human testing.
Petrillo mentioned that there are small steps that can be taken in the meantime.
“Although malaria is common throughout the regions of Africa where I have worked, it doesn’t mean that it is easier to deal with when someone falls ill or dies from it,” Petrillo said.
Petrillo said that simple things such as buying mosquito nets and improving access to antiretroviral medication for HIV/AIDS could make a big difference right now in combating the disease’s spread.
“Improving access to these drugs would drastically improve the lives of millions of people while we are waiting for a vaccine to be developed,” Petrillo said.