A study by Instituto Gulbenkian Ciência (IGC) in collaboration with IHMT won the Pfizer Award 2015 in the field of basic research. The prize was awarded on December 15, in Lisbon. In the study, published in the scientific journal Cell, the researchers found that specific components of bacteria in the gut can induce the production of natural antibodies against Plasmodium, the parasite that causes malaria, providing protection against this disease.
The investigation is led by Miguel Soares of the IGC, and has the support of Henrique Silveira, deputy director of IHMT and scientific coordinator of the R&D center GHTM.
The Pfizer Awards are a partnership between the Society of Medical Sciences of Lisbon and the biopharmaceutical Pfizer.
According to the World Health Organization, 214 million cases of malaria were reported in 2015. “The mortality associated with malaria declined by 20-25% in the last decade, presumably due to the introduction of global control programs, such as the distribution of mosquito nets and effective drugs against Plasmodium. However, the inherent ability of the parasite to become refractory to antimalarial drugs continues to seriously compromise the eradication of this disease, stressing the need to develop an effective vaccine”, says Miguel Soares.