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Malaria Vaccine and Challenge Unit

The Malaria Vaccine and Challenge Unit is led by Dr. Kirsten E. Lyke, a medical researcher and physician in infectious diseases. 

Dr. Lyke conducts and participates in field, clinical and immunologic studies of Plasmodium falciparum, helminthes/schistosomiasis and other tropical diseases such as dengue virus, ebola virus and zika virus. The Malaria Vaccine and Challenge Unit is dedicated to the safe conduct of Phase I and II malaria vaccine and challenge studies.  Studies on sub-unit malaria vaccines as well as whole organism, metabolically active P. falciparum (Pf) sporozoite (SPZ) vaccines are being evaluated at the University of Maryland.  Dr. Lyke conducted the first PfSPZ Vaccine study in human volunteers. 

Controlled human malaria infection studies (CHMI) have been used as a powerful tool to evaluate malaria vaccine and prophylactic drug efficacy since the mid-1980s. The technique involves exposing individuals who have received vaccination or malaria prophylaxis to the bite of five mosquitoes infected with a strain of falciparum malaria. UMB is performing cutting edge studies by utilizing parenteral methods of CHMI as well as new and sensitive measures of malaria detection allowing for outpatient conduct of study follow-up.  Utilizing sensitive diagnostic measures such as qPCR, malaria can be diagnosed safely in volunteers before the harmful effects of malaria occur. CHMI data inform the decision for or against further clinical development of candidate vaccines, including whether to test in a pediatric population. No vaccine has demonstrated reproducible protective efficacy in malaria-endemic settings without first showing efficacy against CHMI. UMB is one of a few centers in the world with the capacity to safely conduct these CHMI studies with appropriate safe follow-up. 

Dr. Lyke also conducts immunologic studies involve the investigation of the human immune response to individual or co-infecting parasites, including immunomodulation via T and B regulatory cells, T and B cell effector function, T and B cell memory, mechanisms of lymphocyte activation, cytotoxic T cell activity and lymphoid cell populations involved in the generation of protective immune responses. The unit is skilled in the conduct of conventional and mass flow cytometry as well as functional assays such ex vivo and cultured ELISpots, proliferation assays, and ELISAs. This unit is one of the few immunology laboratories dedicated solely to the immunopathology of parasites that cause human disease.

 Controlled Human Malaria Study

Volunteer undergoing controlled human malaria infection by the bite
of malaria-infected mosquitoes   

Examining Malaria fed Mosquitoes

Examining the salivary glands of fed mosquitoes to assess if malaria is present 

Unit Director

Kirsten Lyke, MD