A highly effective malaria vaccine would greatly help in reducing malaria transmission in the future. Knowledge on how diverse malaria parasites across the globe would certainly augment malaria vaccine discovery. As a malaria endemic nation, Indonesia contributes to the highest burden of malaria in the Asia-Pacific region with varying transmission intensity between different islands. Genetic diversity occurs in Indonesian malaria parasites questioning the presence of conserved antigenic profiles that may be the target of protective immune response.
We have initiated the Indonesia Malaria Vaccine Research and Diagnostic Development Working Group in 2011 that involves academicians, business sectors, and government. We focus our study in characterization of parasite genetic diversity and immune response to malaria antigens. A roadmap was generated to allow the ultimate aim for finding a suitable target for malaria vaccine development and diagnostic tools. Since the commencement of this working group, we have collected malaria samples from clinical isolates across Indonesia. Through international and national collaborations, several parasite invasion phenotypes have been characterized and gene expressions analyzed. Genotyping of Indonesian isolates were conducted using microsatellite genotyping and amplicon sequencing. Immune response to malaria antigens were analyzed from clinical isolates with symptomatic and asymptomatic malaria. We will pursue our work further in studying parasite proteins involved in malaria pathogenesis. The aim would eventually be to allow generation of diagnostic tools and to discover antibody or vaccine that could block parasite invasion into erythrocytes or preventing adhesion to endothelial cells. Collaboration between research institutes in Indonesia and overseas will hopefully boost malaria vaccine discovery and some of the findings along the way could be also used for diagnostics purposes.