Malaria trials bring hope of effective vaccinations

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The Independent Online

A vaccine against malaria, which kills up to three million people a year, could be a reality by the end of the decade, scientists involved in one of the biggest clinical trials in Africa said yesterday.

A vaccine against malaria, which kills up to three million people a year, could be a reality by the end of the decade, scientists involved in one of the biggest clinical trials in Africa said yesterday.

Results from the second phase of the trial, involving more than 2,000 children, showed that the vaccine protected 30 per cent of them against the disease for at least six months. Professor Pedro Alonso of the University of Barcelona, the study's leader, said the findings suggested that an effective long-term vaccine against malaria was feasible, despite the many difficulties of developing one in the past.

"The results of this trial represent a significant scientific advance," Professor Alonso said.

The vaccine attempts to stimulate the immune system to attack and destroy the malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, as soon as it infects the bloodstream after a bite by an infected mosquito.

Doctors compared the vaccine and a "control" injection on 2,022 children who were chosen at random from a population in Mozambique, where malaria is endemic. The study, which is published in The Lancet, found that clinical malaria was reduced by 30 per cent in the first six months after children received the vaccine, compared with those who were given the harmless control injection.

Scientists also found that 58 per cent fewer children developed severe malaria, and that the vaccine helped to delay the onset of the first bout of malaria to 45 per cent longer than it otherwise would have taken.

Joe Cohen, of the drug's manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline, admitted that further trials would be needed to convince the regulatory authorities that the vaccine really worked.

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