Mozambique: Malaria vaccine trial brings hope

The prospects for checking the pandemic growth of malaria looked brighter on Tuesday after scientists reported that young children in Mozambique were still enjoying protection from the vaccine they are testing after 18 months.
Malaria takes more than a million lives every year -- mostly children and pregnant women -- and the toll is increasing in Africa because of HIV infection.

A vaccine is badly needed. A year ago, great excitement was generated by the success of trials conducted by a team in Mozambique from the University of Barcelona, using a product made by GSK Biologicals with funding from the not-for-profit Malaria Vaccine Initiative.

The potential vaccine was found to be partly effective among 2 022 one- to four year-olds enrolled in the trials. Vaccinated children were 30% less likely to have suffered a bout of malaria needing treatment by the end of six months. It also delayed the time before a first malarial infection among the children by 45% and cut the chances of severe malaria by 58%.

Earlier trials in adults had suggested the vaccine's effects might wear off quickly. On Tuesday, however, the team reported in the Lancet journal that 18 months after vaccination, the children were still being protected from the consequences of bites by malarial mosquitoes.

They were 35% less likely to have an episode of malaria needing treatment and their chances of severe malaria had halved. Pedro Alonso, head of the Centre for International Health at the Hospital Clinic of the University of Barcelona, said the response to the vaccine was "unprecedented".


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