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Malaria Vaccine Passes Early Test

Experimental Malaria Vaccine Appears Safe for Babies
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WebMD Health News

New Malaria Vaccine

Oct. 17, 2007 -- Researchers today reported encouraging results from an early study of a new malaria vaccine.

The malaria vaccine seems to be safe for babies, according to the study, published online today in The Lancet.

Malaria is one of the world's leading killers. Here are malaria facts from the World Health Organization:

  • Every year, more than a million people worldwide die of malaria. Most are in Africa.
  • Babies, young children, and pregnant women account for most malaria deaths.
  • Every 30 seconds, a child dies of malaria.

Mosquitoes can carry the parasite that causes malaria.

Malaria Vaccine Study

The new malaria vaccine doesn't have a brand name yet.

New vaccines are first tested to make sure they are safe. Then they are tested for efficacy.

So far, the new malaria vaccine has gone through its initial safety study, which included 214 infants in a rural area of the African nation of Mozambique.

Half of the babies got three doses of the malaria vaccine when they were 10, 14, and 18 weeks old. The other babies got three doses of a hepatitis B vaccine at the same age.

All of the babies also got routine vaccinations against other illnesses. Their families got insecticide-laced mosquito nets to drape over their beds. Insecticide was twice sprayed inside the families' homes to target mosquitoes.

The researchers followed the children for six months after their last malaria or hepatitis B vaccination.

During that time, no major side effects were seen from the malaria vaccine. Blood tests showed higher levels of antimalarial antibodies in the babies that got the malaria vaccine.

The study wasn't designed to test the vaccine's efficacy. But the results suggest that the malaria vaccine reduced the babies' risk of developing malaria.

The results need to be checked in another study, note the researchers, who included John Aponte, MD, of Spain's University of Barcelona.

They suggest that a malaria vaccine may be part of an antimalaria program that also includes mosquito nets and other strategies.

GlaxoSmithKline, the drug company that makes the malaria vaccine, designed the study. Several of the researchers work for GlaxoSmithKline. The study was funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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