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Vaccine Halves Malaria Infections in Young Children

Study: Vaccine Prevents About Half of Severe Infections
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Defeating Malaria continued...

For the study, researchers divided 6,000 African children who were 5 months to 17 months old into two groups. The first group got three doses of the malaria vaccine. The second group received three doses of rabies vaccine for comparison.

A year after both groups got their shots, researchers found that the malaria vaccine reduced the risk of developing malaria symptoms like fevers and chills by 56% and cut the risk of a severe and potentially deadly form of the disease by 47%.

“It’s a huge disease burden,” Hamel tells WebMD. “And these children, 75% were using insecticide-treated bed nets. You can imagine what it’s like for children who aren’t using bed nets.”

Serious adverse events, including seizures and meningitis, occurred in 18% of the experimental vaccine group and in 22% of the comparison group. 

The study is being funded by GlaxoSmithKline and by the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative through a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Next Steps

By 2014, researchers say they will know more about how long protection from the vaccine lasts, how well it works in babies who are 6-12 weeks old, and whether or not children need a booster to maintain their protection.

“There are still important questions to be answered,” Hamel says. “If everything holds up, there’s the potential to save hundreds of thousands of lives.”

But because it only offers partial protection, researchers say it will need to be used in conjunction with other measures like mosquito nets, spraying, and medications.

“The future would be to make a second-generation vaccine that would be more efficacious, either building on this one, or there are other vaccines that are in early stages of development that are quite different.  So one or the other,” Hamel says.

“I think if we end up with the first malaria vaccine, that will push everything forward because we will have shown that it can be done,” she says.

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