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Malaria vaccine offers hope

Press Association logoPress Association 15/02/2017 By Georgina Stubbs, Press Association

A new malaria vaccine has given 100 per cent protection from the disease to a group of participants in a clinical trial, scientists say.

Some 67 healthy volunteers who had never had malaria before were given different doses of the drug, called Sanaria PfsPZ-CVac.

Researchers said the best immune response was shown in a group of nine test persons who received the highest dose of the vaccine three times at four-week intervals.

At the end of the trial, all nine of these individuals had 100 per cent protection from the disease.

"That protection was probably caused by specific T-lymphocytes and antibody responses to the parasites in the liver," Professor Peter Kremsner said.

He said researchers analysed the immune reactions and identified protein patterns which will make it possible to further improve malaria vaccines.

Scientists from the University of Tubingen in Germany, in collaboration with the US-based biotech company Sanaria, carried out the clinical trial, with their findings published in the journal Nature.

Malaria parasites are transmitted by the bite of female Anopheles mosquitoes - the Plasmodium falciparum parasite is responsible for most malaria infections and almost all deaths caused by the disease worldwide.

"By vaccinating with a live, fully active pathogen, it seems clear that we were able to set off a very strong immune response," said Dr Benjamin Mordmueller.

"Additionally, all the data we have so far indicate that what we have here is relatively stable, long-lasting protection."

Of the group who showed 100 per cent protection after receiving a high dose three times, the protection was still in place after 10 weeks and remained measurable for even longer, Dr Mordmueller said.

The vaccine showed no adverse effects on those it was tested on and the next step is to further test the vaccine's effectiveness over several years in a clinical study in Gabon.

Malaria is one of the deadliest infectious diseases in the world and the search for a vaccine has been going on for more than a century.

According to the World Health Organisation, 214 million people became infected with malaria in 2015 alone - with an estimated death toll of 438,000.

The vast majority of cases were in Africa, where around 90 per cent of the deaths occurred.

Almost three-quarters of those who succumb to the disease are children under five.

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