|Malaria remains one of the world’s biggest killers|
“Scientists herald early-stage clinical tests as the most promising yet in the global war on the world's biggest killer,” (malaria) is the exciting news on the Sky News website.
The story comes from a fascinating study testing an experimental malaria vaccine against Plasmodium falciparum – the most deadly of the malaria-causing parasites. Malaria is a highly infectious disease, transmitted by the bite of infected mosquitoes.
Currently there is no vaccine to prevent this deadly disease which kills over 600,000 people annually, most of them children.
Previous research has found that people who received more than 1,000 bites from irradiated mosquitoes developed some level of immunity against malaria. While using this method is obviously impracticable in a real world setting, it did give the team involved in the study the idea of using the parasites that infect mosquitoes to create a vaccine.
The study found that of 15 volunteers who were given higher doses of the new vaccine, 12 were protected against infection by the malaria parasite when exposed to bites from infected mosquitoes three weeks later.
This is a tiny, early stage study and its results need to be replicated in larger trials. Nevertheless, the results are a promising step forward in the long and often frustrating journey to developing a malaria vaccine.
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