UK & World News
Malaria Jab a Step Closer After Vaccine Trial
Tests on a new malaria vaccine have raised hopes the battle is being won against the disease which kills hundreds of thousands of people every year.
The experimental drug, which is known as PfSPZ and is made from living Plasmodium falciparum parasites, has proved highly effective in early-stage clinical trials.
Although the "proof of concept" trial was small - involving 40 adults - it could pave the way for the first vaccine offering 100% protection.
Manufacturing the vaccine was itself an achievement for researchers.
Scientists first exposed sterile mosquitoes to malaria-infected blood before irradiating them to weaken the malaria parasites. Then the mosquitoes had to be carefully dissected to extract the parasites to make the serum.
"This was something that everybody said was not possible; and here it is," said Navy Captain Judith Epstein, one of the researchers from research company Sanaria, in Rockville, Maryland.
"We're in the first stages now of really being able to have a completely effective vaccine," she said, adding she hoped to see licensing of the vaccine within three to five years.
Malaria infected 219 million people in 2010 and killed an estimated 660,000, according to the World Health Organisation - the equivalent of one child in Africa dying every minute.
"It's an important proof of concept," said Dr Anthony Fauci, director of America's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, adding that the results were the most promising yet of any experimental vaccine, though he resisted calling the trial a breakthrough.
"There are several more steps before you can feel comfortable that you have something that might be ready for prime time," he said.
"So we're really not there yet, but it's encouraging to see these very favourable results."