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Malaria Vaccine Yields Positive Results in a Small Study

Update Date: Aug 09, 2013 10:11 AM EDT

One of the global community's biggest goals is to put an end to malaria. Malaria, which is a parasitic infection passed on by mosquitos, is considered to be completely wiped out in a lot of developed nations. For underdeveloped nations, however, malaria is still at large and responsible for numerous deaths. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that in 2010, 219 million people were infected with an estimated 660,000 deaths. Even through there are effective treatment options and preventative measures, a vaccine would ideally be the most effective way in wiping out this disease. Now, according to a small U.S. study, a new malaria vaccine yielded very positive results.

"This was something that everybody said was not possible. And here it is," one of the researchers of the study, Navy Captain Judith Epstein said to Reuters. "We're in the first stages now of really being able to have a completely effective vaccine."

For this study, the researchers recruited 57 healthy volunteers between the ages of 18 and 45. The participants were never infected with malaria. From this group, 40 of them received the vaccine, which is produced by Sanaria Inc of Maryland while 17 of them did not. The vaccine group was then split into two groups. The groups received two to six doses of the vaccine intravenously with each dose increasingly higher. The vaccine, called PfSPZ was created by using live but weakened parasites from the species Plasmodium falciparum. This species of the parasite is considered to be one of the most deadly malaria-causing parasites.

In the study, researchers exposed the participants to five malaria-infected mosquitos and monitored them for a week. Out of the 15 people who received the higher doses, only three became infected. In the group of people who received the lower dose, 16 out of 17 got infected. In the last group that was not vaccinated, 11 out of 12 became infected. All of the infected participants were promptly treated with medication. The results were very promising and suggested that this vaccine could potentially protect the millions of people at risk for malaria.

The researchers and the Sanaria Inc hope that they can perfect the vaccine within the next few years. Ideally, the vaccine would have to be modified from its current intravenously administration method to something that would be easier to distribute in a widespread vaccination program. The researchers also noted that they did not determine how long the vaccine protected the participants.

The study was published in Science

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