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Published: Thursday, 8/8/2013

Malaria vaccine breakthrough study published


Researchers claim they have successfully tested a new vaccine for malaria. The findings were published Thursday by the peer-reviewed journal Science. The trials involved 57 subjects, including 40 who received the vaccine, between October 2011 to October 2012.

The vaccine involves multiple, intravenous injections of a weakened form of the disease, scientists from the National Institutes of Health, the Navy, Army and other organizations reported Thursday. Though the results were promising, more extensive field testing will be required, the researchers wrote.

Malaria, a mosquito-borne tropical disease, kills about 1 million people a year and sickens more than 200 million. Dr. William Schaffner, head of the preventive medicine department at Vanderbilt University's medical school, called the results "a scientific advance" -- but it may be eight to 10 years before the vaccine can be scientifically proven, approved and distributed.

"This is not a vaccine that's ready for travelers to the developing world anytime soon," Schaffner told CNN. "However, from the point of view of science dealing with one of the big three infectious causes of death around the world, it's a notable advance. And everybody will be holding their breath, watching to see whether this next trial works and how well it works."

Researchers reported that the six volunteers who received five intravenous doses of the vaccine did not contract malaria when exposed to the microscopic parasite. Of the nine who received four doses, three contracted the disease.

Schaffner, who was not part of the study, said previous attempts using injections into skin or muscle didn't work. Multiple, intravenous injections are "a heck of a way" to administer a vaccine, but "desperate times call for desperate measures," he said.

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