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Malaria Vaccine Shows 77% Effectiveness, Could Help Control Deadly Disease

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Malaria is a very serious disease caused by a parasite that is transmitted via mosquitoes. It kills more than 400,000 people a year. For decades, researchers have been trying to develop a vaccine with little success. But a recent trial has found a new vaccine is 77% effective against malaria. This is much more effective than the next best vaccine, which is only 55% effective. This could have a major public health impact.

Doctors can give the vaccine to children early in life to stop the disease.

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The study recruited 450 children 5 -17 months old. The children received three doses of the vaccine four weeks apart. The researchers scheduled the shots to be administered just before the season that mosquitoes are active and children are more likely to get malaria. A fourth dose was also given a year later. These interventions dramatically reduced the level of malaria among the participants. Researchers are now planning a study with 5,000 children to confirm this finding.

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It is much more difficult to create a vaccine for malaria than for COVID-19.

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The coronavirus only has about a dozen genes that need to be understood to develop an effective vaccine. In comparison, the malaria parasite has thousands of genes. This has made it very difficult to develop a vaccine for malaria.

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Researchers are hoping the streamlined approval process for COVID-19 vaccines can apply to the malaria vaccine.

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Adrian Hill, the director of the institute that created the vaccine, wants to apply for emergency approval of the new malaria vaccine. Emergency approval procedures were developed to rush COVID-19 vaccines to the market.

Hill told The Guardian that "I'm making the argument as forcefully as I can, that because malaria kills a lot more people than Covid in Africa, you should think about emergency-use authorization for a malaria vaccine for use in Africa. And that's never been done before."

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The goal is to eradicate malaria.

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But, for now, dramatically decreasing the death toll of malaria is a monumental step. As Hill told The Guardian, "What we’re hoping to do is take this 400,000 [deaths] down to tens of thousands in the next five years, which would be absolutely fantastic."

Bednets, malaria drugs, and other interventions have already reduced the death toll from a million a year to less than half of that. We have already made such tremendous gains towards fighting this disease. And now, we might be close to the final mile.

h/t: BBC, The Guardian

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