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The study was the first test of a version of the vaccine that used a new additive to boost the immune response. The older version was 35 percent effective in earlier tests.
The second study tested whether the malaria vaccine could be given to young infants along with routine childhood vaccines provided through a WHO program. In the study of 340 infants in Tanzania, the researchers found that the malaria vaccine could be safely added and didn't interfere with the effectiveness of the other vaccines.
During six months of follow-up, the vaccine was 65 percent effective against new malaria infections in the infants.
Dr. Salim Abdulla, lead author of the infant study, said the WHO vaccine program reaches even the remotest areas of Africa and would be an ideal way to get a malaria vaccine to the most vulnerable children.
William Collins, a malaria expert at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that for the vaccine to work, it must recognize and stop the malaria-carrying parasite from invading the liver within just a few seconds to a few minutes.
"To be that effective, and yet have only a short period of time to attack the parasite, it's remarkable that it's that effective at all," said Collins, who wrote an editorial that accompanied the studies, along with John Barnwell, also of the CDC.
They noted that the level of malaria infections was low in the study areas, and that the true test will come in areas with more malaria.
"It is, indeed, a hopeful beginning," they wrote.
On the Net:
Malaria Vaccine Initiative:
New England Journal: http://www.nejm.org/
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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