October 17, 2007

Malaria vaccine safe and 65% effective for babies, the most at risk group

Known by its lab name of RTS,S the prototype is raising high hopes of the first vaccine shield against a disease that claims more than a million lives a year -- 800,000 of them African children aged under five -- and sickens hundreds of millions more. Infants who received RTS,S were 65 percent less at risk of contracting malaria compared with their control counterparts.

The investigators add a small caveat about the trial, pointing out that the homes of all the babies who took part in the test were provided with free insecticide-treated bednets and were sprayed twice with insecticide.

"The future use and deployment of a malaria vaccine should be seen in the context of comprehensive malaria control programmes," they caution.

If further evaluations give the green light, "a Phase III trial, involving 16,000 children in seven African countries, could start in 2008," MVI's Christian Loucq told AFP.

"If all goes well, the vaccine would be submitted for approval by the European health authorities in 2011."

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