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Mali malaria trial expands

5th February 2008

Trials into a potential vaccine against malaria in the West African country of Mali have shown promising results, and are now being expanded into a much bigger clinical trial in children.

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The results of the small clinical trial in adults were published by a team at the Malaria Research and Training center of the University of Bamako in Mali in the Public Library of Science free access journal, PLoS One.

The team, led by Mahamadou Thera and conducted in conjunction with US universities, injected 60 Malian volunteers between the ages of 18 and 55 from a rural town in the northeast of the country called Bandiagara, with the vaccine.

In order to distinguish between natural immunity and that induced by the vaccine, volunteers received either a full dose or a half dose. A control group was given a rabies vaccine.

They were injected three times over a period of three months, starting at the end of the transmission season for malaria.

Those who received the vaccine, currently known as FMP2.1/AS02A, were found to have up to six times the concentration of antibodies to Plasmodium falciparum, the mosquito-borne parasite which causes malaria, compared with the levels recorded at the beginning of the study.

The vaccine is composed of a protein of P. falciparum, and two immuno-stimulants, including one found in South American traditional medicine, extracted from the soap bark tree.

Phase I and II clinical trials are now underway on 400 children aged 1-6 in Bandiagara's Dogon county.

A child under 10 is likely to suffer from two malaria episodes each rainy season, with one child in 50 getting severe malaria under the age of six in the region annually.

Burkina Faso-based malaria researcher Sheick Oumar Coulibaly said a new path had been found towards an efficient anti-malaria vaccine.

But he warned that it would take a very long time for the new jab to undergo all safety and effectiveness tests, win regulatory approval and go into full-scale production.

 

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