A new malaria vaccine has shown a substantial level of protection against the illness in a preliminary trial, encouraging researchers to expand the study.
The trial in Burkina Faso was designed to test the safety of the vaccine, but researchers found that children who received it had an incidence of the disease three to four times lower than children who did not, the BBC reported.
Described as a “most encouraging” result, a larger study involving 800 children is now to take place in Mali.
The scientists involved say they are hopeful that the vaccine will ultimately be very cheap to produce.
Around a hundred different malaria vaccine candidates have been developed to date, but the MSP3 vaccine developed by Dr Pierre Druilhe at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, is only the second one to show a substantial level of protection against the illness.
Dr Druilhe and his team discovered a key protein, MSP3, which provokes the body into producing antibodies that kill the parasite.
He said the protein is unique as it does not change much between different strains of the plasmodium parasite that causes malaria. This is believed to be a critical factor in developing an efficient vaccine.
“We performed a large number of epidemiological studies that confirm that there was an association between that vaccine candidate and acquired protection, so when you immunise with this molecule you indeed induce protection,” he stated.
The results of the Burkina Faso trial were published in The New England Journal of Medicine.