Malaria 'viral' vaccine shows encouraging early results

Serious science students using a microscope in a laboratory

Researchers at Oxford University have reported early positive results in a trial of a new malaria vaccine. The drug, which targets the most dangerous variety of parasite that causes the disease, was found to be 67% effective in a study of 121 men in Kenya.

The World Health Organisation estimates that there were 198 million cases of malaria in 2013 and 584,000 deaths related to the disease. As many as 1,300 children dye in sub-Saharan Africa from malaria every day.

Scientists have been working on a vaccine to protect those most at risk for more than two decades, and recent trial results have been some of the most encouraging in 20 years of research.

The study, published in Science Translational Medicine, focused on two viruses - one a chimpanzee virus - to stimulate the body's immune system to produce cells that can fight against malaria. Known as a "viral vectored" vaccine, it targets the parasite in the liver.

Commenting on the study findings, Prof Adrian Hill, director of the Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford, said: "Such high efficacy in this first field trial is encouraging for further testing in children and infants who most need a malaria vaccine."

Chris Drakeley, professor of infection and immunity and director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine malaria centre, said: "We also found initially high levels of protection in similar early trials in adults. There is no one magic bullet approach. We need a multiple approach, and countries need a tool box of options to fight against the disease."

Success in Malaria Vaccine Trials