Field trials of a synthetic malaria vaccine developed by Colombian researchers have shown that it can reduce the risk of the disease by around 30 per cent in children in high-risk regions.
Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, working with a group of other European and African institutions, have been running random trials in Tanzania for two years. They have given 4 children aged between one and five doses of the synthetic vaccine, while 312 children were given an unrelated placebo.
Children given the vaccine developed by Manuel Patarroyo of Colombia's Immunological Institute had a 31 per cent lower risk of developing a clinical attack of malaria. No severe side effects were seen in the children.
The researchers, who have published their conclusions in The Lancet, say the results are encouraging but do not warrant widespread use of the vaccine at present. It is also under trial in the The Gambia, and on the border of Thailand and Myanmar where malaria shows resistance to most known antimalarial drugs.
The Tanzania trial has been particularly demanding as people in the Kilombero area suffer an average 300 bites a year from malaria-infected mosquitoes. The mosquitoes carry the disease from one person to another. For children malaria can prove fatal.