TUESDAY, Oct. 18 (HealthDay News) -- In an important first, a new vaccine has been shown to cut the risk of malaria in young African children by about half, according to research announced Tuesday.
Although the effectiveness shown in this Phase 3 trial is far less than the near-100 percent effectiveness often seen in childhood vaccines for other illnesses in the West, the findings are promising, given that malaria kills some 800,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa alone each year.
"This potentially translates into [the prevention of] tens of millions of cases of malaria in children," said Dr. Tsiri Agbenyega, a principal investigator of the trial.
Other experts agreed.
"This is really important because it's a viable strategy against a major killer of children in the world," added Dr. Kenneth Bromberg, chairman of pediatrics and director of the Vaccine Research Center at the Brooklyn Hospital Center, New York City.
This is also the first vaccine that is successful against a parasite, in this case Plasmodium falciparum, which causes mosquito-transmitted malaria.
The results -- the first from the Phase 3 trial -- were announced Tuesday at the Malaria Forum hosted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, and published simultaneously online in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The trial was funded by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Biologicals and the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, which are developing the vaccine together with African research centers.
Speaking at a news briefing Tuesday, Andrew Witty, CEO of GSK, said he is "hopeful we're going to be able to bring the vaccine to children in Africa perhaps as early as 2015."
The trial enrolled more than 15,400 children from seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa in two age groups: 6-12 weeks old and 5 to 17 months.
Children were assigned to one of two groups, o
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