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18 April 2011 09:30
People should be careful about malaria when travelling abroad
Researchers have developed a vaccine which could "revolutionise malaria control".
Currently, over 750,000 people die each year as a result of malaria. The disease mainly affects young children, but at present there is no vaccine available to combat it.
Called the RTS, the new vaccine was created by experts the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), who claim that it "could have an absolutely massive effect". It is expected to help reduce the number of deaths by a third.
It is currently being trialled, and the scientists are hoping that if given the go ahead, the vaccine could be offered to patients by 2015. The vaccine has the potential to prevent the disease in 30% to 50% of patients.
Study leader Professor David Schellenberg said: "I think it's unlikely to be much more than that, but when you have a disease that's causing hundreds of millions of episodes, even a one-third reduction in this would be seriously useful.
"I can't think of another potential intervention that could have such a dramatic effect on survival."
Holidaymakers planning trips to countries that are prone to malaria should make sure that a take out a comprehensive
medical travel insurance policy before embarking on a journey.
Prof Schellenberg warned that there is still a lack of "robust information" on the ability of the vaccine to reduce both the number of people who contract malaria and numbers of deaths from the disease, but suggested the initial results are promising.
He added: "I think it's unimaginable that a vaccine that reduces malaria episodes by one third wouldn't have at least that sort of size effect on deaths."
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