updated 12/8/2008 12:02:11 PM ET 2008-12-08T17:02:11

Researchers are reporting promising results for what may become the world's first malaria vaccine.

In early tests, the experimental vaccine was more than 50 percent effective in preventing the deadly disease in infants and young children in Africa. A larger and longer test is set to begin early next year.

It is the first malaria vaccine to make it this far in development. Findings from two studies of the vaccine were released Monday at a tropical medicine meeting in New Orleans.

Malaria kills an estimated 1 million people each year, mostly young children in sub-Saharan Africa. It is caused by a parasite and is spread through a bite from an infected mosquito.

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