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Fighting a Global Killer: Malaria Vaccine RTS,S Protects Babies

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Image: An UPDF medic takes care of a malnourished child with malaria
A medic takes care of a malnourished child with malaria in a hospital in Bor, South Sudan. Reuters, file

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An experimental malaria vaccine being developed by one of the world’s biggest drug companies has protected small babies for as long as 18 months, getting them through the most vulnerable time, researchers reported Tuesday. GlaxoSmithKline asked the European Medicines Agency last week for approval to market the vaccine, called RTS,S.

Tests on more than 15,000 babies aged 6 weeks to 17 months old showed close to half of them — 46 percent — were protected from malaria for 18 months after they got a three-dose series of the vaccine, Mary Hamel of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and partners reported. The vaccine averted an average of 829 cases of malaria per 1,000 children vaccinated, they reported in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Medicine. That would have a major impact in a large population, they said. Malaria is a major killer globally. The World Health Organization estimates there are more than 200 million cases of malaria every year and it kills more than 600,000 people, mostly young children.

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— Maggie Fox

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