New Malaria Vaccine Shows Some Promise

By Kaberia, Kirimi | Insight on the News, December 12, 1994 | Go to article overview

New Malaria Vaccine Shows Some Promise


Kaberia, Kirimi, Insight on the News


A serum that has shown limited success in early testing is boosting optimism in the fight against a disease that has eluded a cure.

Malaria, the mosquito-borne disease that kills millions of people each year, is facing a formidable new foe: a vaccine.

Colombian physician Manuel Patarroyo has developed what could be a breakthrough in tropical medicine: SPF66, a malaria vaccine that researchers have tested on adults in Colombia and the United States, and on children in Tanzania. Other tests are under way in Gambia and Thailand.

While the vaccine holds promise, some medical experts caution that it's not a cure. "Malaria has become worse because the malaria organism has become more resistant to medications," says Lois Olsen, a Kenyan midwife who has studied the disease in Africa. And SPF66 still has "a lot of room for improvement," notes Renato Gusmao, a physician with the World Health Organization. "Its efficacy is about 30 percent. But scientifically speaking, it is a very safe product for human beings."

Early tests indicate that the vaccine induces antibodies against itself but not against the parasite, "which is more important," says Altaf Lal, chief of the molecular vaccine section at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Several antimalaria vaccines are at different stages of development and field testing.

When it comes to malaria, any sign of Progress is cause for hope. The disease annually kills 2 million to 3 million people in the tropics, and a permanent cure has proved elusive. …

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