Health Update/Malaria Vaccine
Living on Earth’s Diane Toomey reports on a new type of malaria vaccine.
Just ahead, Southern California moves to clear the air in the region’s poorest neighborhoods. First, this Environmental Health Note from Diane Toomey.
TOOMEY: Researchers may have found a more effective way to protect people against malaria. This disease kills more than two million people a year and is caused by a parasite spread by mosquitoes. The current malaria vaccine is only effective for a few weeks. Thats because it acts against the parasites outer coating. And since the malaria parasite can alter that coating, it eventually outsmarts and renders the vaccine ineffective.
So scientists in Melbourne, Australia have taken a different tack. Theyve designed a vaccine that targets a recently discovered toxin produced by the malaria parasite. Scientists think this toxin is what triggers the inflammation, fevers and convulsions that can kill malaria victims.
The researchers found that up to 75% of mice given the new vaccine were able to survive a malarial infection. That compares to a zero survival rate in a group of unvaccinated mice. The mice that survived still had high numbers of live malaria parasites in their blood. But the vaccine had effectively disarmed them. The researchers expect to begin human tests of the vaccine within two years. Thats this weeks Health Note. Im Diane Toomey.
CURWOOD: And youre listening to Living on Earth.
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