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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Health Update/Malaria Vaccine

Air Date: Week of

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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. That’s because it acts against the parasite’s 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. They’ve 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. That’s this week’s Health Note. I’m Diane Toomey.

CURWOOD: And you’re listening to Living on Earth.

[MUSIC: Bossacucnova, "Bye Bye Brasil," BRASILIDADE (Six Degrees, 2001)]



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