Experimental malaria vaccine PfSPZ protects half of the study participants who tried it, a new study found. Findings suggested that the vaccine can provide up to one year protection against the deadly mosquito-borne disease.

In the phase 1 trial, the research team enrolled 100 participants with no prior diagnosis of malaria. About 60 male and female participants were given the experimental vaccine while 30 participants served as controls.

All participants were then exposed to mosquitoes carrying the early stage malaria parasite called Plasmodium falciparum.

The vaccine's dosage and administration also varied. Several of the volunteers received the experimental malaria vaccine intravenously while some received it straight into the muscle.

Findings showed that the PfSPZ vaccine provided 55 percent of the male and female participants up to one year protection against malaria. The result was a step towards the development of the world's first effective malaria vaccine as earlier studies on the PfSPZ vaccine only resulted in three weeks' worth of protection.

PfSPZ is produced by Sanaria Inc. in collaboration with researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine and scientists from the National Institutes of Health.

"The data from this trial support the design and conduct of ongoing studies by the International PfSPZ Consortium intended to finalize an optimized vaccine regimen for phase 3 clinical trials and licensure of a PfSPZ Vaccine regimen that protects greater than 80 percent of recipients for at least 6 months," said [pdf] Sanaria Inc. CEO Stephen L. Hoffman.

The scientific and medical communities are shooting for a malaria vaccine that can provide long-term protection. Incidentally, the results of the experimental vaccine PfSPZ is, by far, the longest duration observed to date.

Swiss Academy of Sciences president, Dr. Marcel Tanner, added that the results of the new trial showed that we are on our way towards the development of a highly effective malaria vaccine that could save millions of people from the deadly disease.

Other companies are also developing their own malaria vaccines. However, more research is needed before any of the experimental vaccine can be offered in clinics and hospitals.

At present, there is no vaccine to protect people from malaria, a disease that kills approximately 500,000 and infects 214 million people yearly around the world. Signs of malaria include flu-like indicators including high fevers.

The findings were published in the Nature Medicine journal on May 9.

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