The vaccine -- designed to prevent the malaria parasite from entering blood cells -- was safe and provoked strong immune responses (up to a sixfold increase in vaccine-specific antibodies) in the 40 adults who received it, according to the 17-member research team, based at the Malaria Research and Training Center at the University of Bamako.
The volunteers were given three injections of full or half doses of the vaccine, with one month between each injection. The injections began in late December 2004, at the end of the malaria season in the rural town of Bandiagara in northeast Mali.
The study was published in the current issue of PLoS ONE.
This trial -- the first test of the vaccine in a malaria-endemic country -- was supported by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which also helps fund the Malaria Research and Training Center. The team is now conducting a trial of the vaccine in 400 Malian children, aged 1 to 6.
Malaria is a leading cause of death in Africa and other developing countries. It kills more than 1 million people a year, most of them children.