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UN health agency says new malaria study offers hope for innovative treatment

UN health agency says new malaria study offers hope for innovative treatment

The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) today welcomed the results of a just-published study on malaria, which, the agency said, could offer new hope in reducing the toll of the illness on its youngest victims.

The study of 701 children in Tanzania, published in The Lancet, "opens up an exciting new possibility of reducing the impact of malaria in young children," WHO said in a statement.

The research, which was supported by WHO, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank, monitored infants who received the anti-malarial drug sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine -- or a placebo -- together with the second and third doses of Diphtheria, Pertussis and Tetanus (DPT) vaccine and with the measles vaccine.

According to WHO, the intervention was shown to cut the prevalence of severe malaria and associated anaemia by about half. Adding the treatment would cost just 25 cents. "The results of this study open up an important way to reduce the toll of death from anaemia and malaria in infants," the statement said.

Responding to the study's results, WHO and its partners in the Rollback Malaria initiative agreed to "proceed rapidly with the further work needed to validate these findings in other malaria affected areas, to confirm the safety of the intervention and to tackle the logistical issues which need to be overcome in order to propose this intervention to the governments of countries with a high burden of malaria."

WHO estimates that there are 300-500 million cases of malaria every year. Rollback Malaria brings together UN agencies and other partners in an effort to halve the number of cases by the year 2010.