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New drug for malaria could save thousands

NEW efforts to prevent deaths from one of the world's most widespread diseases could help save tens of thousands of lives a year, researchers have said.

Scientists at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine say giving children a monthly medicine would protect them against malaria.

The research into seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) focused on Africa where the disease is most prevalent.

It discovered that regular medicine could mean around 11 million cases of malaria and approximately 50,000 deaths could be prevented every year.

Dr Matt Cairns, of the LSHTM, said: "We have identified two large areas of Africa where monthly [SMC] could be an effective addition to existing approaches. This control measure could prevent many millions of cases of malaria and tens of thousands of deaths every year."

Malaria is caused by mosquito bites, symptoms include fevers, vomiting and other flu-like symptoms.

Children are particularly susceptible to the disease, which is estimated to cause more than 200 million illnesses and contributes to an estimated 655,000 deaths every year.

The study is published on the Nature Communications website today and shows that in some parts of Africa, malaria is only a major problem for a few months of the year -- during and after the rainy season.

In these areas, providing monthly courses of a cheap, anti-malarial drug to young children during the malaria transmission season has been shown to prevent approximately 80pc of cases.