A major breakthrough has been made in the search for a malaria vaccine, researchers claim.
Scientists at the University of Nottingham say they have made progress in the fight against the disease by experimenting with blood from people with a natural immunity.
They discovered that when genetically modified mice are injected with the blood, antibodies are strengthened, which protects them from the disease.
Dr Richard Pleass, from the university's Institute of Genetics, said: "Our results are very, very significant.
"We have made the best possible animal model you can get in the absence of working on humans or higher primates, as well as developing a novel therapeutic entity."
Malaria, an infection transmitted by mosquitoes, is prevalent in more than 90 countries and infects around 400 million people a year.
It results in between one and three million fatalities annually - the majority of whom are under-fives.
According to the World Health Organisation, one person dies of the disease every 30 seconds - figures to rival those of HIV and tuberculosis.
Although mice are normally immune to malaria, scientists managed to mimic in the animals the way it affects humans by genetically modifying a closely-related mouse parasite.
Full results of the study, carried out by collaborators from Britain, Australia and Holland, are published in the journal PLoS Pathogens, published by the Public Library of Science.
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