SCOTTISH scientists have made a significant breakthrough towards the development of a vaccine to prevent malaria after it was successfully tested on mice.

Edinburgh University tested a preliminary form of a vaccine against the disease, which is spread by the bite of the mosquito and kills more than 600,000 people a year.

They hope to develop the vaccine for further testing, with the aim of producing a therapy effective in humans. Scientists say there is a pressing need for new treatments, as many forms of the disease are becoming resistant to drugs. Children and pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa are particularly at risk.

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A vaccine must incorporate key proteins from the malaria parasites, which will trigger production of antibodies by the immune system. These proteins have a complex, intricate structure that is hard to reproduce.

However, the Edinburgh scientists have now found a novel way to produce proteins that could lead to malaria vaccines being easy and cheap to manufacture.