Britain’s largest pharmaceutical company believes it will have an effective vaccine for malaria as early as 2015. London-based GlaxoSmithKline has published the results of the most recent trials on its vaccine, RTS,S. The results show that the treatment nearly halved the number of cases of malaria experienced by young children. The Guardian:
The dossier will go to the European Medical Agency next year and if it gets its licence, will go to the World Health Organisation for approval. It is expected that the donor-funded GAVI – the Global Alliance forVaccines and Immunisation – will eventually pick up the bill for vaccine programmes as the treatment is deployed in malarial countries. Because the vaccine appears to be more effective in infants from five months of age, it may not be given at the same time as the basic immunisation for babies, such as diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus, but later, like measles and pneumococcal vaccine. The introduction of a booster jab, at 18 months, is now also being trialled to see if it can increase the duration of the vaccine’s protection.The treatment was developed with the US-based non-profit PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative. David Kaslow, vice president, product development at PATH, said the limited efficacy of the vaccine must be put in context. There has been great progress with bed nets and other technical measures, “yet there is still a huge disease burden out there”, he said. In that context, the vaccine has “a potentially significant public health impact”. During the trials, he pointed out, there were 941 cases of malaria averted for every 1,000 children vaccinated.
Malaria is one of the biggest killers in low-income countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Globally, roughly 660,000 people die from malaria each year, with the majority of these deaths being African children. Malaria is a contagious disease, too, so even a few vaccinations would reduce the chances of other children catching the disease, whether vaccinated or not. An effective vaccine has enormous potential to save lives and improve basic conditions in this part of the world.[Malaria test image courtesy of Shutterstock]