World’s first Malaria Vaccine on target for 2015

malaria vaccineHealth experts are adamant that the the world’s first malaria vaccine will be available on the market by 2015 as another option for malaria prevention, after a hugely encouraging study showed that thousands of deaths could be prevented from the deadly disease.

Publishing their findings in PLOS Medicine, researchers involved in clinical trials of the drug RTS,S, reported that for every 1,000 children who receive the vaccine, around 800 cases of malaria could be prevented.

In follow-up trials 18 months after the initial injections, researchers found RTS,S was remarkably able to offer protection even at that stage.

The vaccine’s manufacturer is pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the company who produce popular cold sore treatment Zovirax (aciclovir) and weight loss treatment Alli, and they have now requested regulatory approval, meaning this is the first vaccine of its kind to arrive at this milestone.

Several African countries were involved in the trials, mainly as around 90% of deaths from malaria occur in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), and shockingly 77% of the deaths are children under the age of 5.

An estimated 1,500 infants and children were administered the new RTS,S vaccine and researchers analysed them all again after 18 months, discovering that cases of malaria declined by half in youngsters. For infants (at six to 12 weeks of age when first vaccinated) RTS,S managed to reduce malaria cases by a quarter.

GSK commented: “Over 18 months of follow-up, RTS,S was shown to almost halve the number of malaria cases in young children (aged 5-17 months at first vaccination) and to reduce by around a quarter the malaria cases in infants (aged 6-12 weeks at first vaccination).”

Quite commendably, GSK have pledged to offer their RTS,S vaccine at cost price plus 5%, stating such a move would help to provide the funding for continued research into prevention and treatments for various tropical diseases.

Despite the effectiveness of the malaria vaccine appearing to decline somewhat over time, the report claims it could be highly beneficial to areas where there are high rates of malaria.

For instance, trials demonstrated that in certain Kenyan cities where people are at risk of repeated infection of the deadly disease, around 2,000 cases of clinical malaria were averted for every 1,000 children that were given the vaccine.

GSK say that the vaccine combined with other preventative measures like bed nets and insect repellents (i.e. Jungle Formula), may offer a massive step forward in the battle against malaria. According to the latest estimates into the disease, released in December 2013, there were a staggering 207 million cases of malaria during 2012 and in Africa a child dies every minute because of it.

Scientists are also conducting investigations to determine if a booster may offer even more chances of success.

Professor Sanjeev Krishna of St George’s University of London, did not participate in trials of the vaccine, but did offer a review of the paper for the journal. He said: “This is a milestone. The landscape of malaria vaccine development is littered with carcasses, with vaccines dying left, right and centre. To get to this stage is very encouraging indeed. We eagerly await the next results to see how long-lasting protection is and whether a booster adds further potential. We need to keep a watchful eye for adverse events but everything appears on track for the vaccine to be approved as early as next year.”

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