11 African countries research on malaria vaccine

A vaccine against malaria is possible

A total of 11 African countries are meeting in South Africa to research on the possibility of having a malaria vaccine to reduce infant and under-five deaths, a trial investigator, Salim Abdulla, has said.

The phase III clinical trial researchers have found that the malaria candidate vaccine, RTS,S, reduces malaria by approximately one-third in African infants.

RTS, S is a scientific name given to the malaria vaccine candidate.

It triggers the immune system to defend against Plasmodium falciparum, the malaria parasite, when it first enters the human host’s bloodstream or when the parasite infects liver cells.

Mr. Abdulla, a principal investigator for the trial from Ifakara Health Institute, Tanzania, said significant progress has been made in the research against malaria.

He explained that the disease still kills about 655 thousand people a year, mainly children under five, in sub-Saharan Africa.

The researcher said that an effective malaria vaccine protected young babies against malaria.

“When administered along with standard childhood vaccines, the efficacy of RTS,S in infants, aged 6 to12 weeks, at first vaccination against clinical and severe malaria, was 31 per cent and 37 per cent respectively,” he said.

Mr. Abdulla said that follow-up trials would continue, as they were expected to provide more data for analysis, to better understand the different findings between the age categories.

The Chief Executive Officer of GlaxoSmithKline, Andrew Witty, said the results confirmed that RTS,S could help provide African babies and young children with meaningful protection against malaria.

“The trials will take us another important step forward on the journey towards having a new intervention available against this disease, which is a huge burden on the health and economic growth of Africa,” he said.

Mr. Witty said his company was convinced that RTS,S had a role to play in tackling malaria, stressing that they would continue to work with partners and other stakeholders to better understand the data.

He said the partners’ collaboration in research was an important scientific milestone in finding a cure for malaria, adding that they are ready to continue research at all times in improving lives in sub-Saharan Africa.

The trial, conducted in partnership with the GlaxoSmithKline and the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, is sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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