Hopes for a malaria vaccine after successful clinical trials
British drug company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is soon to introduce the world’s first malaria vaccine after successful trials proved the vaccine had cut the number of cases in African children.
Researchers say after an eighteen month trial of a three dose vaccination programme, the vaccine known as RTS,S was found to have almost halved the number of malaria cases in young children and reduced by about a quarter the cases in infants.
The study was based on 15,000 babies and children in seven African countries. The results showed that for every 1000 children vaccinated, 21 cases of severe malaria were prevented.
One of the lead investigators on the RTS,S trial from Burkina Faso, Halidou Tinto, said: “The vaccine had the potential to have a significant public health impact.”
GSK is developing RTS,S with the non-profit Path Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI), supported by funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The company said it would apply for a licence from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) next year and it plans to sell the vaccine at a cost price plus 5%, which would fund further research into tropical diseases.
GSK had been developing the vaccine for three decades, and it hopes that the World Health Organisation (WHO) will soon recommend the use of RTS,S from as early as 2015 if EMA regulators back its licence.
Malaria kills around 660,000 people every year, most of them children under the age of five. Numbers show there are about 219 million cases reported every year worldwide, of which ninety percent are in sub-Saharan Africa. The disease is caused by protozoan parasites that are transmitted by the bites of mosquitoes.