Wanderlust have reported today that breakthrough research could mean the risk of malaria is dropped by half.
They report claims that results of the the largest ever malaria vaccine study were published on Tuesday by the New England Journal of Medicine. The vaccine was trailed in 6,000 children aged five to 17 months across sub-Saharan Africa, in seven countries where malaria epidemics remain rife.
The trial revealed the vaccine to cut the total number of those infected with the most serious strain of malaria by 56 per cent, in the 12 months succeeding vaccination, compared to those who did not receive the jab. It was also shown to reduce severe malaria cases by 47 per cent.
Work on the vaccine begun 25 years ago, the creation of scientists at GlaxoSmithKline, one of the UK's leading drug companies, which have promised to sell the vaccine at no more than a fraction over cost price with profits invested straight back into further research and development for vaccines of tropical disease.
Experts originally deemed the project impossible. GSK executive chief, Andrew Witty said he was thrilled for the scientists who have since proved sceptics wrong."When the team was first shown the data, quite a number of them broke down in tears," he said. "It was the emotion of what they had achieved – the first vaccine against a parasitic form of infection. They were overwhelmed. It says something about the amount of heart that has gone into this project."
“offers real hope for the future", adding: "An effective, long-lasting and cost-effective vaccine would make a major contribution to malaria control … but we must not lose sight of the fact that over 2,000 people die from malaria every day and they need help now. Britain's focus remains on driving down this terrible loss of life by preventing and treating malaria with the tools we have now and tackling resistance."
The present data from five- to 17-month-old children is just the first of three important results. The outcome from the vaccination of newborns will be published in 2012. These figures will prove an essential part in the development of the research as it is crucial the vaccine is incorporated into the infant immunisation scheme. Previous small-scale trials suggest the results in six- to 12-week-old babies will similarly show around 50% protection.The third significant outcome, indicating how well the protection lasts, will not be known until 2014. The data so far, over a 22 month period, leads scientists to believe there may be a fall in the numbers protected from severe malaria.Severe malaria affects the brain, kidneys and blood. Almost 800,000 people die from the disease every year – the majority are children under five. In Africa one in every five (20%) infant deaths is due to the effects of the disease.