Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Faster Please: Malaria Vaccine Works In First Major Trial

Malaria, a scourge for much of the world, and which is responsible for more than million of deaths annually (and 350 million cases annually), may finally have met its match. After decades of studies and attempts at a vaccine to prevent the illness, scientists may have found a winning combination in preventing the disease via a vaccine. It isn't a panacea, but it's better than anything else out there:
An experimental vaccine from GlaxoSmithKline halved the risk of African children getting malaria in a major clinical trial, making it likely to become the world's first shot against the deadly disease.

Final-stage trial data released on Tuesday showed it gave protection against clinical and severe malaria in five- to 17-month-olds in Africa, where the mosquito-borne disease kills hundreds of thousands of children a year.

"These data bring us to the cusp of having the world's first malaria vaccine," said Andrew Witty, chief executive of the British drugmaker that developed the vaccine along with the non-profit PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI).

While hailing an unprecedented achievement, Witty, malaria scientists and global health experts stressed that the vaccine -- known as RTS,S or Mosquirix -- was no quick fix for eradicating malaria. The new shot is less effective than others against common infections like polio and measles.

"We would have wished that we could wipe it out, but I think this is going to contribute to the control of malaria rather than wiping it out," Tsiri Agbenyega, a principal investigator in the RTS,S trials in Ghana, told Reuters at a conference in Seattle about the disease.
Mosquito control programs would have to remain the front line in preventing the spread of the disease, but this would be a significant improvement for the lives of millions of people in Africa.

No comments: