Vaccine that protects children for up to 18 months against malaria to go into production
GlaxoSmithKline will produce drug, RTS,S commercially
Pharmaceutical manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline says it will move ahead to develop a new malaria vaccine - one that can protect children for 18 months against the drug, commercially. The drug, called RTS,S, has been proven to cut the number of cases in half after 18 months.
Not a total victory, the new vaccine is generally as good a news in the fight against malaria as one can hope for. Most childhood vaccines provide at least 90 percent protection and only reduced the number of cases in infants by 25 percent.
It remains a significant victory, however, as researchers have worked for decades to try to make a vaccine against the mosquito-borne malaria parasite. Malaria kills 660,000 people a year, mainly babies in the poorest parts of sub-Saharan Africa.
"Many millions of malaria cases fill the wards of our hospitals. Progress is being made with bed nets and other measures, but we need more tools to battle this terrible disease," Halidou Tinto, a lead investigator on the RTS,S trial from Burkina Faso says.
The new vaccine served as Africa's largest ever clinical trial. Involving almost 15,500 children in seven countries were tested. Findings were presented at a medical meeting in Durban, South Africa.
Earlier studies on the vaccine suggested it was 65 percent effective in babies analyzed six months after vaccination, and only around 50 percent in five to 17 month-olds.
Earlier this year, data found that RTS,S's effectiveness wanes over time, with the shot protecting only 16.8 percent of children over four years.
David Kaslow, vice president of product development at PATH, said RTS,S would serve as a useful additional tool alongside other malaria control measures such as mosquito nets, insecticides and anti-malaria drugs.
"Given the huge disease burden of malaria among African children, we cannot ignore what these latest results tell us about the potential for RTS,S to have a measurable and significant impact on the health of millions of young children in Africa," he said in a statement.
"This trial continues to show that a malaria vaccine could potentially bring an important additional benefit beyond that provided by the tools already in use."
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