The disease kills nearly one million people a year, mostly children in Africa.
The world could be getting closer to a vaccine to protect children from malaria, according to the results of a new study of the deadly disease.
The trial was conducted at 11 trial sites in seven countries across sub-Saharan Africa, and showed that three doses of the test vaccine called RTS,S reduced the risk of children experiencing clinical malaria and severe malaria by 56 percent and 47 percent, respectively. Researchers tracked the first six thousand subjects age five to 17 months, over a 12-month period following vaccination. Clinical malaria results in high fevers and chills, and it can quickly develop into severe malaria, typified by serious effects on the blood, brain or kidneys that can prove fatal.
“The PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative’s mission is to deliver a vaccine to the children of Africa so that instead of carrying near lifeless babies to crowded pediatric wards, mothers will carry their infants past noisy school playgrounds to bustling immunization clinics,” said Christopher Elias, who heads the private nonprofit organization in Seattle overseeing the vaccine’s development. “Today, we are an important step closer to realizing that vision, and we look forward to continuing our drive, together with our partners, to bring this vaccine home to the children of Africa.”
In 2008, as many as 300 million people were sickened with malaria and nearly one million people died, the bulk of whom were African children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disease is caused by parasites that are transmitted by infected mosquitoes.
“It's been a long time coming, and indeed we are still not there yet, but it is becoming increasingly clear that we really do have the first effective vaccine against a parasitic disease in humans,” writes Nicholas J. White in The New England Journal of Medicine. The vaccine’s developers hope to win regulatory approval and make the vaccine available as early as 2015.
The test vaccine is still under development. Researchers expect information about the longer-term protective effects of the vaccine, 30 months after the third dose, to be available by the end of 2014.
The results were announced Tuesday at the Malaria Forum in Seattle, hosted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
(Photo: Joseph Okanga/Reuters)