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Major step for world’s first malaria vaccine

 Millions of children’s lives could be saved by a new vaccine shown to halve the risk of malaria in the first large-scale trials across seven African countries,” reported The Guardian. It goes on to say that the long-awaited results of the largest-ever malaria vaccine study, involving 15,460 babies and small children, show that it could massively reduce the impact of the malaria.
The study reported the results of an initial analysis of a large trial of a malaria vaccine, called RTS,S/AS01. The trial found that after a year, the vaccine’ reduced the number of episodes of clinical malaria by about 50%, and the number of cases of severe malaria by about 35%. However, there was some evidence that the vaccine’s efficiency was reduced during the follow-up period.

There were a similar number of side effects in children who received the malaria vaccine as in children who received the control vaccine, but there were more cases of meningitis and seizure in the group that received the malaria vaccine.
The results of this trial suggest that this vaccine could be an important tool in the control of malaria. However, the results of longer-term follow-up are required to determine how long the vaccine protects against malaria and to monitor side effects. More will be known when the results of the next phase of the trial are released in 2014.
The Guardian reported that the World Health Organization (WHO) has said that if the results are satisfactory, it will ‘recommend its use and the vaccine may begin to be rolled out as early as 2015, but it will need to be used in conjunction with all the other existing tools of malaria prevention, such as bed nets and insecticide spraying on the inside of homes’.

Where did the story come from?

The study was carried out by the RTS,S Clinical Trials Partnership that included researchers from African research centres (in Gabon, Mozambique, Tanzania, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Ghana, Malawi); the University of Tübingen, Germany, and from GlaxoSmithKline and the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative. It was funded by GlaxoSmithKline and the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, which received a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The study was published in the peer reviewed journal The New England Journal of Medicine.
One of the sponsors of this trial was GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals, which both developed and manufactures the vaccine.
This story was accurately covered by The Guardian and by several other newspapers. The Guardian provided useful background and context to the study using quotes from the study authors and Bill Gates.

image: seattletimes

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