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The world’s first Malaria Vaccine?

Handout photo of a man carrying his daughter, who is being treated for malaria by International Medical Corps doctors, at Akobo County Hospital in South Sudan

The Multilateral Initiative on Malaria conference (MIM) is currently going on in Durban, South Africa. This is a conference where researchers and experts in the field gather together to share progress of their research to the malaria community. One of such progress that has been reported is by Glaxosmithkline (GSK) who created a  vaccine known as RTS,S. They found that their vaccine almost halved the number of malaria cases in young children in a clinical trial and reduced the number of malaria cases in infants by about 25%.The malaria trial was Africa’s largest-ever clinical trial involving almost 15,500 children in seven countries and the company has been developing the vaccine for three decades.Based on these data, GSK now intends to submit, in 2014, a regulatory application to the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

Testing showed that 18 months after vaccination, children aged five to 17 months had a 46% reduction in the risk of clinical malaria compared to unvaccinated contemporaries.However, in infants aged six to 12 weeks at the time of vaccination, there was only a 27% reduction in risk.

This has been the best news in malaria research in over 30 years and If the regulatory application by GSK is successful, it will bring us a step closer to having an additional tool to fight this deadly disease. My only concern however, is the cost and accessibility of the vaccine. Will it be accessible to the Africans who need it the most?  Only time will tell but for now, this is a huge step in malaria research.



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