World's First Malaria Vaccine Could Save Millions Of Lives
October 8, 2013

World’s First Malaria Vaccine Could Save Millions Of Lives

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is expected to seek regulatory approval for a malaria vaccine that recently delivered promising results in a large-scale trial conducted across Africa.

The new vaccine – dubbed RTS,S – would be the world’s first malaria vaccine and could significantly boost public health in parts of Africa where malaria runs rampant.

"In Africa we experience nearly 600,000 deaths annually from malaria, mainly children under five years of age," said Halidou Tinto, a principal investigator from one of the trial sites and chair of the committee that oversaw the RTS,S trial. "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."

In the trial, which involved almost 15,500 children in seven countries, the vaccine was found to cut the number of malaria cases in young children almost in half and cut the number of infant malaria cases by 25 percent. GSK developed the vaccine as part of a partnership with the non-profit Path Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI), which is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

When children five to 17 months old were tested 18 months after vaccination, researchers saw a 46 percent drop in the risk of clinical malaria compared to unvaccinated children. However, for infants that were six to 12 weeks old at the time of vaccination, there was only a 27 percent drop in risk.

"It appears that the RTS,S candidate vaccine has the potential to have a significant public health impact," Tinto said. "Preventing substantial numbers of malaria cases in a community would mean fewer hospital beds filled with sick children. Families would lose less time and money caring for these children and have more time for work or other activities.

“And of course the children themselves would reap the benefits of better health,” he added.

"We're very encouraged by these latest results, which show that RTS,S continued to provide meaningful protection over 18 months to babies and young children across different regions of Africa,” said Sir Andrew Witty, CEO of GSK. “While we have seen some decline in vaccine efficacy over time, the sheer number of children affected by malaria means that the number of cases of the disease the vaccine can help prevent is impressive. These data support our decision to submit a regulatory application for the vaccine candidate which, if successful, would bring us a step closer to having an additional tool to fight this deadly disease.”

David Kaslow, vice president of product development at PATH, said the novel vaccine would be a useful additional tool that could be employed along with other malaria control measures such as mosquito nets and insecticides.

“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,” Kaslow said. “While we want to be careful about not getting ahead of the data, 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."