British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline is seeking approval of the world’s first anti-malaria vaccination. GSK scientists have reportedly spent nearly three decades developing the vaccine and now hope it will be widely available by 2016. While most anti-malaria medication is highly effective, scientists say a vaccine is the only way to truly eradicate the disease.
In a trial conducted in Africa, the vaccine – known as ‘RTS,S’ – almost halved the number of malaria cases in young children and reduced the number of cases in infants by approximately 25 per cent. It was Africa's largest clinical trial yet, involving almost 15,500 children across seven countries.
“A malaria vaccine has the potential to save hundreds of thousands of lives in the developing world,” said Chetan Chavda of UK-based travel health website, Clinidirect. “Anti-malaria tablets, mosquito nets and strong insect repellents containing DEET are all effective methods to protect against malaria, but a widely available vaccine could impact people’s lives enormously.” The trial’s findings were presented at a medical meeting in Durban, South Africa and indicated that 18 months after being vaccinated, children aged five to 17 months had a 46-per-cent reduction in the risk of malaria.
The news that a vaccine could be on the market within a few years will be welcomed by health professionals around the world, especially given the recent news that the US is suffering the highest number of malaria cases in the past 40 years. The conclusion of a recent report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that there were 1,925 malaria cases reported in the US in 2011, with five fatalities. Almost all of these cases were acquired overseas, said the CDC, with most of them originating in Africa, although a significant number of people who acquired the illness had travelled to India.