Leadership (Abuja)

Africa: Eleven Countries Research On Malaria Vaccine

Photo: Stuart Price/UN Photo
Mothers sit with their malnourished and dehydrated children in a ward at Banadir Hospital in Mogadishu.

Eleven African countries are meeting in South Africa to research on the possibility of having a malaria vaccine to reduce infant and under-five deaths, a trial investigator, Dr Salim Abdulla, has said.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the phase III clinical trial, researchers have found that the malaria candidate vaccine (RTS,S), reduces malaria by approximately one-third in African infants.

RTS,S is a scientific name given to the malaria vaccine candidate.

It triggers the immune system to defend against Plasmodium falciparum, the malaria parasite, when it first enters the human host's bloodstream or when the parasite infects liver cells.

Abdulla, a principal investigator for the trial from Ifakara Health Institute, Tanzania, said that significant progress had been made in the research against malaria.

He explained that the disease still killed about 655,000 people a year, mainly children under five, in sub-Saharan Africa.

The researcher said that an effective malaria vaccine protected young babies against malaria.

"When administered along with standard childhood vaccines, the efficacy of RTS,S in infants, aged six to12 weeks, at first vaccination against clinical and severe malaria, was 31 per cent and 37 per cent respectively," he said.

Abdulla said that follow-up trials would continue, as they were expected to provide more data for analyses to better understand the different findings between the age categories.

Mr Andrew Witty, the Chief Executive Officer of GSK, said the results confirmed that RTS,S could help provide African babies and young children with meaningful protection against malaria.

"The trials will take us another important step forward on the journey towards having a new intervention available against this disease, which is a huge burden on the health and economic growth of Africa," he said.

Witty said that GSK was convinced that RTS,S had a role to play in tackling malaria, stressing that GSK would continue to work with partners and other stakeholders to better understand the data.

He said the partners' collaboration in research was an important scientific milestone in finding a cure for malaria.

He said that the foundation was ready to continue research at all times in improving lives in sub-Saharan Africa.

NAN reports that the trial, conducted in partnership with the GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI) is sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

NAN

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