Malaria vaccine 'by 2015'

The world's first vaccine against malaria could be less than two years away after a successful trial by a British drug makers GlaxoSmithKline. Test results appeared to show it had cut the number of cases in African children.

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Breakthrough malaria vaccine could be in Africa by 2015

by - Science and Medical Editor

This is certainly a significant breakthrough. Doctors already have several weapons in their fight against Malaria, such as impregnated bed nets that stop the mosquitos biting you and spreading the parasite that causes malaria.

There are drugs that you can give if people do get malaria. You can spray to try to kill the mosquitos that spread it. But all those have problems and none are as good as a vaccine would be. That is a vaccine that attacks the parasite that causes malaria.

Dr Allan Pamba, from GlaxoSmithKline, talked about new doors that have opened in treatment:

GSK, the company that developed this one, spent half a billion pounds on it, and it has taken 30 years to develop. The trial is not finished yet, it has got about another year to run.

It could be approved by the European Medicines Agency next year and could be in use in Africa by 2015-16.

Read: Malaria vaccine 'by 2015'

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Oxfam: Any malaria vaccine must be affordable for poor

A new potential vaccine for malaria will only have an impact if it is made affordable to people in poor countries, Oxfam's health policy adviser Anna Marriott has warned.

Kenyan nurses weigh a child before she is given an injection as part of a malaria vaccine trial in Kenya
Kenyan nurses weigh a child before she is given an injection as part of a malaria vaccine trial in Kenya Credit: REUTERS/Joseph Okanga

She said previous cases show that companies can make drugs affordable to African governments, which can then provide treatments free of charge to poor people.

Marriott also stressed that the impact would be limited unless deployed alongside other tools, such as mosquito nets, better diagnosis and healthcare infrastructure.

"We cannot let excitement [about a possible vaccine] ... divert attention away from the need to invest in these prevention and treatment methods," she added.

Read: Malaria vaccine 'could be less than two years away'

Facts about Malaria

Malaria the leading killer among young African children

  • Transmitted via the bites of infected mosquitoes
  • Caused an estimated 660,000 deaths in 2010, mostly among African children
  • Leading cause of death among African children under the age of five
  • Symptoms include fever, headaches, nausea and muscle pain
  • Can be prevented with artemisinin-based drugs (ACTs), mosquito nets and spraying insecticide
  • In many parts of the world, parasites have developed drug resistance
  • ACTs are more expensive than older, less effective treatments which remain in wide use

Sources: World Health Organisation, MSF

Charity: Malaria vaccine could help millions of children

Dr David C Kaslow, vice president of global health charity PATH, says the development of a malaria vaccine could have a "measurable" impact on millions of children.

He added: "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.

"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."

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Malaria vaccine trial results are 'encouraging'

GlaxoSmithKline says it is "encouraged" by the results of a trial of a new vaccine against malaria.

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.

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.

– Chief executive of GSK Sir Andrew Witty

Malaria vaccine 'could be less than two years away'

The introduction of a vaccine against malaria could be less than two years away following a trial by a British healthcare company.

GlaxoSmithKline has conducted successful trials of a vaccine against malaria. Credit: Reuters

The results of the trial by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) demonstrated the most clinically advanced malaria vaccine candidate - RTS,S - continued to protect young children and infants from clinical malaria up to 18 months after vaccination.

Over a year and a half, the vaccine was shown to almost halve the number of malaria cases in children aged five to 17 months at first vaccination.

The study of more than 15,000 infants and young children found the vaccine reduced by around a quarter the malaria cases in infants aged six to 12 weeks at first vaccination.