Scientists from Oxford University are launching a world-first trial of an experimental vaccine for malaria that could have a dramatic effect on the disease. The vaccine, which will target the Plasmodium parasites that cause the disease, has been likened to a “magic bullet” and is said to be the most effective ever made in terms of reducing the number of people who are infected with and die from the disease.
malaria is a deadly disease that infects around 300 million people per year, most of them children in Africa. It kills more than 600,000 people every year, mostly African children. In fact, one in eight African children die from malaria.
The past few months have seen a surge in the number of cases of malaria in the Americas, with the worst outbreaks taking place in Brazil and Colombia. The disease is caused by the bite of the mosquito infected with the malaria parasite. It is spread by mosquitoes, and the disease kills about one million people every year.
A malaria vaccine with 77% efficacy in trials – the highest yet – offers hope against a disease that kills 400,000 people every year, a large percentage of them children.
Oxford malaria vaccine brings new hope
Adrian Hill, of Oxford University, and his partners hope the vaccine will be licensed for use within the next two years. They build on the speed and practice gained from the rapid improvement of coronavirus vaccines – the researchers are also working on the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine Covid. Since our commercial partner, the Serum Institute of India, will produce 200 million doses a year in the next few years, the vaccine, if approved, could have a significant impact on general well-being, he told PA News Bureau. Hill hopes the vaccine will be approved soon after the final preliminary results, which he says the team will present in a year.
However, a year ago, four times as many people in Africa died from malaria as from coronaviruses, he added. No one briefly addressed the question of whether the coronavirus should be tested and approved for use in emergency situations in Africa – clearly yes, soon. So why shouldn’t a disease that mainly kills children, rather than established individuals killing large numbers of people, be approved for emergency use in Africa?
The main logical report on malaria vaccines was published in 1910, the first preliminary malaria vaccine trials were conducted in the 1940s, and 140 malaria vaccines have been clinically tested. Slope says there’s no shortage of challenges, but they’ve been unfathomably dull lately. I’ve been working on malaria vaccines since 1994 – that’s not 111 years, but it does feel like something at times, he said. The World Health Organization (WHO) aims for 75% malaria vaccine efficacy by 2030, and the new vaccine will quickly reach that level. It’s extraordinary, fabulous. We saw significant results after the half-year results a year ago and we were excited, Hill said.
Charlemagne Ouedraogo, a welfare pastor in Burkina Faso, told PA: Malaria is one of the main causes of death among young people in Africa. We are supporting trials of a new vaccine in Burkina Faso, and this new information suggests that the approval of a useful new malaria vaccine could be within a few years. An initial randomized, controlled, double-blind study for people with visual impairment was conducted by the Nanoro Clinical Research Unit and the Burkina Faso Health Sciences Research Institute.
The 450 participants, aged 5 to 17 months, were divided into three groups, with the first two groups receiving either a low or high dose of the candidate vaccine. The third group received rabies vaccination as a control group. Doses were sent from early May 2019 to early August 2019, largely before the peak of the malaria season. The study reported vaccine efficacy of 77% in the high-dose group and 71% in the low-dose group after a follow-up period of more than one year. The researchers found no real side effects associated with the vaccine.
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