Great news in the world of global health! A recent clinical trial for an experimental malaria vaccine has yielded successful results in protecting a large number of children against malaria with minimal side effects. More than 15,000 newborns and infants in seven African countries participated in the Phase 3 Trial of RTS,S/AS01 Malaria Vaccine. A year after the vaccine was administered, risk of developing high fever and chills from malaria infection fell to 56 percent, and cut the chances of developing a life-threatening severe case by 47 percent. Resultsof the trial were presented in the New England Journal of Medicine, which also published an editorial about the vaccine’s significance.
Caused by parasites transmitted by infected mosquitoes, malaria annually sickens more than 200 million people and kills nearly 800,000, mostly children in Africa. Malaria is a parasite, not a virus, which makes creating a vaccine against malaria much more difficult for researchers. To date, no vaccine exists that targets a parasitic disease.
In The Guardian Dr. Peter Hotez, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, dean of the School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, and president of the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, offered his opinion about the significance of finding a vaccine that offers 50% protection against a parasitic disease:
“This news on the malaria vaccine is what the moonwalk meant for the future of space exploration. This is banner news in our world as we continue our work to find treatments and bring relief for those suffering from tropical diseases worldwide. This is a true testimony to perseverance in public health, and it doesn't get any more important than this. The results from this trial also hold promise for breakthroughs in finding vaccines against other tropical diseases.”He adds a plea for more money for research.
“This accomplishment – more than 24 years in the making – underscores the importance of long-term investment in research. Without it, we might never have come this far. And without continued support, further progress could be stymied.”
Since 2001, the Sabin Vaccine Institute has been working on the first ever vaccine for human hookworm. Since then they have also began research to create vaccines for schistosomiasis and chagas disease.
More on the malaria vaccine can be found at the Washington Post.