New Malaria Vaccine Promising

27/4/2010 - The new malaria vaccine developed by British researchers yeilded success in its second round of testing. Now, the world watches and waits for results of the latest round.

As researchers pioneer the testing of a new vaccine that could protect against malaria, health workers and development practitioners working in Africa are optimistic that the illness will soon meet the same demise as polio. The vaccine, a project twenty years in the making, has been developed by British pharmaceutical corporations GlaxoSmithKline. It is called Mosquitrix, and if tests are successful, it could become available in only two short years.

Malaria kills one child every thirty seconds, making it one of the world’s most dangerous child killers. The majority of all cases occur in Africa and most of the children infected are under five years old. While both treatment and prevention are possible, too many people do not have the resources—both financial and medical—to access either.

Malaria is caused by a mosquito-transmitted parasite that attacks the liver, and eventually the entire bloodstream. Fatigue, muscle pains, chills, nausea and a loss of appetite kick in. Untreated, those infected may collaps, falling into a coma.

16 000 children in seven African countries with a high malaria burden are currently being tested by GlaxoSmithKline researchers. This is the third phase of testing, and Kenya is one participating country. The second phase was carried out in Mozambique, where a 2 000 child study showed that malaria incidence decreased 53% in response to vaccination. In Kenya, where 36 000 children die from malaria each year, health officials have said that if the vaccine is successful it will become a routine component of normal health services. The other countries involved in the current trial are: Burkina Faso, Gabon, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania.

Speaking on World Malaria Day, which was on Sunday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon was happy that “strong commitment [to malaria] has sparked innovation. Groundbreaking partnerships are developing new malaria medicines and making existing medicines more accessible and affordable.” GlaxoSmithKline has pledged to make Mosquitrix affordable in developing world in the spirit of corporate social responsibility.

This latest stand against malaria shows that the international community is steadfast and optimistic about the vaccine’s enormous potential to catalyze progress toward two key Millennium Development Goals: Goal #4 to Reduce Child Mortality” and Goal #6 to Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Other Diseases.