Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Successful Test of a Malaria Vaccine

World's first malaria vaccine works in major trial
An experimental vaccine from GlaxoSmithKline halved the risk of African children getting malaria in a major clinical trial, making it likely to become the world's first shot against the deadly disease.

Final-stage trial data released on Tuesday showed it gave protection against clinical and severe malaria in five- to 17-month-olds in Africa, where the mosquito-borne disease kills hundreds of thousands of children a year.

"These data bring us to the cusp of having the world's first malaria vaccine," said Andrew Witty, chief executive of the British drugmaker that developed the vaccine along with the nonprofit PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI).

While hailing an unprecedented achievement, Witty, malaria scientists and global health experts stressed that the vaccine, known as RTS,S or Mosquirix, was no quick fix for eradicating malaria. The new shot is less effective against the disease than other vaccines are against common infections such as polio and measles.
This is a pretty big advance.  Even saving half the number of lives that malaria takes would be an amazing accomplishment.  Scientists have been trying to find a good way to immunize against malaria for many years without success.  The organism that causes malaria, a plasmodium that infects blood cells and is transferred to people via mosquito bite, has a very complicated life cycle, and is largely protected from the immune system by living within red blood cells.

In the meantime, while they work on ways to make the vaccine more effective, there are a number of things that can and should be done to reduce infection; control mosquito populations, mosquito nets and night clothes, and even insecticides, including DDT.

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