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The RTS,S Malaria vaccine, developed by pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI), began its third clinical trial in Africa today.
Malaria affects over 200 million people worldwide each year with approximately 800,000 fatalities as a result, with the largest contingent of victims being children. In Africa, nearly 20% of all childhood deaths are related to the parasitic infection, which is carried by mosquitoes.
But the RTS,S vaccine is seeking to reduce this number significantly as it’s tested and implemented in collaboration with the University College of Medicine in Malawi. Treatment there had previously had tremendous success during its phase II trial where it lowered cases of malaria by 53%. The hope over the next few years is that its effectiveness will increase if administered during childhood immunisation.
Dr Desiree Witte, from the University’s Institute of Infection and Global Health and who’s leading the study outlined the importance of children receiving effective vaccination. “Young children are particularly susceptible to infection with malaria and it is important that vaccines are introduced into the immunisation programme as early as possible.” She said.
The vaccine will be examined as it’s used during different stages of childhood, ranging from newborns to nine months of age. If successful in integration and prevention, it could be a huge breakthrough in combating the disease with the ultimate goal being a viable and efficient vaccine.
“There is no licensed vaccine available against malaria and currently the candidate vaccine developed by GSK and MVI, is the most clinically advanced malaria vaccine in the world.” Dr. Witte added.