A new malaria vaccine could cut deaths by 70% by 2030, UK scientists say world news

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A new vaccine could reduce deaths from malaria by 70% by 2030, according to British scientists who developed it.

The prediction came after clinical trials in Africa showed the vaccine, dubbed R21/Matrix-M, was highly effective at protecting children who are bearing the brunt of the mosquito-borne disease.

The results will be submitted to the World Health Organization later this month, and a manufacturer has already been set up to make 200 million doses a year. They could cost less than £5 each.

Professor Adrian Hill, director of the Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford, who led the research, said: “This is really exciting.

“People have been trying to make malaria vaccines for over a century. Around 140 different malaria vaccines have gone up in arms.

“We believe these data are the best of any malaria vaccine to date.”

More than 40 million children live in areas of sub-Saharan Africa with high or moderate severity malaria Transmission.

Every 75 seconds, a child under five dies from the disease, despite the use of bed nets, preventative medication and insecticide sprays.

How the study was conducted

In the new study, published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases, The researchers gave 409 young children in Burkina Faso three doses four weeks apart, with a booster shot at 12 months.

Results a year later showed that 80% of malaria cases had been prevented.

The only alternative malaria vaccine made by GlaxoSmithKline is 44% effective over a year, the researchers say.

‘We vaccinated just before the peak of the malaria season, so that adds a little (to the difference),’ said Prof Hill.

“But we also believe that our vaccine is better and more effective.”

Picture:
Clinical trials have been conducted in Africa. Image: Katie Ewer

The full data, including results from an unpublished study of 4,800 children in four African countries, will be presented to the World Health Organization later this month.

Read more: Use of mosquito nets in malaria-prone countries helps children reach adulthood

A license to distribute the vaccine could follow early next year.

The world’s largest vaccine maker, the Serum Institute of India, has agreed to produce 200 million doses a year from next year.

Prof Hill said: “We want to add a malaria vaccine on top of bed nets, on top of spraying and on top of drug preventative treatment.

“If we can do that on a large scale, we could really expect a significant reduction in the number of malaria deaths and cases – perhaps a 70 percent reduction in deaths by 2030.”

However, scientists warned that the vaccine’s benefits may not be realized if wealthier nations falter in their funding for malaria control. The United Kingdom and the United States have made major contributions in the past.

Fighting malaria “at a crossroads”

Prof Azra Ghani, Chair of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at Imperial College London, said: “These findings come at a time when the fight against malaria is at a crossroads.

“With the right investment – particularly continued support of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria at its upcoming replenishment conference later this month – we can reverse recent trends and continue on the path to malaria elimination.

“Without this investment, we risk losing the gains made over the last few decades and witnessing a rising tide of malaria resurgence.”



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