Malaria vaccine: 'world a step closer to eradicating disease'
GlaxoSmithKline seeking approval for RTS,S shot after it halved cases of malaria in young children
THE world's first malaria vaccine could be available within a few years after a medical trial showed that it almost halved the cases of the disease in young children. The British drug manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is seeking regulatory approval for the vaccine, known as RTS,S, following a trial hailed as a major testing milestone.
The mosquito-borne parasitic disease kills hundreds of thousands of people every year, with 90 per cent of all malaria cases in sub-Saharan Africa.
The clinical trial, involving almost 15,500 children in seven countries, was the largest ever to take place in Africa. The results found that children aged 5 to 17 months old had a 46 per cent reduction in the risk of clinical malaria 18 months after the RTS,S vaccination compared to those who did not have the shot.
However, RTS,S offered less protection to very small babies, for reasons that are unclear. Infants aged 6 to 12 weeks at the time of vaccination only had a 27 per cent reduction in risk.
GSK, which has been developing the vaccine for three decades, intends to submit a regulatory application to the European Medicines Agency next year. The drug manufacturer hopes that the World Health Organisation (WHO) will recommend the use of the vaccine from as early as 2015. If approved, it could be widely available by 2016.
GSK has not yet revealed how much the vaccine will cost to make, but has said it plans to sell it at a five per cent margin, with profits to be spent on further research into curing the disease. "The answer to that cost question could be pivotal in determining where the vaccine gets rolled out, if and when it clears regulatory hurdles," says the Daily Telegraph.
Nevertheless, the newspaper describes it as "a victory for the persistence of scientific endeavour" and says that – whatever the hurdles – the GSK team has "taken the world a step closer to eradicating this deadly disease". ·