Landmark vaccine breakthrough in global fight against malaria

A new malaria vaccine has been shown to be 77 percent effective in studies in infants, British researchers said on Friday, in what may prove to be a potential game changer against the deadly mosquito-borne disease.

In a clinical trial in Burkina Faso, the Matrix M vaccine – developed by the University of Oxford’s Jenner Institute – proved to be 77 percent effective after 450 infants inoculated in 2019 were followed up for one year, Oxford researchers said in a statement. .

No serious side effects were reported.

It is the first candidate vaccine for malaria that exceeds a goal set by the UN’s World Health Organization, for researchers to create a jab of 75 percent efficiency by 2030.

A broader “Phase 3” study with 4,800 children will now be conducted in four African countries, in collaboration with the Serum Institute of India and the American pharmaceutical company Novavax.

Professor Adrian Hill, director of the Jenner Institute – which developed the coronavirus vaccine now distributed worldwide by the Anglo-Swedish drug giant AstraZeneca – said the test results marked “a fantastic day” in the global fight against malaria.

“We have to build on this, we have to keep all our ducks in line, we have to avoid safety signals, but I think the odds are now on our side, we can get through this,” he told the PA news agency.

He pointed out that vaccines against Covid-19 were quickly approved, while the first attempts at malaria date back to the 1940s.

Ahead of World Malaria Day on Sunday, the UN Health Bureau has insisted that eliminating the disease that kills some 400,000 people each year around the world is a “viable goal for all countries”.

But a vaccine breakthrough is still crucial, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the Oxford trial was a “landmark”.

“Malaria kills hundreds of thousands of children every year. An effective vaccine prevents the possibility of ending this global tragedy,” he said on Twitter.

This is a milestone for the team at @UniofOxford who developed the COVID-19 vaccine.

Malaria kills hundreds of thousands of children every year. An effective vaccine rules out the possibility of ending this global tragedy. Https://t.co/9ZiKfzO27s

– Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) April 23, 2021

Children at greater risk

“Malaria killed at least four times as many people in Africa last year as Covid did,” Hill said.

“And no one questioned for a moment whether Covid would have a review and approval of emergencies in Africa – it did, of course, very quickly.

“So why shouldn’t a disease that first kills children rather than older people, really killed a lot more, be given priority for emergency use in Africa?”

The Serum Institute has committed to making at least 200 million doses annually, and Hill said the Matrix-M “has the potential to have a major impact on public health if licensing is achieved.”

The vaccine was given in a randomized study with 450 children and toddlers aged five months to 17 months. A control group received a rabies vaccine instead.

The children received a booster vaccine after one year.

Professor Charlemagne Ouedraogo, Burkina Faso’s Minister of Health, said: “Malaria is one of the leading causes of infant mortality in Africa.”

“We have supported trials with a number of new vaccine candidates in Burkina Faso and these new data show that the licensing of a very useful new malaria vaccine may well take place in the coming years.”

“It would be an extremely important new tool for controlling malaria and saving many lives.”

The results of the clinical trial were reported in a reprinted article on the website of the British medical journal The Lancet.

(AFP)

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More