Health

New Malaria Vaccine 'RTS,S' Moving Towards Commercial Production

| by Jonathan Wolfe

A new malaria vaccine manufactured by pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline is set to move towards commercial production.

The experimental vaccine, called RTS,S, is found to reduce new malaria cases by 46% amongst people who were administered the vaccine. Amongst infants, case dropped by 25%. While the success rate of RTS,S is much lower than most vaccines, the medical community is more than willing to take any success they can find when it comes to preventing malaria.

In sub-Saharan Africa, Malaria kills over 600,000 infants per year. In a group of 1,000 infants, it is estimated that over 1,800 new cases of malaria will develop each year.

“There's no question that everybody would want a higher efficacy on this vaccine," says Dr. Johanna Daily of Albert Einstein College of Medicine.  "But malaria has always been such a challenge. And we may not ever get those levels."

The latest results of the RTS,S trial were announced today. The trial was conducted on over 15,000 children from seven countries. The vaccine was developed by GSK in combination with the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI). Grant funding was provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

While the vaccine isn’t  final solution, and other safety measures like mosquito safety nets, insecticides, and anti-malarial drugs must continue to be used, PATH vice president David Kaslow told reporters not to underestimate the impact the RTS,S vaccine could have on public health.

"Given the huge disease burden of malaria among African children, we cannot ignore what these latest results tell us about the potential for RTS,S to have a measurable and significant impact on the health of millions of young children in Africa," he said in a statement.

"This trial continues to show that a malaria vaccine could potentially bring an important additional benefit beyond that provided by the tools already in use."

Sources: NPR, ABC