The world’s first potential malaria vaccine saw a setback in trials when it proved to be just 30 percent effective in African babies in a crucial trial. The setback has called into question whether the vaccine can be useful in the fight against the deadly disease.
The poor result was surprising for the vaccine, which GlaxoSmithKline has been working to develop for the past 30 years, reports Reuters.
The result also leaves possibly several more years of work before a protective malaria shot could be ready for the countries that so desperately need one.
Malaria is a mosquito-borne parasitic disease that kills thousands of people per year in Africa, mainly babies. Scientists say that the best hope to eradicate the disease is through a vaccine.
Bill Gates, a philanthropist and co-founder of tech giant Microsoft, has helped fund the GSK vaccine’s development. He has said that further research must now take place to see how the vaccine could still be used. Gates stated:
“The efficacy came back lower than we had hoped, but developing a vaccine against a parasite is a very hard thing to do.”
Yahoo! News notes that results from the final-stage trial came from 6,537 babies between six and 12 months old. It showed that the vaccine gave these babies a “modest protection” against the disease, but the efficacy rate a year after vaccination was less than half of the 65 percent from an earlier trial. It is also less than the 50 percent rate that is seen in five to 17 month-olds.
Despite the malaria vaccine setback, Britain’s top drugmaker stated that they will still push forward to develop the RTS vaccine. GSK Chief Executive Andrew Witty stated that it can still be an important tool in the fight against the deadly disease. Witty added, “We’ve been at this for 30 years, and we’re certainly not going to give up now.”