World’s First Malaria Vaccine Approved By European Agency

The world’s first malaria vaccine has been approved by the European Medicines Agency, which is the first regulatory hurdle in developing an effective means to fight the parasite that claims half a million lives each year.

Although the vaccine, called RTS.S or Mosquirix, is not 100 percent effective and its ability to protect from malaria infection begins to fade after a year, it is a promising drug that, when combined with current deterrents like treated bed nets, researchers think it will be effective at reducing malaria cases and deaths.

Andrew Witty, chief executive of the company that developed the vaccine, GlaxoSmithKlineMalaria, told UPI the malaria vaccine truly is promising in treating malaria, which is spread through bites from mosquitoes carrying parasites called plasmodia.

“While RTS.S on its own is not the complete answer to malaria, its use alongside those interventions currently available such as bed nets and insecticides would provide a very meaningful contribution to controlling the impact of malaria on children in those African communities that need it the most.”

Because the disease is spread by a parasite rather than a bacteria or virus, the vaccine against malaria is particularly difficult to develop. According to researchers, the drug works in the body to prevent plasmodia from reproducing in the liver, which prevents the infection from taking hold.

According to a press release from EMI, a clinical test was conducted on more than 16,000 young children in eight African countries. Malaria cases were cut in half in children between the ages of 5 and 17, and cut by 27 percent in infants 6-12 weeks old after three doses of the vaccine.

Needless to say, researchers are recommending that people continue to use insecticide-treated bed nets, anti-mosquito sprays, and other tactics against getting bitten, along with taking the malaria vaccine.

According to an Malaria Vaccine Initiative press release, the vaccine will not be marketed in the European Union until the World Health Organization provides its recommendations on the drug, which is expected by November.

“The timing, duration, and outcomes of some of the critical steps to possible vaccine implementation in African countries are not yet known. Positive outcomes throughout the policy and regulatory process, as well as the availability of the necessary financing, are a prerequisite for the introduction of RTS.S through African national immunization programs.”

The malaria vaccine, while not a cure-all, is a good step in combating the highly deadly disease.

[Photo by Tom Ervin / Getty Images]