Malaria research has been advancing rapidly in recent years, and now there's even more hope: scientists have developed a vaccine that can slash malaria incidence by half, and it could be introduced to the world's worst-hit countries by 2015.
The vaccine — called RTS,S and developed by GlaxoSmithKline — has been shown to halve the cases of malaria among children aged between five and seven months, as well as cutting the number of cases in babies aged 6 to 12 weeks by a quarter. The results were unveiled this morning in Durban, South Africa.
The protection afforded by the vaccine lasted 18 months, decreasing in effectiveness slightly over time. It might sound poor compared to some of the vaccines we're used to in the west, but in countries where malaria is rife it could make a significant difference. Sir Andrew Witty, chief executive of GSK, explained to the Guardian:
"While we have seen some decline in vaccine efficacy over time, the sheer number of children affected by malaria means that the number of cases of the disease the vaccine can help prevent is impressive."
Despite its limited efficacy, GSK is seeking a licence for the vaccine with the hope that it could be one the ground by 2015. Amazingly for a big pharmaceutical company, GSK says the vaccine will be not-for-profit, though 5 per cent of cost price would be put towards further research and development. So far, the vaccine has cost $US350 million in development costs, and it's expected the project will gobble up a further $US260 million before it's used in anger. While it may not be perfect, this could be a massive leap forward in the bid to eradicate malaria. [Guardian]