Promising anti-malaria vaccine tested

Published: Friday 30 November 2007

a vaccine against malaria, responsible for over a million deaths in the world annually, has shown some promise in tackling the disease in Africa.

A study conducted in Mozambique showed that rts,s, the vaccine, may be the first safe vaccine in clinical trials for infants, a group particularly vulnerable. The study looked at 214 infants assigned to receive three doses of rts,salong with Mozambique's regular paediatric immunizations, with some getting only the routine vaccines. The researchers foundrts,swas 65 per cent more effective at preventing new infections during a six-month period following three full doses of the vaccine. After the first dose, it reduced clinical malaria cases by 35 per cent. The next step is to test whether rts,s can prevent full blown malaria as well. Marketing of the vaccine will begin in 2011.

GlaxoSmithKline, the company that has produced rts,s, claims to have invested overus $300 million on its research and development since 1987. It has been in clinical studies since 1992.

"So far, all human studies on rts,shave taken place in Africa, though the vaccine would also likely work in India," says Virander Chauhan, director of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (icgeb) in New Delhi. To know for sure, however, clinical studies will have to be carried out locally, he adds. Chauhan says it suffers from a major drawback: "It uses an adjuvant which is a proprietary of a multinational company. If the vaccine goes ahead, there may be complications of licensing it to the developing world."

In India, bothPlasmodium vivaxandP falciparumare common, though malaria fromP falciparumhas been increasing here in recent years. icgeb is developing malaria vaccines againstP vivax. Overall, there are more than 40 kinds of malaria vaccines being studied in the world.

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