Some 800,000 people die from malaria each year. Most of the deaths occur among small children in sub-Saharan Africa. But early test results of a new vaccine show considerable promise. The vaccine was developed by GlaxoSmithKline and the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill participated in the clinical trial in Lilongwe, Malawi. There, 1,600 children were given the vaccine. The results showed that children between 5 and 17 months were 56 percent less likely to contract clinical malaria and 47 percent less likely to get severe malaria.
“Many have resigned themselves to malaria being a fact of life in Africa,” notes Francis Martinson, co-principal investigator and country director of the UNC project in Malawi. “This need not be the case.”
Further testing on the long-term preventive effects of the vaccine and the possible side effects will be conducted and monitored for the next several years. But the early results offer a great deal of hope.
The results were published in the online edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.