New malaria vaccine ‘could prevent 100 million cases a year’

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A new malaria vaccine has the potential to prevent up to 100 million cases of the disease each year and save 200,000 lives, British experts have said.

Eleanor Riley, professor of immunology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the RTS,S malaria vaccine could have an “enormous” public health impact, particularly in sub Saharan Africa.

Results released yesterday by British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) showed the jab continued to protect young children and babies from malaria up to 18 months after vaccination.

The firm now plans to submit an application to European regulators with the hope of getting the vaccine approved – meaning its introduction could be less than two years away.

Over 18 months, the RTS,S vaccine was shown to almost halve the number of malaria cases in children aged five to 17 months.

The study of more than 15,000 babies and young children found the vaccine reduced, by around a quarter, malaria cases in babies aged six to 12 weeks at first vaccination. The youngsters received the jab in three separate doses one month apart. During follow-up, their immunity to malaria declined and a sample of the children were given a booster jab. Experts are now awaiting results of the booster to see if it offered extended protection.

Prof Riley said the initial three doses had been shown to deliver between 30 per cent and 50 per cent protection. “In public health terms, if you could vaccinate every child at risk of malaria you could reduce cases by a third to a half and you could reduce deaths by a third to a half,” she said. “It would have an enormous impact in terms of public health.”

Prof Riley said 200,000 lives a year could be saved worldwide if every at risk child was vaccinated.And some 100 million cases a year worldwide could be prevented.