Findings of three year malaria vaccine study to be released

The preliminary findings of three year malaria vaccine study involving thousands children from seven African countries is expected to be announced in Seattle in the coming days.

A total of 15,000 newborns and infants were inoculated at 11 sites across the region in tests conducted by the biopharmaceutical company GlaxoSmitKline and the PATH malaria initiative, according to Bernama.com.my.

RTS,S, as the vaccine is currently known, has proven to reduce cases of malaria in infants by up to 53 percent in previous testing. If the results of the Phase III clinical trials are a success, it could be made available as early as 2015.

Dr. Patricia Njuguna, the RTS,S principal investigator at the Kenya Medical Research Institute’s Kilifi Center, said that the studies had progressed according to plan. She said an upgraded vaccine that offers 80 percent protection from malaria is possible by 2025, according Nation.co.ke.

The RTS,S testing has not been entirely free of difficulties. The expected announcement will be made as controversy builds among some scientists who have questioned the vaccine’s efficacy, its potential side effects and the wisdom of using young children in the trials.

In Malawi, one of the seven countries where the vaccine was tested, the impact of malaria is considered to be overwhelming. Every year there are at least 5.5 million cases of malaria, equal to a third of the country’s population.

"It drains the resources," Dr. Karl Seydel, a pediatrician in Malawi, said, according to IRIN.com. "We could use that money for other things; we could build more hospitals or hire more nurses."

Most experts agree that the new malaria vaccine will not be a substitute for preventative measures like bed netting, but it could still save thousands of lives and free up scarce financial resources.