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Malaria vaccine trial in its final stages

Oct 25, 2011 09:07 AM IST India India

Mumbai: The world's first malaria vaccine is in its final stages of clinical trials. It's proving to be 56 per cent effective, which means it will reduce the risk of the disease by more than half.

After 30 years of research, this is the best shot for a malaria vaccine. Two-year-old Philip is one of 15,000 African children taking part in a phase 3 trial. An earlier phase 2 trial showed it was about 50 per cent effective in young children, which is not a small achievement, given that malaria kills 800,000 children worldwide every year.

Dr. Louis Macareo Director, Kombewa clinical trial center, said, "What we try to duplicate with the vaccine is to stimulate the body's immune system to produce similar antibodies."

Results from the trial should be available over the next year and a half.

According to the World Health Organisation, 225 million people got malaria last year. The big question for people in India, where it remains a huge health concern, will a vaccine help with even 56 per cent efficacy and why is it taking so long to develop one?

Dr Ashley Birkett, Director, Research and Development, PATH malaria vaccine, said, "It's a critical achievement, we had drugs, bed nets and what not to deal with malaria, but this was the missing tool in saving millions of lives. It took us so long because malaria is caused by parasites. Till now, we have developed vaccines for diseases caused by viruses, not parasites. It's a significant achievement, targeted for Africa because it has the maximum burden."

The vaccine is for the fulcrum strain of malaria that is mostly present in Africa. In India, it's mainly the vivax strain of malaria that affects people.

If the vaccine meets expectations, it could be approved and out by 2015. Hopefully someday, malaria will go the smallpox way.