Scientists develop malaria vaccine that could cut child deaths by 73%

BRITISH scientists have developed a new malaria vaccine that has produced “striking” trial results and could save the lives of millions of young people in Africa.

A study carried out alongside researchers in Burkina Faso and Mali showed that giving young children the world’s first malaria vaccine and anti-malarial drugs cut deaths from the disease by 72.9 per cent.

Scientists from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) said their results are “striking” and surpassed expectations.

Their work, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, followed some 6,000 children aged between five months and 17 months in the two West African countries, both of which have a high burden of malaria.

They found that a combination of giving them the vaccine (RTS,S/AS01E) and seasonal administration of antimalarials (SMC) was more effective than either approach on its own.

SMC, which involves giving anti-malarial drugs sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine and amodiaquine to young children every month during the rainy season, is the approach used in both countries.

Using the combined approach, incidents of clinical malaria and hospital admissions with a severe form of the disease were reduced by 62.8 per cent and 70.5 per cent respectively. Deaths from malaria were reduced by 72.9 per cent.

The researchers hope this new combination approach has the potential to prevent malaria in large parts of Africa where cases remain high and where the disease is transmitted seasonally.

According to the World Health Organisation, approximately 400,000 people die from malaria every year and the group most vulnerable to the disease are children under the age of five.

Prof Daniel Chandramohan from LSHTM and a member of the research team said: “Our work has shown a combination approach using a malaria vaccine seasonally – similar to how countries use influenza vaccine – has the potential to save millions of young lives in the African Sahel.”

Gareth Jenkins, director of advocacy at the Malaria No More charity, described the results of the study as “yet another example of the fruits of UK science leadership”.

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