Hope: malaria vaccine just before approval?

Hope: malaria vaccine just before approval?

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The first malaria vaccine is expected soon

Around 3.3 billion people worldwide live in malaria risk areas. The dangerous infectious disease kills nearly 600,000 lives each year, especially in Africa. But now hope is beginning to sprout: For the first time, researchers have tested an effective vaccine against malaria in humans.

Possible medical revolution
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 3.3 billion people worldwide live in areas at risk of malaria. Almost 600,000 people still die each year from the infectious disease that is transmitted by the female Anopheles mosquito. According to the WHO, around 90 percent of fatalities are to be found in sub-Saharan Africa. This also has to do with the fact that “prophylaxis and medical treatment are significantly better in wealthier Asia and Latin America”. Now there is a report about a possible revolution in medicine: for the first time in history, doctors have apparently a malaria vaccine available for use in Africa.

First malaria vaccine showed efficacy
There is an important advance in the fight against the fatal tropical disease: As the dpa news agency reports, “Researchers have tested an effective malaria vaccine in humans for the first time”. Around 15,500 infants and young children in seven African countries received the drug in a four-year field study. This was announced by tropical doctor Peter Kremsner shortly before World Malaria Day on April 25th in Tübingen. Depending on the age of the children, vaccination protection was between 26 and 36 percent, reports the international research team in the specialist magazine "The Lancet". “RTS, S” is thus “the first malaria vaccine to have shown effectiveness in a field study”.

Results "rather disappointing"
Other scientists, however, do not consider the agent to be a real breakthrough due to the low protection rate of around 30 percent. It had been shown for the first time that a malaria vaccine could lead to “limited but demonstrable protection”, as confirmed by tropical medic Thomas Löscher from the Munich University Hospital, but overall the results were “rather disappointing and far below those otherwise Protection Rates Expected by Vaccinations ”. However, the research can build on the study.

Malaria has been somewhat forgotten because of Ebola
People in Africa develop a natural immunity with age, so that older children and adults only rarely fall ill. Unfortunately, the plague of malaria has been somewhat forgotten due to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. It has only recently been reported that experts believe that there have been many more malaria deaths due to Ebola. Kremsner said that the frequency and number of deaths was "malaria a giant and Ebola a dwarf ant". The Tübingen researcher was involved in the scientific coordination of the study.

Admission may be later this year
“RTS, S” is a vaccine for African children, not for travelers to Africa, such as from Europe. According to the researchers, some of the examined infants and toddlers were vaccinated with the substance several times. According to the information, they contracted malaria significantly less frequently than non-vaccinated children in a comparison group. "This is the result of 100 years of research into a malaria vaccine," says Kremsner. He further explained: “The vaccinations are very well tolerated.” There were hardly any side effects. Some of the vaccinated children had contracted meningitis. Even if the Tübingen scientists have no explanation for this, they doubt the connection with the vaccine tested. The Tübingen tropical medicine specialist Benjamin Mordmüller described the results as a "very important step". The approval of the vaccine is now being examined by the European Medicines Agency and the WHO. There is hope that “RTS, S” will “still be approved this year and included in the national vaccination programs of African countries”. The Tübingen researchers then rely on public donors so that the funds also reach the population. (ad)

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