World’s 1st malaria vaccine to be tested in Africa | health | Hindustan Times
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World’s 1st malaria vaccine to be tested in Africa

Africa was chosen to test 1st malaria vaccine because of the high death rate in the continent

health Updated: May 05, 2017 10:50 IST
World Malaria Day is on April 25
World Malaria Day is on April 25(Shutterstock)

New Delhi: Three African countries have been chosen to test the world’s first malaria vaccine.

Young children, who are the most vulnerable in Africa, will be tested with injectible vaccine in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi, and the piloting will begin next year.

The vaccine, which has partial effectiveness, has the potential to save lives if used with existing measures, the WHO regional director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said in a statement.

Malaria remains one of the world’s most stubborn health challenges, infecting more than 200 million people every year and killing about half a million, most of them children in Africa.

Sub-Saharan Africa is hardest hit by the disease, with about 90% of the world’s cases in 2015.

While India also reports cases of malaria, situation in the country is not as bad as in Africa. In 2015, 1.06 million persons were infected, with 242 confirmed deaths in India.

“There is a reason why Africa was chosen for testing and not India as the disease paradigm is vastly different in both the nations. Africa has very high mortality, especially in children and their vector (mosquito) is also different,” said Dr AC Dhariwal, director, National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP).

“In India, baring a few tribal areas, the situation is not that bad.”

Malaria spreads when a mosquito bites someone already infected, sucks up blood and parasites, and then bites another person.

A global effort to counter malaria has led to a 62% cut in deaths between 2000 and 2015.

The vaccine will be tested on children five to 17 months old to see whether its protective effects shown so far in clinical trials can hold up under real-life conditions. At least 120,000 children in each of the three countries will receive the vaccine, which has taken decades of work and hundreds of millions of dollars to develop.

Kenya, Ghana and Malawi were chosen for the vaccine pilot because all have strong prevention and vaccination programs but continue to have high numbers of malaria cases. The countries will deliver the vaccine through their existing vaccination programs.

“The slow progress in this field is astonishing, given that malaria has been around for millennia and has been a major force for human evolutionary selection, shaping the genetic profiles of African populations,” Kathryn Maitland, professor of tropical pediatric infectious diseases at Imperial College London, wrote in The New England Journal of Medicine in December.

“Contrast this pace of change with our progress in the treatment of HIV, a disease a little more than three decades old.”

The malaria vaccine has been developed by pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, and the $49 million for the first phase of the pilot is being funded by the global vaccine alliance GAVI, UNITAID and Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.