Millions of children in sub-Saharan Africa, and particularly Nigeria, may experience relief from malaria as scientists are gearing up to unveil the world’s first vaccine against the disease.
British drug maker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is seeking regulatory approval for the world’s first malaria vaccine after trial data showed that it had cut the number of cases in African children, an AFP news agency report said yesterday.
Experts say that they are optimistic about the possibility of the world’s first vaccine after the trial results. Malaria, a mosquito-borne parasitic disease, kills hundreds of thousands of people worldwide every year. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimatesthat Nigeria loses over 207,701 annually to malaria.
Nigeria’s coordinator of National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP), Dr. Nnenne Ezeigwe said recently in an interview with Daily Trust that malaria costs the country more than N480 billion in lost manpower, treatment and care needs.
In the last couple of decades, combination therapies based on Artemisinin have emerged as more effective, after resistance to Chloroquine was discovered. Unfortunately, the parasite responsible for malaria-Plasmodium Falciparum-has become smart over the years, evolving to become resistant to Chloroquine, Ezeigwe said.
“The global scientific community’s rule of thumb is straightforward: with diseases caused by viruses, vaccination is the target; but disease caused by organisms other than viruses might potentially be treatable. However, the onslaught of malaria has made it worthwhile to consider a vaccine,” Ezeigwe told Daily Trust.
Scientists say an effective vaccine is key to attempts to eradicate it.
The vaccine known as RTSS was found to have almost reduced by 50% the number of malaria cases in young children in the trial and to have reduced by about 25% the number of malaria cases in infants. GSK is developing RTSS with the non-profit Path Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI), supported by funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
“Many millions of malaria cases fill the wards of our hospitals,” said Halidou Tinto, a lead investigator on the RTSS trial from Burkina Faso. “Progress is being made with bed nets and other measures, but we need more tools to battle this terrible disease,” he said.