Malaria vaccine clears first hurdle

Gets Go-Ahead From EU Regulators For Use In Africa; WHO To Examine Jab

London: British pharma com­pany GlaxoSmithKline has an­nounced that their vaccine Mos-quirix—the world's first vaccine against malaria, the most dread­ed vector-borne disease in the world, which has taken 360 mil­lion to develop, has been recom­mended to be licensed for use in babies in Africa.

The European Medicines Agency has endorsed the drug and will now need the approval of health officials in sub-Saharan Africa, where the disease affect­ed 198 million people in 2013. Mosquirix, also part-funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Founda­tion, will be examined by the World Health Organization. The vaccine could cost $5.

Speaking to TOI, GSK offi-cials here said, "The vaccine tar­gets a particular type of malaria (plasmodium falciparum) which is found almost exclusively in sub-Saharan Africa. It has not been shown to be efficacious against the plasmodium vivax malaria parasite, which is pre-dominant in Asia, thus it will not be a vaccine for India. However, we do have a treatment in devel­opment for the malaria vivax (tafenoquine which is in phase 3 development)."

GSK announced that the Committee for Medicinal Prod­ucts for Human Use (CHMP) of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has adopted a positive sci­entific opinion for its malaria candidate vaccine also known as RTS,S, in children aged between 6 to 17 months. Following this de­cision, the WHO will now formulate a policy recommenda­tion on use of the vaccine in na­tional immunization pro­grammes once approved by national regulatory authorities.

The final results had showed that vaccination with RTS,S, fol­lowed by a booster dose, adminis-tered 18 months after the pri­mary schedule, reduced the number of cases of clinical ma­laria in children (aged 5-17 months at first vaccination) by 36% over an average follow-up of four years. This, however, was a fall in efficacy from the 50% pro­tection against malaria which was seen in the first year after the vaccine was administered.

Malaria infects around 200 million people a year and killed an estimated 584,000 in 2013, the vast majority of them in sub-Saharan Africa. More than 80 percent of malaria deaths are in children under the age of five. Global health experts have long hoped scientists would be able to develop an effective malaria vaccine, and researchers at GSK have been working on RTS.S for 30 years.