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New malaria vaccine may save millions of lives

MILLIONS OF small children's lives could be saved by a new vaccine which has been shown to halve the risk of malaria in the first large-scale trials across seven African countries.

The long-awaited results of the largest-ever malaria vaccine study, involving 15,460 babies and small children, show that it could massively reduce the impact of the much-feared killer disease. Malaria takes nearly 800,000 lives every year – most of them small children under the age of five. It damages many more.

The vaccine has been in development for two decades – the brainchild of scientists at the UK drug company GlaxoSmithKline, which has promised to sell it at no more than a fraction over cost-price, with the excess being ploughed back into further tropical disease research.

"This data bring us to the cusp of having the world's first malaria vaccine, which has the potential to significantly improve the outlook for children living in malaria endemic regions across Africa," said GSK's chief executive, Andrew Witty.

"The addition of a malaria vaccine to existing control interventions such as bed nets and insecticide spraying could potentially help prevent millions of cases of this debilitating disease.

“It could also reduce the burden on hospital services, freeing up much needed beds to treat other patients who often live in remote villages, with little or no access to healthcare."

Source: The Guardian, 18 October.   Spotter: Peter Kranz


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Interesting point Barbara. Maybe this is something that we can explore a little on PNG Attitude?

At the end of the day, I know my people would appreciate any medication which will help in combating malaria.

Barney Smythe

At the very least, this malaria vaccine news brings a positive 'buzz'.

Y'know Barney, if you collect enough of these one-liners you can do stand up - KJ

Mrs Barbara Short

Thanks for the update Peter. Good news but still some way to go.

Peter Kranz

Channel 9 reports...

Australian researchers have been involved in successfully trialling a new drug treatment which cut rates of infant malaria infection in Papua New Guinea.

The drug regime, which has previously been tested in African countries, has proven effective against a malaria parasite in PNG.

The treatment reduced two types of malaria infections by 35 per cent and 23 per cent in 1200 infants over a three-year period...The treatment targets two lethal species of malaria parasites, Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax, which are responsible for 95 per cent of malaria cases in children from the Pacific region.

The drugs have been successful in reducing one parasite, Plasmodium falciparum in Africa, but it is the first time the treatment has been proven to also prevent Plasmodium vivax, a different parasite responsible for about 60 per cent of PNG malaria cases.

Prof Mueller said the anti-malarial treatments were administered through an existing child vaccination program, which made it cost-effective.

"It prevents a significant amount of morbidity and probably, also mortality," Prof Mueller told AAP.

PNGIMR director Peter Siba said giving the drugs at the same time as vaccinations meant there was a higher adherence to the regime than with longer drug treatment programs.

Paulus Ripa

Thanks Peter,

There are at least 2 vivax vaccines undergoing clinical trials and several pre trial base line studies are going on. The PNGIMR with a number of overseas collaborators are currently doing their base line studies.

The use of volunteers to trial a drug or vaccine is actual common practice. This is usually as part of a phase 1 or 2 trial.

A phase 3 trial is actually clinical trials in the field and only a favourable phase 3 trial is acceptable for licensing a drug for treatment. (Phase 4 is post marketing surveillance for uncommon sideeffects).

Peter, I actually visited you once with our Medical School librarians. After you left, the Taurama campus library has been somewhat neglected by the mother library leading to a flurry of correspondence between us and the powers that be.

We have also decided at last we arent getting anywhere with IT waiting for UPNG so we are actually going alone spported by our AusAid project.

Keep the simbu stories going; I love them.

Peter Kranz

Paulus - There is also a vaccine against P. Vivax in the works. Amazingly, it is being tested by volunteers who have agreed to be deliberately infected.

Not sure about the ethics of this - but they do get paid.

This BBC report also mentions the good work the Gates Foundation are doing in this field.


Paulus Ripa

This is indeed welcome news as progress in developing viable malaria vaccines has been slow and frustrating.

Two things to note here. Firstly the efficacy is about 50% (potential to decrease malaria infections by half). This means other measures are still needed e.g. bednets and intermittent prophylaxis.

The plus side of this is that even with 50% efficacy the property of "herd immunity" in which if there is good immunisation rates in the community transmission is cut down and this has huge synergistic effect on the protection provided.

The second point to note here is that the vaccine is effective against falciparum; the only malaria parasite of significance in Africa.

In Asia, Americas and the Pacific P Vivax infections can also cause severe malaria infection as shown by many PNGIMR studies so that we still will need in PNG a vaccine that is effective against Vivax as well. (The great majority of infections are still Falciparum though).

Nevertheless it is great news as this will have a huge impact on the health status of PNGeans.

Barbara Short

It could also cause a population explosion in parts of PNG where malaria is endemic, such as the Sepik River area.
Family Planning take note!

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