Malaria is a parasitic disease transmitted through the bite of female Anopheles mosquitoes. Although the disease is both preventable and treatable, an estimated 435,000 people die of it each year, with the majority being children younger than five. Over 90% of all malaria cases and deaths occur in Africa.
The battle against malaria has mostly centered around the use of bed nets, insecticide spraying and antimalarial drugs. To date, there has not been an effective malaria vaccine available.
That may finally be changing. The first vaccinations have begun in Mali in a phase III trial of a malaria vaccine developed by the University of Oxford. The Oxford vaccine showed an efficacy of 77% over 12 months in a phase IIb trial and the hope is that the phase III trial will lead to the licensing of the vaccine in 2023.
Oxford is partnering with the Serum Institute of India for the manufacturing of the vaccine in order to be able to produce high volumes of low-cost vaccine and provide access to countries where it is required the most. The Serum Institute has committed to the production of more than 200 million doses per year once the vaccine is licensed for use, which will be an adequate supply for children most at risk of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa.
The World Health Organization Malaria Vaccine Technology Roadmap has a goal of a malaria vaccine with at least 75% efficacy. Such a vaccine is needed in order to reach the WHO’s goal of reducing malaria deaths by at least 90% by 2030.
Photo, posted June 9, 2018, courtesy of Mario Yordanov via Flickr.