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Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease that affects humans and other animals

British scientists develop malaria vaccine that could cut child deaths by 73%

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The world’s first malaria vaccine combined with anti-malarial drugs could save millions of lives

A “game-changing” malaria vaccine developed by British researchers is poised to save the lives of millions of children in Africa after trial results beat all expectations.

The jab, developed by the Brentford-based pharmaceutical company GSK, was found to reduce the rate of severe malaria by 70 per cent in a study involving nearly 6,000 children aged between five and 17 months in Burkina Faso and Mali.

At present, children in Burkina Faso and Mali are given a course of antimalarial medicines four times each year during the rainy season to guard against the disease.

The trial, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, followed some 6,000 children aged between five months and 17 months in the two West African countries, both of which have a high burden of malaria.

They found that a combination of giving them the vaccine (RTS,S/AS01E) and seasonal administration of antimalarials (SMC) was more effective than either approach on its own.

SMC, which involves giving anti-malarial drugs sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine and amodiaquine to young children every month during the rainy season, is the approach used in both countries.

Using the combined approach, incidents of clinical malaria and hospital admissions with a severe form of the disease were reduced by 62.8 per cent and 70.5 per cent respectively. Deaths from malaria were reduced by 72.9 per cent.

The researchers hope this new combination approach has the potential to prevent malaria in large parts of Africa where cases remain high and where the disease is transmitted seasonally.

According to the World Health Organisation, approximately 400,000 people die from malaria every year and the group most vulnerable to the disease are children under the age of five.

Prof Daniel Chandramohan from LSHTM and a member of the research team said: “Our work has shown a combination approach using a malaria vaccine seasonally – similar to how countries use influenza vaccine – has the potential to save millions of young lives in the African Sahel.”

Mr. Jenkins added: “This government could be the government that helps end malaria for good but, to claim that mantle, it must continue to invest in the research projects our brilliant scientists and institutions need.”

Prof Jean-Bosco Ouedraogo, Institut de Recherche en Sciences de la Sante in Burkina Faso, said: “I am really proud of the contribution of our African research teams to these fantastic results.

“I hope that this evidence will be taken into account by decision makers as a new additional strategy for saving children’s lives in Africa.”

About Charles Igbinidu

Charles Igbinidu is a Public Relations practitioner in Lagos, Nigeria

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