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General NewsThe beginning of the end for malaria

November 21, 2011

In October, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation hosted a Global Malaria Forum in Seattle. At the meeting, scientists from the drug company GlaxoSmithKline(GSK) announced the possible development of the first successful malaria vaccine. The vaccine, called “RTS,S” or “Mosquirix,”  is still being tested, but exciting results from a clinical trial in Africa indicate that the vaccine could reduce the number of cases of malaria by 50% each year.

Malaria is a disease spread by the bite of a certain kind of mosquito. It causes fever, body aches, and sometimes death. Malaria is a problem in more than 100 countries. About 225 million cases of malaria are recorded worldwide each year.  Of the 800,000 people who die yearly, many are children in Africa.

GSK is currently testing RTS,S on 16,000 children in 7 African countries. The results announced in Seattle were for children aged 5-17 months.  In a year, the company hopes to give results for children aged 6-12 weeks.  If the study continues to go well, GSK hopes to have a vaccine available by 2015.

A few problems still need to be solved. GSK will test the people who have taken the vaccine for at least 3 years for side effects. The vaccine needs to be refrigerated, which can be a problem in rural areas. Also, vaccinations are often expensive. GSK has said that they will try to keep costs low and use the profit to pay for more research. Scientists are excited to reduce malaria by 50%, but the real goal is to get rid of it completely.

Published November 2011

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