A new vaccine for malaria, RTS,S/AS01, has the potential to significantly reduce the number of cases of the illness in children and infants, research published in the Lancet has found.
The trial enrolled 15,459 young infants aged 6 to 12 weeks when they were vaccinated and children aged between 5 and 17 months when they were vaccinated. The subjects were from areas of seven different sub-Saharan countries affected by malaria, such as Burkina Faso, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and the United Republic of Tanzania.
The study found that the vaccine prevented an average of 1363 cases of malaria for every 1000 children vaccinated over the course of four years. Additionally, 1774 cases were prevented in for every 1000 children who also received a booster shot. The vaccine was also effective in the infant group, with an average of 558 cases averted for every 1000 infants vaccinated, and 983 cases in those also given a booster dose.
Brian Greenwood, professor of clinical tropical medicine at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: 'Given that there were an estimated 198 million malaria cases in 2013, this level of efficacy potentially translates into millions of cases of malaria in children being prevented.'
The study also found that meningitis occurred more frequently in children given the vaccine, with 11 children in the group who received the booster dose and 10 in those who did not, compared to just one in the control group. RTS,S/AS02 produced more adverse reactions than the control vaccines. The vaccine also caused convulsions more frequently in children who received the vaccine than in the control group. The incidence of other serious adverse events was similar in all groups of participants.
The RTS,S/AS01 vaccine was developed for use in sub-Saharan Africa where malaria still kills around 1300 children every day. There is currently no licensed vaccine against malaria anywhere in the world.