Malaria Vaccine Breakthrough Could Save Millions of Lives!

Mosquito photoFlickr/CC BY 3.0

After 24 Years of Research...
According to the World Health Organization's 2010 World Malaria Report, Malaria kills close to a million people each year, and more than 200 million people are infected. Fighting the disease is one of the top public health issues in the world, and reducing the number of cases (with the goal of one day eradicating it completely) is one of the low hanging fruits for making the world a better place. That's why I'm so happy to report the news that an anti-malaria vaccine known as RTS,S (aka Mosquirix) is in the final stage of clinical trial and shows great promise. It could potentially be the world's first effective anti-malaria vaccine and save millions of lives!

Mosquito photoWikipedia/Public Domain

Joe Cohen, a 68-year-old molecular biologist working for GlaxoSmithKline, has spent the past 24 years trying to create the world's first malaria vaccine.

Final stage clinical trial data on RTS,S, also known as Mosquirix, showed it halved the risk of African children getting malaria, making it likely to become the world's first successful vaccine against the deadly disease.

While scientists say it is no "silver bullet" and will not end the mosquito-borne infection on its own, it is being hailed as a crucial weapon in the fight against malaria and one that could speed the path to eventual worldwide eradication. [...] Cohen's vaccine goes to work at the point when the parasite enters the human bloodstream after a mosquito bite. By stimulating an immune response, it can prevent the parasite from maturing and multiplying in the liver.

Without that immune response, the parasite re-enters the bloodstream and infects red blood cells, leading to fever, body aches and, in some cases, death.

The 50% success rate is better than it might sound, because as with many diseases, there's a network effect that keeps the disease at a critical mass in a population and keeps it spreading. If a large fraction of the population is resistant to the disease, and other anti-malaria techniques are used (bed-nets, for example), millions of lives could be saved.

It's also very likely that the vaccine can be made incrementally better now that scientists know what works.

But most importantly, if it works, it will improve the lives of hundreds of millions. If that doesn't deserve a Nobel Prize, I don't know what does. Of course, don't count your chickens before they have hatched. We still have to wait for the vaccine testing to be finalized and for it to be mass-produced, but hopefully that can be fast-tracked (maybe with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation?).

See also: Fight Against Malaria Goes High-Tech: Scientists Build Anti-Mosquito Laser

Via Reuters

Tags: Malaria


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