Doctors may finally get a means of controlling one of the world’s worst diseases.
While the world’s focus has been primarily on the coronavirus and COVID-19 over the past year, medical research is still ongoing on the myriad of other diseases that still ravage communities. One of the worst diseases mankind has known, malaria, claims the lives of approximately 435,000 people every year. It is preventable and treatable, but unfortunately, it is all too common in countries that may be lacking in medical infrastructure. Countries in Africa held approximately 94% of all malaria deaths in 2019. According to a new study from Oxford University, however, this may soon be a thing of the past.
Oxford researchers have developed a new malaria vaccine named R21. According to the study, R21 showed a 77% efficacy in a trial run of 450 children aged between 5 and 17 months old, and with no severe side effects. This is the very first malaria vaccine candidate to reach the goal of at least 75% efficacy on the World Health Organization’s Malaria Vaccine Technology Roadmap.
“These are very exciting results showing unprecedented efficacy levels from a vaccine that has been well tolerated in our trial programme,” Halidou Tinto, the trial’s principal investigator, said in a statement. “We look forward to the upcoming Phase III trial to demonstrate large-scale safety and efficacy data for a vaccine that is greatly needed in this region.”
The phase III trial will be testing the efficacy of the vaccine in 4,800 children, aged 5-36, across four African countries. If R21 maintains its efficacy, Oxford, along with its commercial partners the Serum Institute of India and drugmaker Novavax, are hoping to manufacture at least 200 million doses a year.
“Malaria is one of the leading causes of childhood mortality in Africa,” said Charlemagne Ouédraogo, Burkina Faso’s Minister of Health, said in a statement.
“We have been supporting trials of a range of new vaccine candidates in Burkina Faso and these new data show that licensure of a very useful new malaria vaccine could well happen in the coming years. That would be an extremely important new tool for controlling malaria and saving many lives.”