Experts from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine today comment on the results of a malaria vaccine trial.
The latest findings from the major international study being carried out in Africa reveal that the RTS,S vaccine reduced severe and uncomplicated malaria by a third in young infants given the vaccine in the first few months of life together with their routine vaccines. The vaccine was safe and well tolerated.
According to scientists trying to tackle malaria, the new research – which analysed the effect of the vaccine on 6,000 children under 17 months old studied in 11 centres in seven countries across Africa – is important as administration of the malaria vaccine would be helped if it could be given together with other routine vaccines. RTS,S is being developed through a partnership led by GlaxoSmithKline and the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The School, which has a long heritage in malaria research and is home to the Malaria Centre, has the largest number of malaria researchers, students and support staff in Europe. It supports several aspects of malaria vaccine development ranging from laboratory research to complex field trials.
Dr Seth Owusu-Agyei, a senior lecturer at the School and principal investigator for the component of the trial conducted at the Kintampo Health Research Centre, Ghana said:
“The results among young infants demonstrate what added benefit the RTS,S malaria vaccine could provide over and above the tools currently available for routine use in malarious areas.”
Professor Sir Brian Greenwood, who also contributed to the project and is one of the co-authors of today's New England Journal of Medicine paper detailing the results, said: “These results are encouraging because they show that the RTS,S vaccine is partially protective in young infants who have an immature immune system.
“The level of protection found in these young infants was less than had been expected.
“A future, planned analysis of whether there were differences in the level of protection at different centres, each with its own pattern of malaria may help to explain why this was the case.”
Professor Eleanor Riley, an immunologist who contributed to earlier phases of the RTS,S project, said: “We have known for a long time that the vaccine is partially, but not completely, effective and that it would need to be deployed alongside a range of other malaria prevention measures (such as insecticide treated bed nets, for example).
“These data confirm that the vaccine is potentially useful in significantly reducing the risk of malaria but that it is not the complete solution."