Trials of the first vaccine to show evidence of full protection against the deadly disease malaria will take place at the Ifakara Health Institute in Tanzania, who are working with the developer of the new vaccine, the private company Sanaria. Some postgraduate researchers with IHRR who have also worked at Ifakara have concentrated on preventing the spread of malaria, (such as providing bed nets) including Christina Makungu, a Moyes Postgraduate Fellow who completed her dissertation on the health of young people in self-care in Tanzania. Prevention is still likely the best way in combating the spread of the deadly disease that has plagued less developed countries. A vaccine would be most welcome.
While researchers have expressed ‘cautious optimism’ about the results, this scientific advance is clearly great news. The new vaccine (PfSPZ) ‘uses a weakened form of the whole parasite to invoke an immune response’, something that was previously thought too difficult to achieve. It was produced from 850 mosquitoes that were dissected in about one hour by six researchers. Six subjects given five doses of the vaccine were completely protected against malaria, compared to three of nine who were given four doses. The vaccine must be given intravenously, which is not as efficient as injection or oral administration, but the dosage is small (.5 ml) and researchers are working on improving the delivery of the vaccine.
According to a report from Nature, researchers who developed the vaccine hope that the work will attract investors. This is early days though and if the trials in Tanzania prove successful it would be a great victory for public health throughout the world. But there is still the problem of treating those who already have malaria and while multiple therapies are available, not all of them work for patients. Based on WHO data, in 2010 malaria killed 660,000 people, most of them children in Africa. 90 percent of mainland residents in Tanzania have a high risk of contracting malaria.
References and Further Reading
Children in self-care at risk in Tanzania. IHRR Blog