Landmark malaria vaccine 77% effective and tackles one of the world’s biggest killers of young children

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Mosquitoes are one of the deadliest animals on the planet because they spread yellow fever, dengue, encephalitis and malaria, which killed 400,000 people in 2019.

Now, clinical trials of the promising R21 vaccine in Burkina Faso may be an effective tool against the disease, as it triggers the body’s immune system to attack the parasite – and was 77% effective in phase 2 trials.

Ravaging and replicating throughout the body in seven different stages, malaria originates from the parasite Plasmodium falciparum, which is not a particularly good candidate for vaccination (mosquito nets remain the most effective measure), due to constant change throughout its life cycle. For the perspective, it is made up of 5,000 genes, while the coronavirus that has affected our entire lives contains only 16.

In the 1980s, the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline attempted to use vaccination to combat the malaria epidemic by targeting the initial stage of the disease. Plasmodium life cycle, called a sporozoite. In 1983, according to National Geographic, the researchers found that sporozoites are covered in proteins that elicit a strong immune system response, but moving into their next life cycle occurs too quickly for natural immunity to recognize and shut down sporozoites.

The idea was to make a medium that would feature a sort of punch bag of sporozoite proteins, so that when the real thing happens, the immune system reacts quickly enough to eradicate it before it spreads to the liver.

Marketed under the name Mosquirix, it is the most tested vaccine candidate against malaria, but after twelve months, its effectiveness falls unless sleeping under mosquito nets.

AFTER: We are on the verge of eliminating malaria – 7.6 million deaths averted in 20 years, thanks to generous nations

Halidou Tinto, epidemiologist and malaria expert, works near the Burkinab̩ capital of Ouagadougou and helped organize a trial on 450 children aged 5 to 17 for the new R21 vaccine, which uses the same method as Mosquirix, but simply better made. Рwhereas previously only one in five proteins was coated in the sporozoite protein, R21 made five out of five.

At its best, R21 reduction in clinical incidence of malaria 77%, 2% more than the 75% target set by WHO in 2013 as part of an international attempt to push the global malaria problem further into mainstream pharmacology. There was no difference in the incidence of malaria at 6 or 12 months of follow-up; a significant improvement over the old GSK vaccine.

The authors of this article noted that the vaccine doses were given before the annual rainy season, when malaria cases increase, but that it would be worth comparing the results of trials conducted at different times of the year. year.

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“We’re excited, but we still need phase three trials to confirm the vaccine’s efficacy and safety before we move on,” Tinto told National Geographic.

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